Ministry, Practical Tips

The File Every Pastor’s Wife Should Have

You thought I was going to say you should have a File 13.

And yes, you should- a mental one as well as a literal garbage can, in which to dispose of all the junk you receive in ministry. ūüėČ

BUT….the file I’m thinking of is a much more pleasant file- one that will bring continual encouragement to your heart as the years go by.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before, seeing as I’ve had my file for almost 12 years now. It’s called a “Ministry Memories” file, and it’s how I preserve my best memories from ministry.

When we got married, we knew we were headed into pastoral ministry ¬†immediately {I mean, ¬†we candidated while on our honeymoon and stayed a few days in the parsonage where we later came back to live. Ahem} ¬†Anyway, I began a series of file folders that were labeled different ways like “Family Memories,” ¬†“Childhood Memories,” a file for cards/letters from each grandmother, etc. And one of the files was called “Ministry Memories.”

I honestly had no clue what would go in there when I created that file folder. But over the years it has filled with cards, letters, sticky notes, a few pictures, newspaper articles, ¬†etc. Now my file is very fat and I store it with other files in one of those pretty cardboard boxes that Michael’s/Hobby Lobby sells, slipped under my bed for most of the year.

But once in awhile I pull it out. And a couple of weeks ago my husband and I were going through a heap of papers and mail (does everyone’s house accumulate as much of that as we do?), and I opened said pretty cardboard box to file some things.

You guys….even though I’ve sifted through my box many times, I sat spellbound leafing through my Ministry Memories file, as if I’d never seen or read those cards before. ¬†In the middle of my bedroom floor, I relived our ministries. I missed and loved our people all over again while ¬†reading their words of love and encouragement. It just made my heart smile to be reminded that God did use us, that we had a positive impact on people, and that we have lasting relationships from our ministries. It was like receiving a beautiful gift all over again.

I personally think that every pastor’s wife should have a file like this. It’s amazing how quickly we do forget the good things, especially when things are bad. But we ¬†must¬† be purposeful about remembering the wonderful works of God. We must take time to reflect on His goodness to us through His people, especially when we lose sight of that when we’re in the thick of ministry situations.

Now, I want to share a few of my personal guidelines for this file. It’s not just a “throw everything ¬†in there” file, but a file with specific purpose:

1. The Ministry Memories file is ONLY for good memories. We all have both positive and negative ministry memories. The negative ones have no place in this file. Of course some memories will be bittersweet, but if you know that down the road you might struggle again with “that thing” if you save “that paper,” then don’t save it, especially if it contains details about something that is forgiven and in the past. SO. Only the good stuff goes in this file.

2. If your ministry is multi-faceted, you might want to have separate files instead of lumping it all into general ministry. I have a “Youth Group Memories” file and a “Christmas Cantatas” file (where I keep recorded CDs and bulletins of past cantatas we did.) So anything that falls under youth ministry or music ministry is in a different file. It keeps my main Ministry Memories file from getting bulky and random.

3. ¬†This file is not necessarily for pictures. It’s not intended to be photo storage for your banquets and bulletin boards and ladies meetings. That could get cluttered really quickly if you print out a lot of photos. (I should do another post on how I organize my ministry related photos.) I do have a few pics in my files, but they are few- a pic (attached to a letter) of a couple of our teens when they graduated, and a pic of a ministry team we brought up one summer- that kind of thing.

4. This file is primarily for written encouragement. My file has about 100 items in it from 10 years of ministry. Your file may be larger or smaller, depending on what your church culture is like. Now, ¬†we’ve received HUNDREDS ¬†of cards over the years between Christmases, two babies (and two baby showers), Easter, Thanksgiving, losses, illnesses, etc. But lest you think I’m a hoarder who saves every piece of paper she touches, I’ll explain what gets kept and what goes to file 13:

I save only cards that have personal notes/letters in them. So, while it may seem harsh to some, if the person just signed their name, it doesn’t make the cut to go in the Ministry Memories file. But if they took the time to write a paragraph that is personal and thoughtful, it makes the file. If I saved every singe card, I’d need boxes and boxes (actually I think I DO have all of our baby shower cards, but they are in the baby bins.) Anyway, even if it’s a Christmas card, if it has a meaningful personal message inside, I keep it. ¬†When you’re trying to decide what to keep, remember it’s about collecting tangible memories- not necessarily collecting beautiful cards or being sentimental about every card you receive.

I’d love to know- do you have a Ministry Memories file? Maybe you call it something else, maybe it’s a scrapbook or a journal- that’s great! Make it personal! The point is to purposefully remember how God has blessed you specifically in pastoral ministry.

Because we all know that “one of those days” is right around the corner. And we just might need to open our pretty box and remember how we’ve been blessed.


A Kindred Spirit

2 thoughts on “The File Every Pastor’s Wife Should Have

  1. We have been in ministry our entire 36 almost 37 yrs of marriage an d yes we have a memory file (cabinet). It is one of our favorite cabinets and such an encouragement to our hearts when they get weary. We have been loved big over the years and have been unloved big as well but when we go back to those files it is all worth it.

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