just for pastor's wives (4)

>> April 4, 2011

Dear Pastor's Wife,

Just last week, I was having lunch with a sweet friend of mine who is a fellow pastor's wife at a nearby church. Our congregations have both gone through some significant changes over the last few years and we were talking about the difficulty of having people that we have loved and invested in move on to other churches.
Some of those people have left our church to go to theirs.

Some have left their church to come to ours. Some people just come and go due to job changes and moves.
In strange irony, as we were eating, the owner of the restaurant came over to say hello. My friend introduced us. He happened to have attended her church at one time.

"We left because the youth pastor transition was hard on my son."

He didn't know who I was. He didn't realize that I was the wife of the youth pastor who had left. In an effort to quickly diffuse any embarrassment he might inadvertently bring upon himself, I said, "My husband was the previous youth pastor."

"Oh yeah? He was good. He's over at Willamette now, right? We tried out that church and enjoyed his preaching, but we decided on a different one."

When he departed, my friend and I just looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and laughed. What else can you do? Those conversations are deep down awkward, but God gives His grace at just the right time.
I am thankful that He has taught me early in my ministry to be open-handed, for I have seen what possessiveness can do. It can eat away at your spirit and make you bitter and angry at others. It's hard to keep a loose, yet loving hold upon those whom are your church family. Even if they are entrusted to our care for only a season, we are to go all out in (guarded) abandon to serve and honor them. God will probably move them on at some point, but we can count it a privilege that He ever let us be a part of their life at all. (It doesn't mean it won't sting a little...or a lot ;-).

Along the lines of being open handed, one of the most freeing pieces of advice ever given to me was this: It is a great gift to the people in your congregation when you give them permission to not have to like you. (Certainly we hope that they do and heaven forbid that we ever conduct ourselves in a repulsive manner).
Actually, it is also one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Of course this is not a verbalized permission, but it is conducting yourself in a way that does not grasp, or worry, or strive to please people and work for their approval. We can get very weird if we believe that everyone must like us, for not everyone will. We can inadvertently put pressure on people to be someone they are not when they are with us, or to include us in all of parts of their lives.
It's a possessive and prideful spirit that we must release to the sovereignty of God, and as we do so, we will be refreshed in our souls.

Worrying about whether or not people like you or whether or not they like your ministry will drive you crazy and put you in a looney state of mind. I have seen it happen to many a pastor and his wife. 
So, my friend, pry those hands open. Allow people to come and go. Allow people to have their opinions about you and the ministry. Release it all to God, then whether it flourishes or falters, it can all be used for His glory.
And you can relax and enjoy the ride knowing that HE is in control.

With hands outstretched,
~ Joy
 Growing up in a pastor’s home, Joy Dombrow was molded and shaped by a life of ministry and service. While studying Human Development/Education at a Christian college and then teaching, she partnered with her husband in youth ministry at four different churches, a calling that would continue for 15 years.
Currently, Joy’s husband Joel serves as lead pastor of Willamette Christian Church, where she serves in a wide variety of teaching, serving, counseling and advisory roles. She is passionate about helping women understand and apply the truths in God’s Word and enjoys using speaking opportunities to do so.
In her free time, Joy writes, cheers her kids at sporting events, plays board games, chats with friends, reads five books at any given time, and makes references to her beloved television show Little House on the Prairie... all while sipping on a cup of peppermint tea.

Joy and her husband make their home in the Portland, Oregon area, along with their two school-aged children, Nathan and Elisabeth.

She has graciously shared this series as a guest writer for CLUTCH. You can read more about her life, ministry and family on her personal blog here.
© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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Melissa in Mel's World April 4, 2011 at 7:55 AM  

Thanks so much for sharing your heart so beautifully Joy! I love your transparency and your desire to come alongside other PW's to share your bumps and bruises...we all get them, don't we?

Joy Dombrow April 4, 2011 at 11:38 AM  

Bumps and bruises indeed Melissa. However the joy of getting to serve the Lord and make His name great makes it all worth it! Love to you!

Rebecca April 5, 2011 at 3:37 PM  

Love-love-love this post! Especially your point about giving people permission not to like you. Great stuff.

One difficulty that those of us in smaller, traditional churches have though is that as people decline, so does the ability of a church to pay the pastor. That is tough. I guess ultimately it comes down to trusting God to be our provider.

I really like your sentiments on not being possessive. After all, we shouldn't be in competition with each other in the church. Rather, if some other pastor or church can help somebody get closer to Jesus than I can, I should support that and thank God for it. It takes a big gulp sometimes though. We like to believe we are the be-all and end-all.

Joy Dombrow April 6, 2011 at 12:39 AM  

Rebecca, it is true that it is difficult to be so open handed in ministry. It just goes against the fears of our flesh, as well as our pride. Thankfully, as we focus on Christ, we can trust Him with our reputation and our ministry. Be encouraged, friend! Humble thanks for reading.

Melissa April 6, 2011 at 10:14 AM  

I can't even comment well because I have so many thoughts running through my mind right now.

As church planters, we launched this past Sunday. So many of your words spoke to my heart; thank you for sharing.

I am completely new to the role of being a PW and although I am neither young, nor a young Christian - I am finding myself learning so much about this new world. :)

I particularly soaked in the advice of allowing others the ability to not like me (and yes, it is not an enjoyable thought) and giving them that freedom from pressure. I do understand (thanks to my occupation in HR) that everyone will not like me and although I would love everyone to like me - it's okay.

Again, thank you for sharing you story and your wisdom!

Twitter: TubsWife

Joy Dombrow April 6, 2011 at 8:02 PM  


Although we have never planted a church, I can imagine the faith and tireless sacrifice that you guys must have to begin a new work in your town. Thank you for boldly moving to advance the gospel, even when you have never walked this way before. May God bless you, may your church grow in grace and in truth, and may you find delight in serving HIm there. Just be yourself and He will use you to love on the people He brings your way.

Bless you, bless you.

Tracy April 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM  

Wow, I love this post! Straight to my heart...that's for sure! God has been teaching me alot about "prying my hands open" before HIM! He is in control! Thanks for sharing this! (i think we are neighbors, we are in OR too :)

Joy Dombrow April 16, 2011 at 12:15 AM  

Tracy, it is a lesson that we all are learning, and just when you think you have it down, God places a new test in your path! Nice to "meet" you my Oregonian sister!

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