The Art of Bouncing Back

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

As a woman in ministry there is a big target on your back and you can fall prey to the haters if you aren’t careful. I want to speak to the wife of a Pastor today because she is especially vulnerable to the arrows that hit her blindside.

It’s not about going around trying to stir up trouble. As long as you are honest and you articulate what you believe to be true, somebody somewhere will become your enemy whether you like it or not. ~Criss Jami

I am watching two very different women in ministry. A young Pastor’s wife, we’ll name her Jane, with a heart for the Lord who is being torn apart by unrealistic expectations, and a Pastor’s wife, Chris, who is being slaughtered by those who profess to wear the banner of love. It’s painful even from a distance.

In both cases you have women who love the Lord and are actively involved in their church. They are there at every event and they are there to serve. They pray. They seek the Lord. They speak words of revelation and life and yet they are lonely. They want to be a part of something that they have not been invited to.

So what’s the problem? Young Pastor’s wife Jane is an intercessor. She’s friendly but introverted. She will be at the church praying on any given day once her children are off to school, however Jane doesn’t lead a ministry. Jane has prayed over me powerfully but if I ask her to speak at our women’s conference Jane politely declines and says, “but I’ll help you serve food and I’ll help you at the altar”. Her church feels she needs to step it up. Only who decides that? I read the bible and there is this ministry called Helps and it is very necessary in the church.

Then there is Chris she is prophetic and a powerhouse speaker. Her church would like for her to stand down based on a misconception of a biblical view of women that are to be seen and not heard. Man! If only we could switch churches for them maybe their congregations would be happy. Unfortunately, their husbands were called to their place.

The biggest difference between leaders of large organizations and small organizations isn’t their location, the size of their building, the scope of their vision, the number of staff members, or their talent. In fact, some of the best leaders I’ve met have small organizations. But in all of my consulting and conferences, I’ve seen a single factor: leaders of larger organizations have proven they can handle more pain. ~ Sam Chand

So let’s do away with the expectation of a pastor’s wife. She may be called to lead a ministry or support it. She may be called to be a pastor or not. I can promise you one thing is for sure, she will fail someone at some point because no one is perfect. From a biblical view I don’t think the church gets to decide who she is to be. I think God does and I think he’s pretty sure about his expectations, and I would bet money on the fact that we’re supposed to trust Him. Let’s show a little mercy. The art of bouncing back becomes a little more difficult each time.

A Season Ahead

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Those of you who follow this blog must have thought I had fallen away during the move to our new home. It is almost complete. July and August just ran together and by September there was a little headway. I’ve missed writing, there are so many things swirling around in my brain that are wanting to come out but I will tackle it, as I have learned to tackle many things these days, in bite sized pieces.

As believers we’re called to mentor. That seems like a daunting task. You may ask yourself what do I know about mentoring or about anything in general? Well, although you might not be an expert on most things, the question to ask is:

Am I a season ahead?

In other words, do I have something to teach the person who is asking me? Am I  a little bit ahead on this topic and could my knowledge benefit this person? Am I teachable? Do I have a mentor to go to if I get stuck? No one does mentorship alone. We all have those a season ahead to help us.

Most leaders don’t mind sharing what they know with you as long as you don’t abuse their time. True leaders are happy to meet with you and tell you what they know. What a leader won’t do is waste their time or allow their time to be abused.

If I want to know what a leader knows, I will invite them to lunch or ask for an appointment. I will go to them for advice and counsel on a topic then I’m going to begin to apply the knowledge they gave to my life to get ahead. If they give me a book to read, then I’m going to read it. If they give me counsel on an area of my life that I need to improve to get to that next level then I’m going to do it. Why would I do anything else?

It’s the same when you begin to mentor others. You mentor those who are following you. Many will come to you with pretty or flattering words and thank you but won’t move off of the couch to get ahead. Some will blame you when you didn’t pursue them only that isn’t mentoring, that’s parenting, or something like that. They failed to realize that many are leaning on you and that you don’t have time to chase someone down who says they want to be mentored. Teachers stand before a class of students and teach those who showed up.

Next  make sure you study and make sure you are learning.  Be patient. Not everyone who comes to you is ready to learn and it’s fine, just pray that they find that person who will be a blessing to them. Don’t beat your head on the wall over someone who isn’t ready.

Teach, with all of your heart. Teach them about love and the pursuit of this destiny that lasts eternally. Teach them practically and teach them well and teach them that we’re all just human and need grace. Mark them with the banner of Jesus and then go home knowing your job is done for the day and get out the bible and read it for yourself.

Plenty are the worries of the day but for you, you are a student and a teacher and you will be comforted. Do your best and then rest well in the knowledge that you helped those who wanted your help with your best effort and you have put your best effort forward to learn as much as you can.

The Pastor’s Wife’s Calling

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The Church often thinks when they select the man to shepherd their church they get his wife for free. During the interview process they interview the Pastor’s wife. I don’t see this done in any other career field and I’m mixed on it. I see the reasoning, I mean she’s hopefully going to be visiting his work often. If she is crispy fried over ministry issues it will play out in the role her husband plays in the ministry, there is nothing like the bitter Pastor’s wife who looks at life through the eyes of suspicion, because she will manifest her own betrayal. If she is helpful then the church has gained a saint but that doesn’t mean they’ve gained ministry help.

There is this thing that the church seems to miss and it’s a big thing.

Calling

Has she been called to ministry? Her husband’s call isn’t hers. One would argue that if she is saved and converted then she is called to win the lost, and it is right to think so, but being a disciple of Jesus and called to ministry are two different things. Calling comes with its own special set of parameters that the rest of the elect, that’s bible speak for those called to salvation, aren’t expected to live up to in the same way. I have met the Pastor’s wife who is the worship leader and awesome at it. I have met the Pastor’s wife who attends a different church and is lovely. I have met the Pastor’s wife who is raising little ones and is blessed to get to church with only one of her little children missing a shoe and she’s loving. Calling is a distinct thing and sometimes it’s seasonal too. Often I hear the cry from the church leaders who say she knew the expectation when she married a pastor (insert my jaw dropping here). What about the Pastor’s wife who met and married the business man who later became a Pastor? Did she sign up to lead a church or did she sign up to minister to her husband?

Let’s as people of God in the community of faith take a step back and cut the Pastor’s Wife some slack. Let’s quit being so quick to judge her ability to lead the Children’s Ministry and allow her to serve where she feels God is calling her to serve. Let’s quit looking for her to have an opinion on the direction of the annual Ladies Tea and see if she is even remotely interested in speaking to the group. She isn’t called to make decisions in her husband’s department of ministry yet so often we throw her in there and ask for her opinion and then criticize that opinion. She is the woman God has called as the partner to her husband. She hasn’t necessarily been called to ministry and maybe, just maybe, the horror stories of the horrible pastor’s wife is because she is in a role not suited to her gifting. Maybe she is bowing to the pleasure of man and isn’t called by God.

Maybe just maybe she is controlling and doesn’t fit the role. Maybe she has an opinion that doesn’t fit the vision of the church. Maybe she does feel the need to be “in” on every aspect of her husband’s ministry. Can we agree that it is  her husband’s to deal with, and the leadership of the church to deal with, and we, as the church, are simply called to pray?  Because if that isn’t the case then we are no better.

The Hireling and The Called

The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)
The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

Sitting in the hot tub after a long day of ministry my husband and I were laughing and talking about a 4 year-old who was discussing the state of the world with me. Then it got quiet.

My husband quietly said, “You really shocked me a few days ago.”

Not knowing at all what he was referring to my mind began to think of what could be so shocking? I couldn’t put my finger on a single thing and yet I knew this statement was important as he’d been mulling it over, so I said, “What did I say that shocked you?”

“Well, when we began to budget for Project X you said we could take your salary and put it towards it and you didn’t hesitate.”

Trying to make this moment lighter, and being sarcastic by nature I replied, “Hey, there was a time when I had to pay to be in ministry, giving up a salary is a new level.”

We laughed and then it got quiet again and I felt I had to explain myself.

“Look, it’s not as self-sacrificing as you’re making it seem. I walk in the realm of big faith. I believe that God will take care of my needs and provide for them. I don’t doubt that for a minute. He has never let me down.”

My husband just smiled at me and said, “That’s why we’re here. We’re called. It’s not about what we can get, it’s about what we can give. Others might have given up if it was about a paycheck but because it’s a mission it becomes a lifestyle.”

John 10:12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. ESV

I thought on this conversation over the last couple of days. What makes one shift from the money aspect, which let’s face it, is a real issue and one that needs to be discussed, to the aspect of the calling? The calling is a place where you could take your education and experience and turn it into a money making proposition and sell it to the highest bidder only you wouldn’t be comfortable with yourself. It wouldn’t sit right. You’d feel a missed opportunity, you’d long for the day when you’d be called back to the ministry. Honestly, there is that space between God and reality where the bills come in and the hesitation starts. Only for me, and I don’t profess to know what it is for others, the faith that while I may not have it all, I have all I need, is the sustaining force that keeps me steady when the waves of doubt come crashing in. When the promise of being all in when the stress of ministry and the expectations of what we are called to do are overwhelming, I stop and tell myself that I promised, and more importantly, I trust my Lord.

I pray that wherever you are sitting and reading this post right now, that you are sitting under a pastor who is called and not a hireling. You will know the difference when life hits. I pray that pastors who are truly called never give up.

 

The Pastor’s Wife

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When you hear the words, The Pastor’s Wife, what does she conjure up for you mentally? For so many she is the object of perfection in the church. She has it all together, her children are perfect, her responses are wonderful, and her life is one to be admired and emulated. For others of you, she is a working woman, playing the piano, leading the women’s group, feeding the homeless, and running the children’s ministry seamlessly. Yet for others, she is the epitome of judgment. She glances at you head to toe and makes a sad determination. Sadly, you’d be right with all three versions because she exists in all of these forms.

Back in the day there was the thought process that the Pastor’s Wife was to be set apart. She was not to mingle with the commoners of the church and she was to be held in high regard. Only that doesn’t really fly in the face of scripture does it? Jesus says he is gentle and lowly in heart. Jesus says he is set apart by believing and obeying his Father. It wasn’t about being set apart from the people, it was about being among the people and being set apart in action.

The question that has been stirring in my heart as I see this attitude is what false hope it gives to women in the body. To think that any life is really that perfect and the average woman cannot attain it because it’s for an elite group is just not realistic. There are no scriptures to back this thought process up. There is no elite group of  Navy Seal Christian Woman. There are women who achieve great things and who have applied godly principles of life to their everyday walk but no one’s life is pure perfection. There are Pastors Wives who silently suffer, and because they are supposed to have this perfect image, they can speak to absolutely no one about it. So they put their makeup on and hide behind a smile and because no one really looks at each other anymore they are able to pose.

The problem with that is that we are called to mentor and to love and to help. We can’t ever say we have a problem because then we have this perception that no one will think we are as perfect as we pretend to be and therefore leave the church. So we lift up this unattainable goal to woman in the church that they too can be a perfect woman in Christ and she flounders because she never can quite get there. She feels inadequate and that’s good for us because it makes us feel more powerful.

I will never forget a story I heard Ruth Graham tell. She was Billy Graham’s wife who has now gone on to be with Jesus. Because her husband was often traveling she raised her children primarily alone. She said her son Franklin Graham, who is now an evangelist himself, gave her fits on a regular basis. One day while out and about he was acting out so much that she threatened to put him in the trunk of the car if he continued his behavior. Of course Franklin continued and she pulled the car over and stuck him in the trunk and drove on. Yes, she admits not a crowning moment for her but instead a desperate mom moment. While none of us would advocate putting your kid in a trunk, we relate to the feeling.

I have learned a few things in my life as a Pastor’s wife over the years. I know that life happens to the Pastor’s Wife. She gets flat tires on the way to a meeting. She has bad hair days. She has arguments with her husband sometimes. She yells at her kids. She sometimes skips her devotional time in the morning. She blows it at work. She gets mad at people who cut her off in traffic. She has issues. Her life is just as full and as busy as the next woman. She has flaws and temptations and everything else going on in her life. She isn’t married to a calling or a church. She is married to a man and she has been called, just as any wife, to minister to her family and then the church. So pray for your Pastor’s Wife because she’s as human as every other woman but sometimes she can’t say it.

 

At War With Women

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I was raised by a first generation feminist. My mother broke into a male dominated field full force. Her generation was the one who shouted, “I am woman hear me roar!” Her generation demanded to be treated as equal in the workplace and not just a piece of meat, “a honey”, or “a sweetie”.  She brought to the table the intelligence to do her job and the strength to push through boundaries of race, culture, and gender. My mother used terms such as Male Chauvinist Pig to describe men who tried to objectify her and tried to take her back to where she had to use her body instead of her mind as a way to move forward in life.

In the beginning of feminism it was about equality. Knowing you were a woman, but not limited to roles in job or pay. Today feminism, like every other movement, has gone to places I can’t follow. They have created a chaos in women’s identity but the one thing they still revere and I still appreciate is that they believe intelligence doesn’t favor a male, in fact, it is equal to those who choose to apply knowledge.

So what is the deal with women today? We have decided cleavage is power. Once again we don’t feel smart enough to compete in the workplace so we use our body. There is a term that when I first heard it, made me cringe and not believe it, but I have to be honest, I am agreeing with it these days. It’s called Female Chauvinist Pig and she is empowering men once again to objectify women by issuing her own war on women by allowing herself to be defined by her body. What causes her to breakdown the work of the women who forged a path for her? Clearly, it’s a self-esteem issue. She doesn’t think she has the smarts to win the battle in the workplace. Women admittedly say they showed cleavage because mistakes on the job were overlooked. Really? So when we don’t have a brain we show our body because being objectified allows us to keep a job we aren’t qualified for? I don’t think so. Women fought hard so that a woman was viewed as a whole person and not just the sum total of her breasts.

In Kathy Shiffer’s article Cleavage=Control? I Don’t Think So, she refers to an article written by Marge Fenelon entitled Cleaveage Does Not Rule where Marge Fenelon makes the statement:

Let’s go back to the title, which suggests that a woman can and should use her cleavage as a means of control over her life. In actuality, it’s not the woman’s life she’d be controlling with her cleavage – it would be the people around her and the way they perceive her. To take it a step further, she wouldn’t really be controlling her life; she’d be controlling the way people respond to her generously-revealed breasts.

Sorry but cleavage isn’t sexy when it’s free to everyone and no one ever looked down a woman’s blouse thinking she was wise.

The Life Of Party

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You know the type, they walk into a room full of strangers with a smile. For them, this is a chance to make 100 new besties.

Yeah that’s not me.

I am friendly but I am not the life of the party. Even as a kid I would select a friend or two to play with. I wasn’t aloof, I joined clubs, participated in school plays but you’d never see me as the actor. I’d be narrator or the director off to the side.

Some filter this behavior as anti-social and therefore label it as stuck up. It isn’t stuck up at all though. I am just not the life of the party. I am an observer. I am the one who if I am having a dinner party, I cheat and stack the deck. I invite those who will carry the conversation along. In other words, I invite the host or hostess to my party and make sure they have everything they need.

These days it’s my friend Vikki. Vikki will talk to anyone. She and her husband Alec will mingle and make sure everyone has a touch. Vikki will also entertain me by coming around and making comments to me like she’s talking about someone else. For example, Vikki will say: “Whew! Vikki is sweating over here.” or “Vikki thinks you should have served more fruit.” She says it in a sing/song voice which always makes me laugh so in essence she even hosts me at my own party. It works.

I will, on the other hand, find that one person sitting alone and go make a conversation. I’m good at the one on one.

The stretch for me is walking into a crowd and going and shaking hands and introducing myself and making small talk. So now picture my life. I’m on staff as a pastor at a church with about 250 people each Sunday on average. This is where I found myself in a lesson last week.

My devotional that week was this scripture:

Matthew 14:13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

So the question becomes what do you do when you’re called out of your comfort zone and don’t have the tools? You trust Jesus and stretch and go to work. I can teach a class, I can lead a meeting but it’s not natural. It’s the 10,000 hours that you put in to a skill to have mastery. It’s not that you’re that good, it’s that you’ve practiced enough to make it.