(Three years as lead pastor of our church.)
1. Be the “connector”
Everyone longs to feel “connected” at church. They come to connect to God, but they also want to connect to other people in the church. I found out very quickly that I could not possibly connect to every person. As our church began to grow, I felt stretched thin as I set up playdates and coffee dates with women in the church. I could not possibly meet up with everyone. So I decided I would become the “connector.” I would help people find “their people.” I would meet a young mom, and introduce her to the MOPS group. I would meet a sweet grandma and introduce her to the lady who organizes the 55+ monthly lunch. I would meet a teenager and introduce her to the youth pastor. People genuinely appreciate being connected to someone.
2. These people aren’t YOURS
This is was a heavy realization for me. After a few months in the lead pastor role, people were getting saved, discipled, and connected under our ministry. I was mentoring and leading. I was loving these people. But then, some families had to leave for different reasons. I was so hurt. I took it personally. I viewed these people as “MY PEOPLE,” and how could they possibly leave?
God convicted me of this possessive attitude. These people are simply “under my care” for a season (See 1 Peter 5:1). God has trusted me to love them, disciple them, and lead them to him. Sometimes people leave for great reasons like missions, church planting, or to take a dream job. Sometimes people leave for sad reasons like disagreeing with the direction of the church, or disagreeing on doctrine. Either way, you have to let them go with your blessing. They are not YOURS, they are GOD’S.
3. Build the traditions
Traditions are important. They make people feel like they know what to expect, they promote buy-in, they build community. In your church and your family, it is so important to build traditions. After you’ve gotten a feel for the culture of your church and gained some trust, consider some traditions that you can start. These may revolve around holidays. For example, we have an annual Christmas Caroling night and a breakfast between our Easter services. They may be unrelated to holidays, but fulfill a need in the community. For example, our MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group was growing, and needed some mentorship. We set up a “Mom Talk” event where we interviewed mentor moms about parenting. It has become a fantastic annual tradition, and new moms attend each year.
Whatever your traditions, guard them and continually improve them. As pastor’s wife, you can be the engine behind these events, since you have been there are seen the events in the past.
4. Thick skin, soft heart
A wise pastor’s wife told me this saying. She said that in ministry, you have to have “thick skin.” That means that you have to let some hurtful words roll off your back and not sink in. You have to forgive quickly. You have to understand that “hurting people hurt people.” Your husband is in a very public role. He is proclaiming truths that are not always popular. He is occasionally a target. You have to be tough and know that God has called you to a place, even if you have detractors.
But at the same time, you have to have a “soft heart.” That means that you don’t put up your guard too much. You don’t close yourself off. You don’t isolate yourself. It is very easy to get into “protective mode” and build walls around yourself and your family. You have to guard against that. God has called you to a specific church in a specific community for an incredible purpose. Don’t let your fear of criticism hold you back. Thick skin, soft heart.
5. Bonus- Help your kids find their role.
This is not a lesson I have learned about myself, but about my kids. In this season of ministry, my kids are growing up. I have an elementary age child, a preschooler, and an infant. My oldest daughter is in 2nd grade and interested in all that happens on a Sunday morning. We have started to help her find her niche in the church. She loves music, so we started letting her be a part of the worship service by learning how to do the slides during practice. She goes in early to church with her dad to help the Kids’ Pastor. She is starting to see that she has her own gifts and abilities to offer to the ministry of the church. It’s exciting to see her grow in this way!
Those are my thoughts and what I’m learning at this stage of pastoring. I love this crazy ministry life. It’s always an adventure.
To follow our ministry journey, see below!