just for pw #10

>> May 19, 2011

Joy continues the "Just for Pastors' Wives" series. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. 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.

Dear Pastor's Wife,

They say that pastor's wives are lonely. I dare say that some of us are (especially those of lead or teaching pastors). Maybe it is because we are in the limelight. Maybe some people feel we are inapproachable. Maybe it is because we need to avail ourselves to many and therefore find it hard to focus in on a few. Maybe it is because of the secrets we must keep for others or our own proprieties we must keep. Maybe it is because we are set apart from others, either of our own doing, or the doing of others. But, I don't think that we need to live this way. I think it is possible (as I have experienced) to have wonderful friendships within our church families if we are intentional about the ministry in which we engage.

Along this vein, I think a question that each of us has wrestled with at one time or another is, "How do I foster friendships within the church while setting boundaries and doing effective ministry? How do I determine with whom I should spend my time?". I have two thoughts on the subject.

1. You can really only minister effectively to a few people at a time.

This is a reality that we as PWs have to face. We are not superwomen and we have to be aware of our limitations. They say that no matter what size church you are in, you can really only know about 60 people (and much fewer still that we can actually invest in!). Those 60 people are going to shift with time, stage of life, and location of ministry. Sadly, many relationships are going to have to be let go at one point or another. In other words, you won't be able to maintain all of your previous relationships to successfully minister to the new ones God has for you. I think that a lot of pressure is taken off of us when we accept that we are finite.

Like the Good Samaritan, God places the people that He wants us to minister to in our path. They are in our sphere of influence. They are our children's friends' parents, our neighbors, the people we serve with, etc. If there are friendships too far outside of those arenas, it will be a lot of work and effort to maintain them regularly. Perhaps we should focus on the friendships where God has already planted us and cultivate what comes naturally.

2. We need to be intentional in our relationships in order to be effective.

So often times, friendships happen to us instead of us happening to the friendship. In other words, we need to be proactive in choosing the people we want to pursue and be in community with. Otherwise, we will be consumed with people that scramble for our time and attention. They may be needy, but in our limitations they may not be the most effective use of our time. Who are the people that you can disciple and will they reproduce themselves? Who are the people who serve hard and well and may need some filling up? Who are the people that will influence your own children? Those people will be the ones who can then reach out to the others in need. Build strategically into others so that ministry can be expanded beyond yourself.

Along these lines as well, I kind of create internal "categories" of friendship. Each category holds certain requirements of me and they differ in purpose and energy level.

"Touch" friendships. These are the majority of my relationships, acquaintances if you will, that I shepherd and love on. They are the people with whom I am not necessarily good friends, but I am friendly. I try to interact with them when I am in natural circles at church, women's Bible Study, at the grocery store. I literally try to touch them (hug, touch on the arm, etc.) and focus on them when God brings them across my path, but I rarely spend intentional outside time with them. It's amazing how much ministry can take place during these brief encounters. You can encourage and love well in even a short period of time.

"One Time Meeting" friendships. These are the friendships that need a little extra TLC and so I purpose in my mind to meet with them once to hear their story, encourage them toward Christ-likeness, and to discern who I can connect them with. I always try to be on the look out for connecting people to counselors, mentors, same-stage friends, and places of service. I cannot be a close friend to this person, but I can put them in environments for them to find those who can.

"Community" friendships. These are circles of friends, kind of like the broader groups of disciples Jesus had. Community group. Bible Study group. Children's friends group. Church staff group. These are people that I see regularly for purposeful reasons. I will often pull out my mentors and closest friends from these spheres, but not always. I do try to write each person in these groups a note, or get together once for coffee, or call and check up on them. These relationships are simpler because there is already a natural platform on which to build a friendship.

"Mentoring" friendships. These are the relationships that I have where I choose to invest purposeful time, in the same way that Jesus would with his twelve . Either someone is mentoring me for my growth, or I am mentoring someone else for theirs. I try to make these a priority and they are life-giving and beneficial for both parties.

"Besties". These people would be equivalent to Jesus' three. They are the people that I call for encouragement, or to laugh, or to just be myself with. I have a couple within the church, but the others are outside of the church, just for wisdom sake. I am not ashamed of the amount of time or attention that I give these women. I try not to exclude others, but I also don't let others guilt me into spending time with them instead.

I think it is very important to even write down who falls into which category, and then let the others fall into the "touch" category. I also find it very helpful to pray each morning that God would put into my path the people that He wants me to minister to each day. Then, even if I didn't get to someone, I can trust that God has answered my prayers and that His will was done because I sought Him for guidance and wisdom, and He is always faithful to answer.

In all things, by grace, may God make your time effective and efficient as you spend time with the women of your church. Let's trust Him with our finite resources and watch Him pour through us His infinite love.

In love with the people around me,

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Tracy: May 22, 2011 at 4:21 PM  

Love this post! I have all of the friendships you described! I love how you summed it up.."watch Him pour through us His infinite love." Bless you!

Anonymous,  May 26, 2011 at 3:42 PM  

Hi Joy,

I have served as both a pastor (part of a clergy couple) and now a pastor's wife. In the first case, I tried not to make ANY friends in the congregation and found myself isolated. Now, I AM trying to make friends but worry people will get jealous or feel I am being exclusive. But I know that for my mental health I NEED friends. Thoughts?


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