Written By: Luisa Parish
Good friends of ours recently accepted their first pastoral position at a local church a few hours away. My husband and I were thrilled for them! So, being a seasoned veteran (and I use that term intentionally as you will see!), I decided it would be good to share some advice with my friend as she officially becomes a pastor’s wife.
I thought back over the past decade or so in ministry – three churches, three hometowns, and now three children later. Each ministry position and church had its own challenges and blessings, and I have struggled a great deal at times. It’s not always easy, but there have been some points of wisdom placed into my life along the way…
When we first started in ministry, my husband was the youth pastor of a small church in Southwestern Ontario. We were just married and were beginning a life together. It was an amazing season! We watched dozens of community kids walk through the doors and find healing in Jesus Christ. I watched some incredible transformations that could only come from Christ alone. Besides my full time job I spent so much time working beside my husband in ministry. I was a youth leader, sang on the worship team and had regular coffee and dinner dates with some of the teen girls who attended regularly. As a valuable bonus, we were living only about 20 minutes away from both of our families. I loved everything about it!
In May 2011 we received some life changing news. While at a youth conference my husband and I both felt God telling us that our time at that church was coming to a close and it was time to step aside and let someone else take over. We loved this group but trusted that God saw the bigger picture and knew what he was doing.
It was shortly after this time that we found out we were pregnant with our first child. We were beyond thrilled but knew things were going to be different from here on out.
A few months later my husband accepted a job as the Associate Pastor at a church in Sudbury Ontario. Eight hours away from home! I was six months pregnant when we made the move. The first few months went by well as we became accustomed to a new city, a new family dynamic, and a new ministry.
Part of my husband’s job was to oversee the youth ministry. Naturally I assumed I would resume the role I had from the previous church, however, due to my new role as a mother I also knew that I couldn’t commit to that role as fully as before. I helped out as much as I could before the baby was born, but had a harder time connecting with the youth and soon had no hands on part in that ministry at all.
About three months into this new season our daughter was born and life changed. Immediately I was having a hard time balancing the role of wife, mother, and Pastor’s wife. I admit that at times I would even call my mom crying and asking her to come and rescue me!
We lived in Sudbury for almost four years. And I would be lying if I said I figured out how to balance it all before we left. It was a personal struggle much of the time I was there. I had a hard time connecting with people, getting involved in the church and learning how to raise not 1 but 2 young children. I was so caught up in my own stresses and frustrations that I didn’t always see my husband struggling. After all, it was a different church then our last and carried with it many new challenges. There were times when I felt like I was more of a hindrance then a help to him. I depended so much on him and demanded even more. I expected a lot from the people around me and yet was still unsatisfied and frustrated. But God speaks to us when we need Him the most and He often speaks during the frustrations of life. This was one of those times for me…
I remember sitting in a small group meeting when a friend said to me, “You have to stop relying on people to be your foundation. You need to trust and depend on Christ. People, on their own, will often fail you. You will stay in this rut until you look up and get your strength from Jesus and him alone.”
I’ll never forget that. I must admit I haven’t always lived out that advice. I still struggled to shake off unnecessary expectations – both from myself and from others. Many days I struggled to simply maintain sanity in a life devoted to serving people and serving my family at home. God’s word, not man’s becomes the foundation I have learned to depend on, though, as we walk onward together.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” The writer goes on to explain that there are times to plant and to uproot (v.2), to tear down and to build (v. 3), to weep and to laugh (v. 4), and even a time for war and a time for peace (v. 8). I wonder if that is a missing piece to many of our lives – including those in ministry. I wonder how often we try to become everything to everyone at all times. I think it is wise to ask God regularly, “Lord, what season is it right now? And how can I fulfill your ministry in this time and place?” Perhaps our greatest peace will come when we learn the times and seasons of the Lord and of our life.
I had to accept that there are seasons in life. When we had no children I was able to invest so much into our ministry. But now the seasons change, and we have two, (soon to be 3), children under the age of 5 in my house. Naturally my ministry will change. Sure it looks different then before but it’s just as effective, as long as I trust and am obedient to what God is calling me to. Stop putting expectations on myself, and others. To instead constantly asking God to give me the strength and wisdom to minister where he wants me to be.
Have I mastered it? Not even close, I still fail regularly. But know that one day I will get it right, as long as I am constantly relying on Him wherever and whenever He calls me.