Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Minister's Wives

We have a little tradition here at our church - the 'Preacher's Wives' (as we call ourselves) go away together each year. It's an event we all look forward to. We leave our husbands and children for 2 nights and go away, usually to a beach house, for a time of encouragement and refreshment.

It's only one of the ways we support each another, as we also meet fortnightly throughout the year to pray together. When I arrived here, this group of women had been meeting together for years, as well as going away together annually. It was a wonderful group to arrive into. Here were women also married to men in ministry, all seeking to live godly lives and all keen to encourage one another through joyous and sad times.

Five years later, this group has become one of my main support networks. I look forward to our fortnightly times of prayer, and I really look forward to our times away. Not only because for me they really are a break, a time with adults only at the beach for 3 days - but because these women are a constant encouragement to me.

We are a diverse bunch - we currently number 11 women and we are spread over 8 congregations at 3 centres. We age from under 30 to nearing 50, we have children ranging from 'in utero' to university age. We serve in different ways: some teach publicly, some lead bible studies, some lead singing or play music, some encourage other women and meet with them privately, some have wonderful hospitality. We look after our households in different ways: some work, others do not; some love to cook, others prefer take-away; some love craft, others can't stand it. But all of us love our husbands, love our ministries and are united by the gospel.

This year, we watched the DVDs of the Equip Ministry Wives Conference from 2008. There were 2 talks from Phillip Jensen on 'Being a wife' and 'Being a ministry wife', and a talk from Carmelina Read on 'How to discourage your husband in ministry' (later turned into a Briefing Article, which can be read here).

We watched each talk as a group and then talked about each in depth. And here I share some of the points I liked/learnt:

Talk 1 - Being a wife

- He centred his talk around Prov 12:4 "a wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones"

- The idea that we are made for our husbands by God, and that there is nothing more glorious than a man (on this earth) than his wife - she is the crowning pleasure of his existence. Which is a privilege!

- Most men do not need many friends, a good wife is all they need. This helped me to think through how G views me. He doesn't have many other close friends (although there are some), but primarily he wants to spend his time with me. Which I love and which I do not have to worry about - I am enough for him.

- He finished with a comment, that many minister's wives know and probably fear - "all minister's wives halve or double their husband's ministries". What I felt when I looked around at our little group was encouraged - all of these women enhance their husband's ministries - all in different ways - but they do all enhance them.

Talk 2 - Being a ministry wife

He had an interesting section on work vs. career vs. calling, with the following definitions:
- work - the job you do to get paid, so that you may live
- career - finding your satisfaction in your work, seeking your own development, which can be very self-focused
- calling - the thing you would do even if you were not paid to do it (this can include sportsmen (ie you would play golf even if no one paid you), artists, authors, musicians - money or advancement is not the motivation, but rather the joy of what you do.
- He made the point that those have jobs are often happy, those who have a calling are often very happy, and those who follow careers are often unhappy. It was an interesting point, which I think does contain some truth. If you look for your self worth from your job, no job is likely to ever be good enough for very long, however I wonder if the lines here are a bit too clearly drawn.

However, following from that, he asked - what then is your calling? He suggested that as a minister's wife we have two callings:
1. to be a wife (because we are married)
2. to be in ministry (because we are Christian) - I wonder then whether this definition of 2 callings may therefore apply to all Christian wives, not specifically minister's wives?

Another helpful point was that we are wives before we are minister's wives. We married a man, not a minister. If he was not a minister, we would still be his wife. Therefore, if you are a minister's wife, how do you describe yourself? "The Minister's wife" or "His name's wife"? I must say I don't tend to describe myself as the minister's wife, but I find it is helpful for people to understand how I fit into the picture at church pretty quickly, more to save them saying something they might regret, or making them feel embarrassed!

Then he had a few points about being the Minister's Helper. Here are some of them:

1. Do not complain about being in Christian ministry - for our lives are much easier. Our work is our church and our workplace is our home. We are not divided between his work, her work, home and church - other live in 2 or more worlds, we live in 1. And I know this to be true, I watch my friends, who struggle with his job taking long hours, her trying to run the home, and perhaps another job, and them also trying to be committed their church in their small amounts of available time - and I know that my life is easier.

2. Remember that we have more ability to exercise our gifts in ministry than almost any other woman in the congregation. It is a privileged position.

3. Related to that, is that we need to be thankful for the privilege of the position we hold. Our husbands are paid to read the bible, pray with others and preach the word. We are taken care of by others, and we must be teaching contentment to our children.

4. We need to work at being dignified. (1 Tim 3:11) - we must aim to be constant, reliable, honest, not slanderers and sober-minded. A high calling, but one that all Christians should be aiming for.

5. He also had some helpful guidelines for giving sermon feedback. As we discussed this amongst us, we realised again how different our husbands are and how they respond to feedback differently.

As you can probably tell from the amount of my notes, I really enjoyed this talk and it gave me lots to think about.

Talk 3 - How to discourage your husband in ministry

This humorous talk by Carmelina Read brilliantly captured some of the many things we all do as wives which discourage rather than encourage our husbands. I linked to the Briefing article above, and suggest you read it directly, although I actually think the talk was better. Obviously the things she was talking about especially near the end were deadly serious, and she dealt with them very well and sensitively.


Of course that is not all we did - we went for walks on the beach, ate lovely food, watched DVDs, quilted, made cards, chatted, shared, and avoided the mice that were sharing the house with us. And we even had facials on the way down there!

All in all, a time of great encouragement together. If you are a minister's wife and do not have such a support network - can I encourage you to find one? It is a great blessing to us all.

All of us (minus 1)

1 comment:

rd said...

Thanks for this sum up. I went to the conference and enjoyed the talks, but also enjoyed being reminded of what was said.

Good to hear it was positive for you and your groups of minister's wives.