It’s taken me a few extra days to get this post together, but I’m finally back with our Pastor’s Wife series!
In case you’re new to this blog, or to this series: My husband has been in full-time ministry as a pastor for nine years. I’m a mama to five young children, ages nine years down to an infant. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I love connecting with other pastor’s wives and sharing my heart. Sometimes it’s just good to know you’re not the only one who struggles in an area!
I’ve received a lot of feedback on this series, via this blog and Facebook, from other mamas who are also pastor’s wives. So many of these ladies’ comments resounded with me, so I decided to turn some of the comments and questions into a Q&A.
Below are a few comments I hand-picked from readers, along with my response:
One of the toughest parts for me is not having my husband’s help in trying to get the kids ready and out the door for all of the services and various church activities. He always has to be there so much earlier than us!
For me, getting ready for Sunday before Sunday morning is an absolute must.
Nothing is more chaotic than running around looking for shoes or Bibles on Sunday morning! A few things I strive to have done by Saturday night include:
- Bathe the children and wash their hair
- Have church outfits (including socks and shoes!) laid out and ironed, if necessary (don’t iron the shoes of course)
- If you have babies or toddlers, have your diaper bag packed with diapers, wipes, a blanket, snacks, etc
- Put Sunday dinner in the Crock Pot
- Help the children get their Bibles, purses, back packs, or whatever they need to take to church, ready and easy to find
A final thought: keep things simple! My kids don’t wear a lot of easily wrinkled clothes (and neither do I!).
We eat a simple breakfast on Sunday mornings. Lunch is simple too, and supper is generally left-overs or baked sweet potatoes.
Another way to simplify is to teach your children to be independent and to help out. Even an older child dressing herself, or helping a younger sibling brush his teeth, can make a world of difference when you’re trying to get out the door on time!
The hardest part has been having no family around to help with the kids. Often I feel like a single mom on a Sunday at church as my husband is very focused on his message. Juggling the kids and trying to greet everyone is hard.
Yes, it is hard. We have never lived near either of our families since going into full-time ministry, so I relate to this mama’s struggle as well.
Here are a few suggestions I’ve found to be helpful:
Be intentional about training your children. They need to know what is expected of them in church, not just for the sake of good behavior, but to save you a lot of frustration.
Talk to your husband about it! Let him know you need his support.
If at all possible, find a trusted lady from church who is willing to sit with your family during services. This is especially helpful when you have babies or very young children.
Another challenge is knowing how to divide my time between my children and the church people. After church services and at fellowships I find myself torn between being available to church folk and wrangling my kids. It’s been hard to find the right balance.
I grew up in a pastor’s home. From the perspective of a preacher’s kid, I can tell you it’s not healthy for parents to be completely distracted from their young children at church. I’m not trying to heap guilt on anyone, as I am painfully aware of what a struggle this is! Just keep in mind that you are a mother first.
Here are a few thoughts and ideas:
Train your young children to stay with you.
If your older kids are obedient and trustworthy, let them try their wings. Is your child capable of filling his own plate at a church pot luck? Then let him! Do be conscientious, but don’t micro manage (that is exhausting!).
Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from a conversation if your child needs your attention.
Respect the fact that you are a mother with young children, and others will be more likely to respect it, as well.
How do you find time to reach out to others when you’re so busy raising a young family?
At this stage of my life, I am learning to simply welcome people into my life and my home without a lot of “staging”.
It’s true: I don’t have time for extras. So if cooking a fancy meal, scouring the house from top to bottom, steam cleaning the furniture, and shining the windows is necessary before I feel “ready” to invite someone over for a meal… well, it will never happen because I don’t have time (or energy) for those things.
If you’re a pastor’s wife with a young family, realize that LIFE and HOME are your platform for compassion and hospitality.
Ministry isn’t so much about “reaching out” as it is about inviting people into your life, as it is, without all the extras and fluff.
A few practical ideas:
- Have your children make cards or draw pictures for shut-ins at Christmas time.
- Invite a single lady or a widow over for her birthday (prepare a simple meal and just focus on getting to know her a little better).
- Make it a habit to drop a card or two in the mail for your church members who are sick, missed a service, have a birthday coming up, or whatever.
- Prepare a big batch of soup for your family and give the extra to a family who is sick, lost a loved one, or has a new baby.
- Don’t be afraid to let your friends and church members into your home, even if it’s not perfectly clean. Will they criticize? Probably not. And if they do, rise above it and keep going!
Another tough thing for me is the higher than average expectations that people seem to have for my kids simply because they are “the pastor’s kids”.
This is a common complaint among pastor’s families. While I do recognize that this can be an issue, I believe the underlying root is buried within the heart of the pastor and his wife, not so much the church. What do I mean by that?
Your expectations of your children are far more weighty then the church members’ expectations.
Do you expect your kids to be perfect at church, or at least to appear to be perfect? How do you respond when your child misbehaves, disobeys, messes up, or embarrasses you?
When our oldest child was a toddler, I realized that my expectations of myself and my daughter were causing me more trouble than any number of expectations from our church family. To be honest, I was embarrassed when she was naughty, or even simply childish, at church. I felt the need to prove to everyone that WE were doing things right, that I was a good mother.
When I let go of my expectations and my need to appear to have it all together, I found that other people’s expectations had very little influence. In fact, I rarely even think about it any more.
Yes, my children are sometimes naughty in church. Yes, my church family sees it. Yes, it is a big red flag that we are flawed humans.
And that’s okay.
I need God’s grace. In fact, I need my church family’s grace! My children need it too, but most importantly they need their mother to be a willing channel of God’s grace in their lives.
One of the best parts is the front row seat that my kids have to watch God’s working in our church and His working in our own lives through our experiences as a pastor’s family.
I’m closing with this quote because I LOVE this mama’s perspective!
Sure, being a pastor’s wife and a young mom has it’s challenges.
Sometimes it’s just plain hard.
However, the challenges are temporal but the rewards are eternal!
Are you a preacher’s wife?
What is your biggest challenge?
Your best tip for juggling motherhood and ministry?
*This post was originally published on November 13, 2013.
Other posts in our 31 Days of Grace for the Pastor’s Wife series:
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time! Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.