January 7, 2013

How To Thrive On Sundays

In the beginning of our ministry, when my husband went on staff at a church as the college pastor, I was self-conscious anytime I walked into church or into a ministry event. Typically alone due to my husband’s responsibilities, I had to fend for myself. My thoughts turned inward: Would anyone talk to me? Who could I talk to?
Out of necessity, I got really good at initiating conversation really quickly, but the self-consciousness remained. I could talk to anyone, remember names, and recall details of things they’d shared with me before, but I felt purposeless. I felt that, as a pastor’s wife, I should have a purpose, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was.

I found myself dreading going to church. My husband fulfilled his role beautifully, but me? I was just kind of wandering around and having surface conversations, thankful for any opportunities to set things up or clean up after people because it gave me something to do.

I was just surviving, really. I secretly wondered if a pastor’s wife was just arm decoration or a glorified greeter, but I longed for more, for a divine purpose to fulfill in this unique role. I didn’t want to go through the motions of ministry; I wanted to be bold and joyfully minister myself.

How could I get there?

Slowly, I recognized patterns of self-sabotage: focusing on my thoughts and allowing the self-conscious to feed on itself, listening to the enemy’s accusations of weakness and failure, holding myself back from leading or from being vulnerable with others.

I began to battle, especially on Sunday mornings. I knew that I could no longer go into ministry situations in my own strength or skill but only relying on the Spirit for my approval, power, and love for others.

And to tell you the truth, I have never been able to stop battling since, even after 13 years of ministry. It hasn’t gotten any easier, and, as an aside, I don’t think that ministry should be easy because if it were easy, we wouldn’t rely on God to minister through us.

Part of the battle, I’ve discovered, is in my preparation, whether early Sunday morning or in the car headed to church or a ministry event. If I go in with an “I’ll just get through this” kind of attitude, it’s not going to be a good day and I will wonder purposelessly through everything. I must turn my heart toward Jesus and ask Him to give me His eyes and His love for people.

The other part of battling is disregarding thoughts that pop up in the midst of being with people. These thoughts are generally self-focused or distract me into fearing man rather than God.

As I have battled and learned to prepare myself through prayer, I have discovered that Sundays are very purposeful. I am not an arm decoration or a glorified greeter; I am a minister of the gospel. Unlike the early days, I know what my spiritual gifts are and I seek out ways to use them on Sundays. I also have learned to cut myself slack, knowing that my children require a big portion of my attention.

And you want to know one practical thing that has truly helped me on Sundays? Before I get to church, I pray that God would give me one or two people that I can have a good conversation with or bless in some way. Sometimes He even brings people to mind right then and I seek them out when I get to church with specific questions in mind that I want to ask them. I love that, as a pastor’s wife, I can speak blessing and encouragement and truth into people’s lives.

Sometimes, to be honest, Sundays don’t go well. There are times I feel overwhelmed and frazzled. And then other times I leave feeling discouraged or as if I don’t belong at my own church. These are times when I have learned that I have to go to God and let Him love me and speak His pleasure over me. It’s also a time when I have to recount the many rewards of being in ministry alongside my husband.

And that, my friends, is how I survive thrive on Sundays. How do you do it?

The rest of this week, we will be talking about other “how-to’s” for pastors’ wives. Join us? 
The countdown continues! Only 25 days until the book releases.