Megan Hill, Lauren Hansen, and Lindsey Carlson discuss what the wives of pastors and elders need in order to thrive as they support their husbands and churches. The panel answers various questions: How do you handle being seen as a spiritual giant in the church? How do you encourage your husband during a difficult time of pastoring? How do you transition out of relationships into new ones when you move for ministry?
Lindsey Carlson closes with an encouragement to women: “Model to your congregations that you are a work-in-progress, and give yourself grace and compassion to be the creation that the Lord made you to be in the marriage that he placed you in.”
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Welcome, everyone. It’s so great to be here with you today. This is encouragement for pastors and elders wives. And our workshop today has been sponsored by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon college. And we’re so grateful for their generous support to make this session possible. You can learn more about Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon college by visiting their booth in the exhibit hall or [email protected]. My name is Megan Hill, and I’m a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter and the mother of four pastor’s kids. I have I’ve written several books, I have a brand new book of encouragement for pastors and elders, wives that just came out like two days ago. My husband Rob is the pastor of West Springfield covenant Community Church in Western Massachusetts. And I’m joined by Lindsey Carlson. Lindsey is a Texas native, and she’s now serving alongside her husband in Baltimore, Maryland. They planted and now her husband is pastoring, imprint Community Church. And she’s the mom of five. And she has a book for young teens called growing and godliness, which is fantastic. And she’s working on another book about encouragement that should be out sometime next year. And then this is Lauren Hansen. And Lauren and her husband, Colin LIVE in Birmingham, and her husband, Colin is an elder at Redeemer Community Church. And he’s also the Vice President for content and editor in chief of TGC. And my boss, which is fun, before becoming a stay at home mom of two. And now, number three, on the way yay, Lauren was the Head of Communications for an East Coast grocery corporation. So we are just delighted to be here with you all the three of us are friends, and we’ve had such a good time talking about some of the joys and the challenges of being in ministry, married to a pastor or an elder. And we just hope that you are encouraged by being here in this room with other women who gets you and who know some of your unique concerns and struggles. I’d like to start by reading from the book of Second Timothy, one of my favorite verses about ministry. Second Timothy chapter four, you know, Second Timothy was Paul’s last letter that he ever wrote. So these are sort of some of his final words. And in Second Timothy, chapter four, Paul is writing from prison, sort of toward the end of his ministry. And he writes these words, in verse 13. He writes, When you come, bring the cloak that I left with carpus, at tro, as also the books and above all the punishments, and I’d like for us in our time together to just use that verse as kind of a structure for our time. Think it’s interesting. Here we see the great Apostle Paul Wright, who planted churches throughout the known world and who argued apologetics with kings and who wrote these letters. And yet here in this little very practical, almost seemingly insignificant verse, we kind of see some of the things that kept Paul going, how did he keep going in ministry life and of course, it was the spirit that sustained him. But in this verse, I think we see three other things that encouraged his heart and kept him going. And those are the three things we’re going to talk about today together, then at the end, we’ll have time for questions and you can ask anything you want, but verse So in verse 13, he says, When you come to Timothy, and I think that testifies to his need for friendship, Paul needed friends, he wasn’t a lone ranger, you know, his, his books are full of mentions of particular people and encouragement and testimonies to how other people had blessed him. So he had need for friends. We’re going to talk about friendship today. Then he says, Bring the cloak that I left with purpose at tro as this is so precious, right, the great Apostle Paul, and he’s saying, Could you bring my favorite sweater? I’m cold, I need my favorite sweater. Right. And I think that testifies to if the great Apostle Paul needed to care for his physical and emotional and mental well being, we need to care for that too. And it’s okay to ask for your favorite sweaters. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about our physical and mental and emotional well being how we can nurture that and care for that in ministry. And then finally, Paul says, also the books and above all the parchments, and we don’t know exactly what that was, was that scripture that Paul was writing? Was it Scriptures He was reading was it commentaries that were helping him, but somehow this testifies to his need for spiritual growth, for time with the Lord from learning from the word and that’s so important to us too, as pastors and elders, wives. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that. How do we nurture our own souls? How do we attend to our own souls, when we’re in this situation as pastors and elders wives, so with that in mind with that verse in mind and that structure in mind, Lindsay, can you tell me a little bit we’re gonna talk a little bit about friendship. You know, and when women are in ministry, they spend a lot Have time caring for other people giving out attending to other people’s needs, which is a precious calling and a real privilege to bear other people’s burdens and to care for them. But at the same time, it can be hard to find other women who are willing to do that for us. So what are some difficulties you’ve had in the search for friends?
I think part of the problem comes when we all come into ministry with very different expectations of who our friends will be, how they will provide for us. And so as a pastor’s wife, if you come into a church situation, and you’re kind of primarily pouring out with the expectation that your congregation is going to be pouring back into you in the same ways, sometimes that can set us up for disappointment. Because, I mean, there are such different varying church contexts I’ve served on it. My husband has served on staff at a large church right now we’re in a small church plant. And so there’s so many different scenarios where you may be on a large staff, you may be on a small staff. And so we can’t really have the same expectations in every context. So I think sometimes knowing your own personal needs for like, if I’m an introvert, or if I’m an extrovert, or I really need someone that’s going to be able to be older and wiser and listen, and I may not find that in my church, and that’s okay. And I don’t need to have that. If the Lord provides it. That’s wonderful. There have been seasons where I have prayed that the Lord will provide specific kinds of people. But I think that it’s been really helpful to have a context of, it’s okay for me to find ministry, friends outside of my local church, so that I kind of have other women who can relate to me and my sphere of life. And those can be really safe and life giving friendships, because I can I can say, I’m really struggling in ministry, or this is really hard and hear other women who have had the same kind of experiences go oh, man, yeah, I hit that at year seven, or i Oh, my gosh, those are hard situations. So I think it’s really important to develop ministry relationships.
I think that’s really great. Lauren, you know, friendship isn’t a one way street, right? It’s a mutual thing. And we’re giving and receiving back and forth. So what are some ways to sort of develop that kind of mutual friendship that you found?
So speaking as an elders, wife, and hopefully some of y’all are out there to that given take, I’ve found to be hopefully developed by having the confidence in God and His plan and who he’s made us to be, to share our own real lives, struggles, highs, lows, with others as is appropriate. To be able just to develop that intimacy as that give and take, it can be very tempting not to really share our full selves. Because we’ve seen a ministry, it’s not always received well, there are some godly, well, meaning people who think that truly, leaders should be exemplary. And if they do share struggles or burdens, they should not hold a leadership role. And that can be a devastating thing that happens. And it also can be a temptation to say, you know, we got to hide this kind of stuff. Because if people knew how we really mean prayer, how we really need for them to just come around us right now. Then they would not accept us as the people God put in this position. So we just taken some chances to, to developed the friendship, intimacy by being the ones oftentimes to first really share. We, we developed a term kind of early in our church years, my husband and I did of being invasively, loving. And the first time was we were at a church event. And we got, we got a text from a girl in our small group who was seeking Laura not a Christian yet, and her boyfriend just broken up with her. And we looked at each other, and we were like, we should just leave this church event and just go and sit with her. And it felt kind of weird. She She was not a Christian yet and was from a secular background. And you know, Christians are the type of people who just show up at your door to care and we just did we’re like, we’re here to invasively love you. You know, we we took a chance because she could have been like, you know, this. I’m not comfortable. You’re just too much, you know, but it turned into a real depth of relationship where she became somebody who would do the same thing for us. So taking that chance to know, you know, at times people aren’t going to receive that. That vulnerability. Well, but most times, it just works out and as leaders sometimes we have to set that tone.
Thank you. So Paul asked for him His cloak, right? He asked for something that would help him care for his physical, mental and emotional well being. And Lauren, you’re somebody who’s been pretty public about your struggle with anxiety with depression. Why do you think it’s important for church leaders wives to acknowledge sometimes their mental emotional struggles? And how can you do that in a healthy way? That’s not oversharing or overly vulnerable to you?
Yeah, absolutely. There’s that, that balance of, particularly at times when you yourself need care to be wise about who you’re sharing information with, because you’re in your own process of sanctification and growth and healing. I had depression, and then it became an anxiety through my last pregnancy started while pregnant and then continued on postpartum. And I didn’t know that was the thing, by the way, if that helps anybody, I didn’t not know that you could be partum ly depressed. And so I don’t even tell people like I don’t feel quite, you know, they’re, well, you’re pregnant. You know, of course, you’re supposed to be like that. And I’m like, Yeah, you know, but it took a long time to realize what was really going on, and, and God’s provision and grace. And now it was, was telling the people who should know and having our pastors get involved, even just to say, you are a leader, but we love you and care about you. And just as your leader, we’re asking you to go, just to go see a doctor and go see a counselor and see what’s up. So a few friends knew, but while you’re going through something like depression and anxiety, you know, I myself was not really in a position to be somebody who was, you know, like I said, I’ve I’ve talked about it publicly, but that is very much once having been provided by the Lord with resources and many other things, but but to take, to take mental health seriously, and to have leaders that wanted my well being more than my service, and my role that if it were a choice between, you keep doing all of what all the tasks are doing for the church versus, you know, and showing that you have a weakness by stepping away from that we’d rather you be well, then you continue to do this stuff for us. I’m very grateful for and seeing a counselor and going to a doctor and realizing that I think as Christian woman, we can all be tempted to think excuse me, we can all be tempted to think that anxiety especially is something that is a spiritual weakness if we suffer from it. And you can think about the verse in Philippians. And you know, pray and think about peace beyond understanding and knowing anxiety. And so I was really hard on myself thinking that this is some sort of weakness within me that needs to be conquered. And to seek professional resources to say you have actual brain chemical things going on in your brain, and we’re going to be responsible and treat it with medicine. And then once I did that, I even felt guilty about doing that and talk to my counselor. And she was like, Well, how are you doing? Are you budget or did I help? It’s like, Oh, my goodness, it’s so it’s so helped. And she was like, well, then you had a brain chemical thing going on? Like, if this were all about your own personal spiritual awesomeness. The medicine wouldn’t work. And yeah, that’s right. Oh, yeah. So anyway, long answer to your to your question there. But
thank you. So I think in ministry, sometimes our emotional well being kind of comes crashing down at the moment that the pressures in the church or the pressures in the home also come crashing down. And so there’s like this trifecta of crisis that happens, we’re not very well, and you know, maybe not clinically, not well, but just not feeling our best, our best selves, and then something in the church is going on, something at home is going on, and there’s just kind of this big crash. So Lindsay, would you just talk a little bit about how you can help yourself to be in a good place every day on ordinary days, maybe so that when some other things come crashing down, you’re in a better place?
Yeah. So I think that it’s kind of the difference between treating like an injury with a like a bandaid. Like, you know, when something happens in the church, and you want to put a bandaid on it and make it better, but it’s like, a lot healthier to learn how to like work out and build muscle and so you don’t injure yourself and snap a ligament or something, you know, so it’s the it’s the understanding of every day, I have the chance to prepare my mind and prepare my heart and prepare my body to be a steward of a living God and His Word. And so that’s how it can feel like a big mantle. But I think if we look at it as like, what are the small things that I can do on a regular basis, and I don’t mean in a like meticulous OCD way like, have you know, like checking off boxes. But I mean, like if we understand the why of why we pursue things like that, we’re a lot more likely to give time and energy to them. And so I think sometimes that takes a little bit of creativity and self awareness and understanding how God created you, how God, specifically how you enjoy relating to the Lord and worshiping Him. So like, if I’m having a really bad day or a hard day, I will get in my car and just listen to worship music and sing my heart out, not with a child in the car, but by myself. And and it will totally changed my mindset, and I will be able to find peace and rest. But if I were to, like, take my Bible in that specific moment, like, it would be kind of like pouring water on dry ground. So I know that for me for Bible intake, I have to be doing that on a regular basis. Because if I only went to the Bible in the moment of like panic, oh, my goodness, what’s happening, like it would not satisfy the need in my soul that I have to be putting it in planting it letting it grow. So we were actually talking this morning about how I’m super scatterbrained. And so I actually leave Bibles all over my house, because I know, I’m not going to run upstairs in the middle of when someone happens to be distracted, and I have a moment that I can pick it up. I know I’m not gonna go upstairs and go get the Bible out of my nightstand drawer and come all the way back down and not get distracted by someone else’s needs, right. But if I have them kind of strategically placed throughout the house in 12, different places, it’s not that bad, but I’m gonna be a lot more likely to use time that I have to pick it up and be encouraged by that. So I think it’s just like life hacking your own spiritual journey and figuring out how can I invest my time in ways that the Lord is strengthening and just helping me grow in him. So that when the crazy comes, the word is already in there living and active.
Okay, so then finally, Paul asks for his friend, Timothy, to bring him the books and the punishments. And so he was attending to his own spiritual growth, his own spiritual needs. So I think sometimes people in the church can assume that if you’re the pastor’s wife, you’re an elders wife, you must be a spiritual giant, you know, your husband knows all this theology or knows all this Bible stuff. So must be that you also are exactly like him. And you must be a spiritual giant, too. So maybe Lindsey, you could talk a little bit about how it can be challenging to have people make assumptions about your spiritual maturity or your spiritual growth? And then why should church leaders be honest about the fact that they need to grow?
So I think that’s a really great question. So I, I became a pastor’s wife at 2221 22. And, like, I look back and think how hard I was on myself, as someone who had not even been walking with the Lord, for 10 years, when I was thrust into this position, and I put a lot of very unrealistic expectations on myself to have like, Polaroid developing faith, like I should shake this and it should be there because they expect it. And and so when I would get in a situation where my maturity did not match the situation that I was in, I was terrified to just say that, like, you know what, I actually have no idea. I don’t know the answer to that question. Let me let me talk to my husband, let me read the word, let me come back to you later. Or to just say, Hey, I sinned against you. And I’m really sorry. Like, that’s a bad area that I struggle with. And I need to confess that and repent. I was so terrified that someone was going to like pull the sheet off and show like, oh, Lindsey accidentally became a pastor’s wife, you know, and my husband would lose his job or something. And so I think that when we model to our congregations, that we are growth in progress, like we are being transformed every day by the renewing of our minds, and that is a messy, complicated work. And so I’m not going to be the like picturesque version of who you might think, or and different people have different versions of what they’re looking for. So being willing to give yourself I think, the grace and compassion to be the creation that the Lord made you to be in the marriage that he placed you in and the family that you’re in, and being open and willing to dialogue with people about that. And not feel that personal shame. I think that can come with that when you see evidences of insufficiency because we know we need to do this
internally. So learn how do pastors and elders wives nurture their souls? How what what practical or what particular practices have you found helpful to grow spiritually as a pastor as an elders wife?
So it can be challenging because, as we’ve talked about, there’s a lot of pressure on ourselves. to meet some sort of vague standard that our culture or our community, or we ourselves, put put on ourselves, but just to see ourselves as just like you’re saying, Lindsey, we are daughters of King, Jesus, and we are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God, and we’re all saved by His grace, one, just like another. We’re all parts of the body of Christ, and we have our hands and our feet in our heads. And our families are called into a role of, of service, but we’re just still all part of the fullness of the body together. So to have realistic standards and see ourselves, our identity in Christ and everything, that God is his full character, and what he, what he calls us how he describes us and to nurture and grow our faith. Personally, as we would encourage others to do participation, participation in spiritual disciplines, of course, read your Bible, pray, all the things that you’ve probably told countless others to go and do. Something can be really hard to do ourselves, especially in this season of pandemic, I’ve heard more and more from leaders just, I just don’t have it. Like, there’s so many people and they need so much. And I’m just trying to show up to my commitments and get what I have. And I just, I don’t have a lot left. And so even just remember God’s kind, kindness, and he wants to answer the prayer of Lord helped me believe helped me want want to know you more want to be in your word, and even to say, it’s so wise for Lindsay say, you know, I, I want to go and get my car and listen to worship. I mean, that’s, that’s great. But how often do we think like, No, I should be doing this a different way. Because somehow this way of being in relationship with God is not as good as this other way of relationship with God. So to, to just seek him in ways that he’s individually created us and the myriad beauty of how he, he makes his people. And also, just to be aware of that, it can be very hard for pastors, wives and elders, wives who know so much about the inner workings of that church, you know, who get backstage and see all of the mess and that a lot of people are joyfully blissfully ignorant of, to that we might need to be more intentional about seeking out teaching that’s outside of our direct realm, you know, we might want to go and, and listen to podcasts or videos, or do Bible studies ourselves or something where we, we reach out to the broader church community to learn about God on our own or with a friend or whatever that may be just sometimes it’s hard when you know, what’s happened in the elder meeting, and all the yucky messy, and then to to chart and I’m trying not to think of you personally, right now, that shouldn’t be but it’s, it’s really difficult. So. So to get outside of, of those roles a little bit can be to set a helpful practical thing.
Let me pray for you all before we close before we leave here. Father, we thank you so much that you are a loving and a kind God and we thank you for your church, the church that you purchased with your own blood, and that the Son laid his life down for to perfect, and we thank you for the privilege of serving the church. I thank you for each of these women in this room and the way that you have called them and brought them into this role of caring for your church caring for their husbands caring for their families. Lord, I pray that as we go out from here, Lord, that your spirit would encourage our hearts in this work, that we would believe that it’s a good work and that we would see your goodness in it even in the hard times and we pray that you would be making us holy that you will be showing us Christ even in the daily work that you have called us to do. Lord, we thank you for all of these things in the matchless name of Jesus, amen.
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