July 18, 2011

For the Church Planting Husband

OK, ladies, here you go. The following post is what you want your church planting pastor husbands to understand. Just copy and paste, forward, or print and place on his pillow, tape to his mirror, or glue on his forehead. Hopefully, these words will spark good conversation and be for your inevitable encouragement.

Words of encouragement to a wife are like water to a plant.

When I read that quote recently, I thought about how true that statement is, how every wife needs and craves encouragement from her husband.

My husband is masterful at showing me love: he plans date nights, he gifts me with a box of Junior Mints just when I'm withdrawing, he lovingly engages our children, and he leads our home well. But there is nothing like a well-timed word of encouragement from him! Hearing Kyle say that I'm a good mom, that he appreciates my cooking, that I'm beautiful, that he sees God using me—those words reenergize me for days.

There is another reason why his words of encouragement are necessary: my husband is a church planting pastor. For the past three years, God has used us to build a church from the ground up, work that has been both grueling and rewarding. The first year of church planting was especially difficult for me because of the uncertainty, instability, and magnitude of the work. Without my husband’s verbal encouragement and attentiveness, I could not have made it through.

Your wife too will face unique challenges in your first year of church planting. At times, she will feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and even resentful of the time and energy your job requires of you. As you seek to nurture your wife, there are many things you can do: draw clear boundaries between ministry and home life from the very beginning, protect her from essentially becoming a second staff member, and strive to ease your own worry and distraction so you can give her your undivided attention. But there is nothing you can do that equals the effect of your encouragement.

After a sermon or a church outreach event, my husband receives a pat on the back or words of affirmation at how God has used him. But who encourages me in my role as the pastor’s wife—the one with the focus on the needs of the pastor? That opportunity primarily belongs to my husband. When he acknowledges and affirms my ministry to him and to others around me, he waters my soul, helping me grow and blossom in my role.

This need that pastors’ wives have isn’t irrational or the result of a wrong focus. Proverbs 31 describes a husband who is well known in the community sitting among the elders of the land. At the gates of the city, he receives respect and affirmation. His wife also offers him her admiration and honors him by how she lives. But where does the godly wife receive encouragement? “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’”

Just like the Proverbs 31 husband, water your wife through specific praise:
·      “I was feeling discouraged but your words helped me persevere.”
·      “You and your gifts are vital to our ministry.”
·      “You are more important to me than the church.”
·      “Thank you for the sacrifices you make that allow me to do my job well.”

Church planters, like you, your wife continually gives to others. Many people don’t think about or understand her needs or the demands on her life. You may be the only source of encouragement your wife receives on a continual basis and her well-being will have profound influence on your success. Through your words of blessing, you have an opportunity to minister to your wife in a way that no one else can, especially through the first grueling year.

--This post is a reworking of a former post written for husbands in general. It will appear in an publication for church planters called "Plant" that will be released in the fall.