October 16, 2013

Tricks of the Trade (for the Pastor's Wife)

I have to stop and think when someone asks me how old I am. In my mind, I'm perpetually the same age, so when I actually calculate it and say the number out loud, it startles me a little. Sometimes I feel like the number is too low--the plodding years of church planting will do that to a girl.

But most of the time it feels too high. Time has marched on and suddenly I'm the mother of a 10-year-old and I can't remember not being married. And why are those crinkles around my eyes appearing in the mirror? All signs point to maturation, but when it comes to the big stuff of life, I feel like I'm just getting started and that I still have so much to learn. When does one, for instance, give the final death knell to pride? And how does one, totally hypothetically of course, give the boot once and for all to people-pleasing? And what's the deal with this whole menopause thing? I need to be prepared, people!

But sometimes the age that comes out of my mouth feels just right. I've earned that age, gosh darn it. That age represents a whole lot of lessons and failures and experiences. Years sure do give wisdom and perspective, at least that's what I hope since I have crinkles to show for them.
When it comes to ministry, there are some things I don't know yet. There are some things I probably think I know, but I haven't yet discovered that I don't know them at all.

But there are a few things I do know, practical things that I've learned to incorporate, that are vital to my ministry, and that have honestly kept me sane. They are my tricks of the trade (if being a pastor's wife can be called a trade), and I share them with you now, fully aware that I might come back in 10 years with a red editing pen and slash at will. But they're working for me now, and they just might work for you too:
  1. Drink deeply of the Word every single day or you will wither up and die.
  2. When someone in the church has a critique, question, or issue, unless it is in my area of ministry, send them to the right person without getting involved. I am not a staff member and, most of the time, it is not my problem.
  3. Do not take it on as a personal mission to address every presented need.
  4. Pray for people right when they ask.
  5. Write the victories down. Celebrate them. Be grateful for them. Enjoy them.
  6. On Sunday mornings, pray before church that God would lead you to one or two people that you can bless or encourage. Also, go in with one or two people in mind that you've been thinking about who you'd like to connect with. This keeps feelings of loneliness, aimlessness, and uncertainty at bay.
  7. Instead of sitting alone in church, ask someone who often sits alone to join you. Or look for new faces and invite them to sit with you.
  8. When something doesn't go how you imagined, when God's answer is "no", or when you aren't included or asked to lead a ministry, consider that God is protecting you and trust His hand.
  9. Practice hospitality. Remember that people are more important than perfection. 
  10. When teaching, speaking, or counseling, always consider how your words will benefit others. Do not think about how they will benefit you.
  11. Put sabbath rest on your calendar as an appointment.
  12. Express gratefulness and champion those who lead in the church. Present a united front, but don't just present a united front; Work toward truly being like-minded.
  13. Take criticisms and constructive feedback to the Lord and ask Him, "Am I being faithful to do what You have asked me to do?"
  14. Before going into any ministry situation, make it a habit to pray. Acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who changes people and ask Him to do it.
  15. Sundays are information overload days. If you need to remember something that you talked about with someone, write it down as soon as you get home. Or do what I do: write it on your hand. If someone wants to get together, never make plans on Sunday mornings. Ask them to email you. Do this so that you can consider your schedule and priorities prayerfully.
  16. Speak grace to other women often and loudly. 
  17. Put family days on the calendar before the church calendar gets set.
  18. Sometimes the most refreshing thing you can do is to build relationships with nonbelievers or those who don't go to your church.
  19. If you want people to attend something, a personal invitation almost always works better than an open invitation.
  20. Be vulnerable and open about what God has done in your life. Share freely about past struggles and God's faithfulness in those. Be vulnerable about your present struggles, but do so more carefully and with discreet, mature people. 
Well, folks, those are some of the most important lessons I've learned in 14 years of ministry. What about you? What's working for you? What are your tricks of the trade?