March 25, 2013

To Pastors: Share the Reward

Shared with my husband's permission, this is an encouragement for pastors, ministry leaders, and, really, any husband. 

At our church’s annual leadership appreciation dinner, my husband—the lead pastor—asks the staff, elders, and leaders to share how they’ve seen God moving among and through us. It’s always a time of mutual encouragement and rejoicing at just how significant each member is to our local body of Christ.

This year, an especially tiring and trying one, I had been especially looking forward to having the leaders in our home, sharing a meal together, and listening to those I love encourage one another. Our church, only four years old, had grown spiritually and numerically and, as the pastor’s wife, I was acutely feeling the demands of church planting and ministry.  

After dinner, my husband opened the floor, and I listened with joy as others were edified. In the end, to close the evening, my husband said, “There is someone I would like to acknowledge and express my appreciation for. I am so thankful for this person because they are someone I could not imagine doing ministry without. This person is vital to my ministry.” As he spoke, I looked down and began to fiddle with my napkin, a little nervous that he would gush over me so effusively in front of the leaders, but at the same time feeling grateful for his encouragement.

“Bill,” he continued, gesturing toward the pastor and elder that planted the church with us, “it’s such a joy to serve with you.”
I immediately reprimanded myself for expecting and desiring his words to be directed toward me rather than toward another faithful servant. At the same time, I knew that he had missed an opportunity. 

My husband is an excellent husband and pastor, but he cannot always see how much my life is affected by his vocation, nor all the ways I genuinely try to help him be successful. As a pastor’s wife who embraces this calling and this life, who willingly serves, what I most want is for him to acknowledge and champion me as his partner in life and in ministry every chance he gets. I especially need to know that I’m vital to my husband, that he needs me.

I told him all these things later. I told him that I thought he was talking about me and about how embarrassed I felt when I was wrong. But I also told him, “Sometimes I feel as if I am carrying the burdens of ministry with you, but I don’t get to share in the rewards.” The rewards I want are to know that we’re a team, that I’m vital to him and to his calling, that God is using me in our church and community. That night, apologetic at missing a public opportunity, he spoke private words of appreciation and encouragement to me that God used to re-energize me for ministry.

Pastors, your wife likely carries many of the burdens of ministry with you. And she probably does it willingly and joyfully most of the time. You have opportunities every day to share the rewards with her. Champion her and her specific gifts. Encourage her, not just privately, but publicly—your actions and words teach the church how to honor and encourage her as well. Tell her how God is using her. Tell her how much you need her as your partner in life and in ministry.

Like a plant faithfully watered and nourished, she will blossom under your words.