Ministry Matters

Ministry Matters: If You Want To Be A Perennial Pastor’s Wife

Crocus Sativus

It’s that time of year again in our part of the world. The earth is readying itself for new growth. Soil is softening under warm spring rains. Trees are loosening up the tiny buds that they’ve kept tightly closed for the winter.  Beetles, lizards, and snakes are waking up- and so is a certain kind of flower.

The perennial.

I just adore perennials, don’t you?! I mean, how much easier does it get than planting nothing new in your flower garden, yet getting beautiful flowers each year? These pleasing plants die into the ground every fall and push up through the soil (sometimes snow covered!) every spring. It’s as if they have their own internal time clock, and on cue, they begin their work and pump out beautiful blossoms.

Crocus, daffodil, violet, tulip, iris- those are just a few of my favorites. And unless something catastrophic happens to the soil or to their roots, you can count on them. They’ll be up, and glowing brightly.

I’ve been thinking about how much we as Christian women (and for this context, pastors’ wives) need to be perennials…and by that I do NOT mean giving a shiny appearance or image of perfection or always putting on the plastic smile and being dressed to the nines.

No, I mean that we need to be perennial in heart- so that we thrive alongside our husbands instead of survive somewhere in the background. I get scores of emails from pastors’ wives who are not thriving. They may have been created a perennial, but it’s become just too hard to keep showing up in their life. I say this with empathy and compassion, because I’ve been there and I know what it’s like to be an annual.

So….how can we be perennial pastors’ wives? How can we serve long term and blossom in the role that God has placed us in?

1. Stay deep in the Word.

I know, it’s really  basic. But it’s vital. Perennials stay deep in the soil for months out of the year;  even when they push up through the surface, their roots are down deep, feasting on nutrients. To be a perennial pastor’s wife you must be consistently feeding on the deep things of God. By deep I don’t mean struggling with the questions no one can answer or side lining on something completely impractical or controversial. No, we must be continually exploring the doctrines that are the basis of our faith. We must be continually refreshing ourselves on the character of God. We must be looking up words and discovering context and letting God use His Word to grow us deeper. We must be always savouring the Gospel, preaching it to ourselves, and applying it to our everyday.

Ephesians 3:17-19 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

2. Make prayer a consistent priority

Again, very basic.  Ironically, it’s not really possible to have big problems in your prayer life….except for the biggest problem of all, which is the lack of prayer. Prayer is the answer to EVERY problem, especially the problem of prayerlessness. So determine to take it all to God, as it comes to mind. Keep a journal and write your prayers, if that helps. Either way, drop the formalities and just pour out your heart to Him continually.  Remember the lilies that Christ mentioned – the ones that never toil or spin or worry about anything- they just bloom? Lilies are perennials, and they among many others depend on their Maker to give them the rain they need and the rich soil to live in, as well as bright sun and shade when needed. Everything they receive comes from their Maker. So it is with us. We get caught up carrying burdens and we don’t even realize how weighed down we are. STOP this cycle. Give it ALL to God. He wants to hear it. And He WILL answer and move on your behalf.

Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

3. Stay aware of how much you need grace, so that you always have grace to give to others.

As pastors’ wives, we are stretched so very thin sometimes. It is easy to get overwhelmed, to just retreat into the soil of our lives and say “I’m not coming out this spring. I just can’t face the elements of the earth. I see snow up there on the surface and I need to stay safe and warm in order to survive.” If you haven’t thought or said something akin to this yet in ministry, you will. We all face times when we feel like we just can’t walk through those church doors, just can’t answer the phone again, just don’t want to even check our email. Just can’t smile at that person, can’t reach out to another soul, absorb another criticism,  or do another thing. But the perennial is called upon every year to rise and shine, strengthened by her Maker. And so you, strengthened by grace which you so desperately need, will be able to push through the dark and up into the Son Who wants to use you and bless you and shine brilliantly through you.

If you stay aware of how much you need grace, you’ll always have some to give! Grace received creates a reservoir of grace to be given.

 Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

4. Make daily stillness a priority

Just as the perennial has periods of stillness during the year, so must the perennial pastor’s wife- and daily. If there’s anything I’ve learned the hard way in ministry, it’s how vital and proportional rhythms of rest and stillness are to prolonged and vibrant service. Being completely burned out and then re-building during our sabbatical has taught me lessons that I can never unlearn as long as I live. Now my days include at least one (but sometimes many) specific rhythms of stillness that I’ve chosen to incorporate into my life. What that looks like for me might be different than what it looks like for you. The time I need & spend exercising the {delightful} discipline of stillness might be longer or shorter than you need & spend. But the important thing is that they exist, and that they become habits. I am passionate about rest and stillness now- it has changed my life. What I used to think I didn’t need because I was young and energetic I now know I MUST have in order to keep blooming, keep serving, keep smiling, keep calm, {keep sane?!}….for the long term. Annuals don’t need stillness- they are supposed to peter out and not come back. But perennials can’t live without it.

Isaiah 30:15 “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”

5. Know How God Has Gifted You

Perennials know how God has made them, and they live accordingly year after year. They do this by resounding to their internal makeup. I’m not trying to sound like a psychologist, but in order to be a perennial pastor’s wife, you must know how God has made you and how He has gifted you. This begins with knowing HIM! {see #1}

If you’re trying to exercise your gifts and Mrs. Grasshopper’s gifts too, you’ll soon find yourself unable to bloom. This, too, I’ve learned the hard way. When you’re in small church ministry (our churches were 200 or less), it’s pretty common to be a “do everything” pastor and pastor’s wife. And ignoring all warning signs in my body and my heart, I did just that. True that there are times when we do things simply because they need to be done, but the heaping on of “all the things” is anything but godly. What are the top 3 areas where you {and others} agree that God has gifted/talented you? Channel most of your efforts there, and let the rest go. Or delegate. If you want to be an annual, do all the things. If you want to be a perennial, do only what God has asked you to do. Do what makes your heart come alive, not what drains the life out of you. Perhaps it needs to start with a prayer: “God, show me where I’m gifted. Show me more of how You’ve made me, what my human limits are, and where/how You want to use me.” 

The  life and legacy of the perennial pastor’s wife is echoed in Psalm 92: 13-14:

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing.”

Sisters, let’s be perennials who study, pray, rest, receive & give grace, and serve where we are gifted. Let’s flourish in the role that God has called us to!

And hey friend…..I’m looking for your sweet head to push up through your darkness any day now. Take heart- there might be snow on the ground above, but the Son is waiting to warm you!


A Kindred Spirit

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