Friendships Made In Heaven

Loneliness in Ministry - How one group of ministry wives are building friendships through a support group.

by Angelie R. Stahlnecker

Full of anticipation, I look forward to Monday mornings. My husband has fondly nicknamed our group SOCM, “Spouses of Crazy Ministers”. The senior pastor’s wife, the youth pastor’s wife, the ministerial candidate’s wife and me, the associate pastor’s wife, all come together weekly. We are women who share the bonds of having husbands who are called by God to serve in full-time ministry. We are also women who share our own calling by God to serve alongside our husbands, supporting them, our families, and our churches.

My husband and I recently joined a new church. It is a church plant that is growing rapidly. A strong leadership core is critical to managing this growth. Often pastors’ wives, taking on many behind-the-scenes roles, are not seen as part of this core. But we are a vital part of the leadership and need to feel connected. With this in mind, SOCM was formed. Since creating this group many people in our congregation have asked, “What do you do?” Other ministry wives have asked, “Why do you?”

What We Do?

The answer to what we do is threefold. We fellowship, we study, and we pray.

Fellowship brings the laughter. Most Mondays we meet in a living room and relax in front of a crackling fire. We eat muffins or fresh baked cookies and sip mochas, or steamers for us non-coffee drinkers. We share our week, my daughter’s latest attempt at dancing with an unhappy tomcat or the newest tricks of the two newborn babies. Then, there is the “hair” of the son away at college, but that’s another story. The time provides a wonderful opportunity for us to learn about each other and share each other’s joys.

We also have a study portion, taking several different approaches. Often, we will take an article, read it during the week and then discuss it. Discussion will spring from what we liked, learned, or disagreed with in the article. Issues have been as diverse as personal growth, the needs of pastors’ kids, and the meaning of sanctification. We have used such great resources as Focus on the Family magazine, our denominational magazine and, of course, Just Between Us. We have also gone straight to Scripture. When the sermon series was on 1 Timothy, we decided to read and discuss the book. Over Christmas it was necessary to take a month off. We committed ourselves to reading 1 & 2 Peter. We highlighted verses that spoke to us, and spent two weeks exploring the promises of God. Currently, we are reading The Joy of a Promise Kept, a collection of writings from wives of prominent pastors and Christian leaders. The book contains encouragement and challenges us to be the wives God intended for us to be.

Most importantly, we pray. Each of us keeps a prayer notebook especially for Mondays. We often look back and see the wonderful answers to prayer that God has shown us since meeting together.

We pray for our church – the leadership, the body of believers, and those we are trying to reach. We have a special burden for revival in our church and community.

Second, we pray for our husbands and families. We pray for our husband’s ministries, his personal needs, and our relationship. We pray for our children – their school, health, future, and safety.

Finally, we pray for each other. We pray earnestly for a personal quiet time with God and personal revival amidst the craziness of being a wife, mother, and servant of God. We pray for the burdens on our hearts – unsaved friends, fears, shortcomings.

Why Do We?

My immediate reaction to the question is, “I would hate not to.” In the beginning, it helped me quickly belong to this church. No matter how friendly the people, a feeling of being an outsider can creep in. This group moved me from feeling like an outsider to a loved family member.

The continuing importance of this group is to provide us with great support. If and when attacks come from inside or outside the church, we have each other to rely on. There are some things that only other ministry wives can understand. Pastoral families not only deal with balancing work with family, but being called as a family to serve God. When your chosen field is reaching the lost, it can often blur priorities. A wife bears a heavy responsibility to help keep that perspective for herself and her husband. I am glad to share this task with others in different stages of ministry. Stronger wives mean stronger husbands. Our church’s ministry as a whole is more solid as a result.

With that support comes accountability. The danger of such a group is that we could sit around and gossip or lick each other’s wounds. We are keenly aware of this temptation and try not to only heal the wounds, but also evaluate our part in them. Do we have the right attitude in a particular situation? How can we change ourselves to change the problem? Are we right with God? We have developed a level of trust that cultivates this type of accountability.

Why Not You?

I would encourage you to think about starting your own SOCM group. It doesn’t need to look just like ours. If work interferes with a weekly meeting, meet on a Saturday or evening or once a month. Are you flying solo, with no other staff? I have been there. See if the other pastors’ wives in your area are interested. They are probably weary of flying solo as well.

It is critical for ministry wives to be a true strength to their husband and their ministry. If a pastor’s wife becomes unhappy, the ministry suffers. If we work together and encourage each other, we can further the ministry of our husbands and expand the kingdom. We belong to a special calling, a collective group of women called to serve God as the wives of pastors!

Help! I’m Lonely

By Lynne Dugan

Picture a pastor’s wife in an isolation booth on the long-defunct television program, The 64,000 Dollar Question. The host of the show raises his eyebrows, looks deep within her eyes and asks, “How come you’re so lonely when you’re surrounded by a congregation full of people?” What would your answer be?

I’m asking you ministry wives because one of the most common complaints voiced among women married to ministers is loneliness and isolation. There is a prevailing fear that to share your real feelings is too big a risk to take in order to really be known. And some women have shared their private lives, and were sorry they did.

One woman in ministry was so frustrated, so hurt with “an unbearable burden,” that she actually dialed seven digits out of the air so she could just talk to whomever answered. Now that’s desperation, but it worked. The woman who answered the phone listened patiently and then asked if she knew her. God, the Great Networker, had connected a very young, discouraged pastor’s wife to a godly, seasoned pastor’s wife who offered her loving counsel and heart-healing prayer.

Do you want to hear about another unorthodox method of networking? Recently a group of pastors’ wives met in my home and got talking about loneliness. One of them said, “You would not believe what I did once because I just needed to talk to someone. I dialed a bunch of 800 numbers and people were very willing to listen to me talk about anything I could think of. It was such a relief!”

I’d like to hear some of your stories sometime. I have never called anyone out of the blue or dialed 800 numbers. Instead, I joined many different clubs and talked to a lot of people. There were no groups to go to where other pastors’ wives shared openly in a safe environment. It wasn’t until we were ministering in Washington DC that an idea came to me from God’s Word: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:3). That’s a complete circle, isn’t it? The Lord, our friend, wants us to have fellowship with each other and have fellowship with Him.

Certainly I’ve read this verse many times, but this time the Lord highlighted the text. That was when the idea stirred within my heart to think about gathering pastors’ wives together for fellowship with each other and with the Lord in the Washington D.C. Metro area. A ministry to pastors’ wives formed eleven years ago, and we thank God for “expanding the territory” ever since.