If you haven’t discovered it yet, pouring your life into others as a pastor’s wife can bring tons of joy. We get to see God radically transform a life, up close. But it also brings some complexities specifically tied to being a pastor’s wife that can be a little tricky. So we’re going to dig into some of them and give you some tips in navigating them.
A few years ago, I was in the Lobby doing the Sunday thing – connecting with people, trying to spot those new folks that needed to feel welcome, watching out for those few that are hurting and just need to be seen. All the sudden, a young woman in her 20’s made a beeline for me and said, “You’re Craig’s wife, right? I need help… and I think you are the one I’m supposed to ask.” We pulled aside, found some space and she began to tell me her story. She was six months pregnant. Just moved to Denver from D.C. Her boyfriend was in prison and she was trying to decide if she would tell him about the baby. She’d been coming to our church for a few weeks and felt like she really “knew” Craig and could trust him. She felt like she could trust me – after all, we go together, right?
I began meeting with her weekly, got her a Bible and we started digging into who Jesus is and what He wanted for her life, and the life of her new baby. It grew from that awkward interaction in the Lobby to a relationship that God would use to give her faith a foundation. But there was a moment when I almost backed away. I almost missed that opportunity to see Jesus radically transform a life.
It wasn’t because she was pregnant. It wasn’t because of her experience with the prison system. Nope. It was that she came to me because of my husband. The idea that I hadn’t earned her respect or trust, that it had been given to me simply because of who I was married to was really annoying to me. I wanted my own credibility. I wanted her to see me for ME, not for the man I was hitched to.
It took some wrestling to realize that regardless of how the opportunity came, God had brought her to me. He had used my position as a pastor’s wife to convey a trustworthiness that, even though I hadn’t earned it, provided the train tracks for us to get started on the path to growth. What began as positional influence became ascribed influence as she began to trust me based on our experience together.
The stumbling block for me was my own pride that wanted to earn my own opportunities based on my own merits. I needed to lay down that pride and say “yes” to whatever opportunity God put in my path, regardless of how He put it there.
So, there’s one of the biggest lessons in mentoring for pastors’ wives…
#1 DON’T SHY AWAY FROM OPPORTUNITIES THAT COME WITH THE ROLE
You are here, in this place, in THIS ROLE, for such a time as this. Don’t let your pride get in the way of seizing opportunities for ministry that come simply because you are married to their pastor. It doesn’t say anything LESS about you – but MORE about you both, as a team. They love him – and some of that love, respect and trust overflows to you. It’s a good thing. But it’s just the start.
#2 BUILD YOURSELF A TEAM
Best thing I did to become a better mentor (better than training, launching programs or even learning from a good mentor) was to build a team. To seek out people that could share the load when I was coming alongside someone with needs that exceeded by abilities. Maybe there were too many needs or maybe they were beyond the scope of my training/gifting. Then I needed to realize when to pull my team in. This usually comes when a mentee shares something and I realize I am out of my depth. At that point, I ALWAYS ask the mentee for permission to seek out someone that I respect to give me some perspective that I might lack. I tell them that it is BECAUSE their circumstance is complicated. I also tell them that I will not share their name and only enough details to give the person a picture of the complexity.
My team usually has these seats, with different people in them depending on the season:
- A Counselor – someone with more training than I that deals with clinical mental health issues
- A Pastor – someone that can help me deal with an issue and guide biblically. For most of our ministry, that’s been my husband but sometimes it’s another pastor with care gifts.
- An Elder – Elders need to be involved in shepherding and they can often take some of the crisis load off of the pastor family if they are invited in. This has been especially effective in short term crisis situations (ie. deaths, suicides, domestic violence, hospitalizations, etc). They will never learn how to minister in these tough situations unless they are invited in.
- A Fellow Mentor – a wise woman who loves Jesus and passionately walks alongside other women too.
Note to Small Churches – I had a team like this around me in small church. It’s totally possible but I had to pray, watch, seek them out and then ask them to be on my team. Don’t make it a big deal, but enough to let them know they are in that seat and that you’ll be calling on them.
#3 SHARE YOUR PLATFORM
When I sense that my mentoring slots are at capacity, I know that I cannot continue taking on more “pouring in” relationships. It’s not good for me, my family or the people I’m mentoring. Plus, it takes away an opportunity from someone else that might have done a bang up job. And face it, sometimes someone asks me to mentor them simply because I’m visible. So, my job is to share my platform. I get to know others with hearts for mentoring. I train them (that might just mean having them over for coffee a few times and going through the CRU resources I linked at the top). And then I introduce them to someone that is seeking a mentor. I’m honest when I tell them that right now, my slate is pretty full. But that I LOVE their desire to have someone pour into them. And that I think I might know of the perfect person. Would they like to meet her? I see myself as a connector instead of a hub.
#4 UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AUTHENTICITY AND TRANSPARENCY
I really believe, in the core of my being, that vulnerability breeds growth. But vulnerability is a whole different kind of complicated as a pastors’ wife. Knowing how to live a life that embraces both authenticity and transparency helps me foster vulnerability, to share hard stuff when it will help someone see Jesus more clearly, but to do it with wisdom. A hard tightrope to walk, for sure. Want more on being vulnerable as a pastors’ wife?
#5 CONSIDER THE WEIGHT
I find that I have to pretty consistently remind myself of why I am here – why I am meeting with a woman, pouring into her life. I need to remember that the weight I carry is not designed to be shared with just anyone. It’s super important that I find those few that can help me carry it. But I need to remember that those I’m mentoring have not been called to be those weight-bearers. Perhaps someday, but not today. So I must find ways to be honest about when it’s been a bad day, when the weight of ministry is feeling particularly heavy, or when my heart is breaking for or because of someone. But I need to be careful of that beautiful boundary I’ve created. That boundary that isn’t there to keep her out, but to protect what is valuable… her growth and my own heart. Cultivate a relationship with God’s provision, someone that is better able to bear the weight when you share the burdens that weigh on your heart.
And BTW, Alongside Cohorts are beautiful places to find those Provisions.
You, my friends, have been placed in this beautiful place, for this moment. To pour out your life for those that want to see Jesus a little more clearly and follow Him a bit more purposefully. As you pour out, Your Jesus will fill you up.
Go outside. The sun is shining. He’s waiting to fill you up so that you can keep pouring out.
* This is not Mentoring 101. So, if you are new to mentoring, you’ll want to dig into these first:
CRU has some great mentoring resources here including tips on getting started.