HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR SEAT OF INFLUENCE AS THE PASTOR’S WIFE – EVEN IN COMPLICATED CIRCUMSTANCES
Being a pastor’s wife (and therefore being married to the boss) creates situations that feel like you’ve been handed an advanced calculus problem or a tangly necklace with intricate knots. How can you use the seat of influence God has given you while juggling “fishbowl life” and lots of interactions with your husband’s co-workers?
For a pastor’s wife…there is so much contained in one metaphorical “burrito” of the church…community, place of worship, and your spouse’s workplace. When things get risky relationally, it can feel really tempting to just give up your seat of influence and walk away. It seems like it would make going to church a whole lot simpler. We’d lose less friendships when a church staff job goes south. We’d not get pulled into arguments about decisions where people are lobbying for our support. We’d not be someone that people call when they are desperate and life has fallen apart. We’d just be a run-of-the-mill attender. It is tempting to think this way.
Ya’ll. (We say that in Texas). Bless it. (We say that in Texas too). This is not easy to navigate. I hope you can stop for a moment and absorb that God specifically chose you, even when you don’t feel up to the challenge. We see throughout the Bible that He calls people by name. I hope you can see how few within the church are juggling what you are; sometimes it helps to hear that from someone who “gets it.” There have been times I’ve leaned away instead of leaning in, thus missing out on discipleship and connection opportunities for myself and for others. Some of the most stinging (but true, good, and exhorting) words I’ve heard from a fellow leader are,
“Julie Lynn..it’s been hard for me to watch you put your leadership on a shelf in this season…”
Ouch. That exhortation stuck with me and continues to challenge me years later. I didn’t think my silence in that season or my absences mattered that much, but all of it did matter. I was being watched by leader peers as well as those on my team. How do you figure out how to continue on in your seat of influence even in complicated circumstances?
Sometimes, to solve a calculus problem…you create a list of “knowns” to try to solve for what is unknown.
Here are MY KNOWNS:
- ISOLATING is my enemy’s primary M.O. I have a ferocious and crafty enemy who is out to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10, Ephesians 6:11). He loves to get a sheep off by itself, away from the community…where truth can be more easily questioned and lies can be more easily absorbed. So to you my friends…be alert to the LIE of the enemy that no one cares what you are doing and that it is ok if you just disappear; you are likely the second most influential person in your church.
- People ARE following me…no matter which direction I am going, and whether I have a formal position or not. I’ve had the sobering realization that through the years, there were some that actually followed me when I sat back.
- Leaders INITIATE.Sometimes they’ll get radio silence, get “ghosted” or face rejections – but they’ll keep initiating anyway. To be involved in community in the church, a lot of the inviting and initiating is going to need to come from me. I will need God’s help and encouragement to keep initiating when I get silence in return. I am alert to the LIE of the enemy that initiating followed by silence means I am done or have failed. I will need encouragement from fellow leaders who are facing similar challenges to help remind me and encourage me in my calling.
- I need to “ZOOM OUT” MY VIEW.Leaders look at the bigger “Google Map” and not just what they can see in their own view. (Zoom out). I think about and pray about the challenges my husband and the rest of the church staff are facing. (Zoom out again). Instead of focusing on today’s problems, I need to intentionally think and pray about how God is using challenges to cultivate character, in ourselves and in our staff, which fosters a thankful heart. (Zoom out even further). I’m thinking and praying about the eternal impact of our decisions; they aren’t just about the here and now (Ephesians 6:12).
- I need to focus on my POSTURE over my POSITION. I’ve been given gifts and talents to use, and I am to use those gifts and talents with a posture of Christ-like servant leadership (Philippians 2). Christ stood in the gap for us, sought out people and invited them, stood against the behavior and thought patterns of Pharisees and also washed feet.
To work through a calculus problem, you often write out your work. So..with these “knowns,” here is where you can see me “writing out my work” in the areas I’m still wrestling through:
- I am learning to not underestimate the significance of my influence. Can “the fishbowl” be tiring and weighty? Yes. Can “the fishbowl” be a leadership opportunity in which to be strategic and shrewd too? Yes. Use the resources you have been given to LEAD with a servant’s heart. Christ used His time on earth to give the ultimate example of how to love people and bring glory to the Father.
- I’m learning to lead from behind.I am choosing to be involved strategically as a servant leader. So when I sign up to volunteer for VBS or another area in the church…I place myself in a position underneath another volunteer leader or church staff member where they are in charge and I am there to support what they are doing. In these situations, I will be asked leadership questions and have opportunities for teaching moments. I can see in these interactions that I am being invited into leadership by my husband’s co-workers and our church members without grabbing the reins myself. I am careful not to tell my husband’s co-workers what to do or how they could do things better; that is my husband’s job…not mine. I choose to be there to support and to point out the good wherever I can. God can use these interactions as “building blocks” in the church community and relationships. In these strategic moments, I can help with leadership development inside the church. I am a leader training up other leaders by what I say (and don’t say!) and how I interact with people. This is part of using my position of influence well.
- I’m learning to be more intentional about equipping myself.I am learning it is wise to equip myself both spiritually and practically in the day-to-day things. Spiritually, I need time with God by myself and with others in His word to remember my calling and who I am supposed to be aiming to please. Practically, spending time with other Christian leaders (especially my pastor wife counterparts) challenges me and helps keep my focus where it needs to be. I wasn’t meant to navigate this seat of influence alone.
- I am learning that how I lead through conflict is often more impactful than how I lead through peace. Choices I make in conflict resolution are opportunities to LEAD. Humbly apologizing for a mistake is leading, just as lovingly standing in the way of inappropriate behavior by privately confronting in love. Opportunities to lead in these often difficult situations are also a means of being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper and part of leadership development and discipleship in the church. I am meant to be an integral part of this.
- I am learning that retreating is not an option; God does not want me to shrink back and sit on the bench.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised….But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved” (Hebrews 10:35-36, 39 NIV).
Still figuring it out? We all are. We need God and each other to keep moving forward, to resist that temptation to retreat and give up our position of influence, even when it takes all we’ve got to stay engaged and continue “showing up.” Your seat of influence has been given and appointed to you for a reason. Don’t give it up.