As long as I can remember, I wanted to follow Jesus. My parents were faithful to disciple me and to raise me in the church. I studied at a Christian college and met the man I fell in love with. I was excited to set up house and start a family, and was prepared to love him forever. What I wasn’t prepared for was the impact his call to ministry would have on my life. There are five particular areas of focus I have had to continually learn to navigate in this life I call “Living Beside the Call.”
You aren’t in ministry very long before you learn you’re probably not going to get rich. Ministry isn’t about the money; it’s about something much more important. Sometimes the spouse of the called one can feel like he or she is not “doing ministry” simply because he or she has to work a secular job. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here is what I have learned: For years I worked outside of the church and home, and no one was telling me I was part of the ministry. However, I came to realize that my job was helping provide for my family, which in turn was strengthening the pursuit of the vocational ministry calling of my husband. I discovered that my work and my income were helping to move the kingdom of God forward. Spouses who work inside or outside of the home: You are fully invested in ministry!
Children are precious blessings from God. Just like you, they also feel the impact of the call to pastoral ministry. You and your children live under the umbrella of the call. Our kids are on the front lines of ministry. Sometimes we need to protect them them from certain church people, and sometimes we need to protect them from our own hurts, frustrations, and fears about life and ministry. Our kids grow up way too fast, and they are more perceptive than we often realize. I am learning that God loves my children even more than I do. Pray with your kids. Pray for your kids. Help them realize that the most important things in your life are your relationship with the Lord, your spouse, and them.
Transitions are tough, even when you know that the timing is right. When building a house, the foundation comes first. Transitions are like building a house, but in reverse. When you move, it is like taking the structure, the decorations, and all the pretty things with you, but it takes a while for the foundation to arrive at the new location. In my experience, it’s usually around the two-or-three year mark before the new place becomes “home.” When the foundation comes, you will know it. There’s a deep sense of peace, and you can nally say, “We’re home.” In the middle of transitions, I have learned to hold on and take one day at a time. God will provide His peace when the foundation finally arrives.
Loneliness can be daunting. We’ve all had the experience of standing in a crowd and feeling completely alone. I believe this is a ripple effect of living what I call the “100 percent twice” kind of life. When we live beside the call, we live 100 percent in ministry while also being 100 percent a layperson. This can make it difficult to know who we can talk to and in whom we can confide. This is when loneliness hits us hardest. The remedy for this takes time and effort. Everyone needs someone to talk to, but looking for a confidant inside the church can be difficult, especially at first. However, we need to be able to talk, to vent, and to be truly heard by someone who understands and cares. One option is to have individuals or even a network of support. Maybe that means a friend in another state, a counselor, or another pastor or spouse not directly associated with your home church. The Lord will help you discern the safety and reliability of these important connections, and then loneliness can dissipate.
I truly wish I could take the pressure away for everyone living beside the call. However, our role as spouses can be lled with pressure, since every congregation will have its own expectations about our role and what gifts we should have. These expectations are often unspoken at first, but as time goes on, they can cause internal and external struggles as we seek to work alongside our spouse in ministry. Many of these expectations can be unfair. It can feel as though being who you are just isn’t enough.
Added to this is the pressure that some spouses feel these days to pursue their own ordination. Some are called to be ordained together, but others are not. Ordination is never a determination of our value to the kingdom of God or to the ministry of our spouse. Learning to be at peace and to have confidence in what God has for you and your own family is the key to dealing with this kind of pressure. I am learning that the Spirit of God can give us God’s peace to help us thrive despite these kinds of pressures.
Finding Freedom as a Pastor's Spouse
Is it possible to have freedom as we live beside the call? I absolutely believe it’s possible! It takes intentionality, but we can have freedom. This freedom begins when we consistently remind ourselves of that we are all valuable in God’s sight: We are children of the King! We must not allow ourselves to be enslaved by the voices that try to make us something we were not created or called to be. Those are not your true identity. We are called to live and serve beside our spouses as the children of God we were created to be. We are not called to assume someone else’s identity. This is the key to true freedom and peace as a pastor’s spouse. This doesn’t mean life will be any easier, but it does help us maintain a healthy perspective for ourselves and for our family: Know to whom you belong, and live boldly in Him!