Before my husband was a church planter, he was on staff at an established church where his role and responsibilities were firm and clear. Being in a church with a large staff made it relatively easy to prioritize our marriage and family before ministry. His clearly defined role also made it simple for me to determine how to be his helpmate in ministry.
Then we planted a church.
Suddenly, ministry threatened to encroach on every aspect of our lives, my husband carried the heavy burden of starting and growing a church, and I felt uncertain about how I could best help him. His job description became “Everything” and mine became “Helpmate to the Man Who Does Everything”.
What does it mean to be a helpmate to a man who is a church planter?
I’ve learned what it does not mean. It does not mean that I am a helpmate to the church. It also does not mean that I am equally as responsible for the church’s success or well-being as my husband.
My husband and I joke that, as his helpmate, I am the Pastor to the Pastor, but there actually is some accuracy to that description. I can meet his needs for encouragement, prayer, support, and intimacy in ways that others can’t. And by doing so, I can be vital to his success as a disciple, husband, father, and pastor.
Here are some practical ways that you can be a godly helpmate to your church-planting husband:
· Cultivate your relationship with God.
This is important for countless reasons, but, as a helpmate, relying on the Spirit for your daily sustenance prevents you from developing an unhealthy neediness for your husband. In doing so, you will find your hope and comfort in Christ and will be able to joyfully free your husband to carry out his calling.
· Give him specific encouragement.
Church planting can be discouraging, even for strong, capable leaders. Be your husband’s biggest cheerleader. Help him see how the Lord is working in your church and through his leadership. Affirm his preaching. Celebrate wins, both big and small. Find delicate and supportive ways to share how he can grow.
· Help him carve out time for rest and retreat.
When you notice his energy and motivation flagging, encourage him to take a personal retreat, to rest, or to do something that reenergizes him.
· Know your responsibilities.
The responsibility for the growth and health of the church is not on you. In fact, it’s not even on your husband. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3 that it is the Lord who does the work of growing and cultivating the seeds that are planted. Therefore, don’t let yourself become burdened by the work to where you become overly concerned or overly involved in the church plant. It will leave you little time and energy for your primary priorities: disciple, wife, and mom. Yes, you should be involved in the ministry, but not too much to where you rise and fall emotionally based upon how the church is doing.
· Be wise in conversation.
Be careful about how much you and your husband talk about the church. Purposefully engage him in conversation that has nothing to do with work, ministry, or people in the church. It is also important to monitor how much you share about your struggles with church planting. If you are constantly complaining, he may take it personally or feel guilty about what God has called him to do.
· Value Intimacy.
Especially at the beginning stages of church planting, your husband may not feel successful at much of anything. Physical intimacy is a powerful reminder to him that you value, love, and need him.
· Pray for him.
Finally, you must pray for him. Your husband has taken on a daunting task. Because he is fighting spiritual battles, he needs supernatural protection, discernment, wisdom, and leadership in order to accomplish everything he does each day. The only way you can help him in that is by praying for him.
So, Pastor to the Pastor, what will you do today to help your husband fulfill his calling?