The Importance of Cultivating Resilience as a Ministry Family | Minister’s Wife Monday | “For the Pastor’s Family” #1

Welcome to our first post in our “For the Pastor’s Family” series!  

My heart is to encourage your heart as a minister’s wife during the month of October, especially in the area of thriving as a pastor’s family.

I’ve shared here at the blog that I grew up in a pastor’s home, and my grandpa and great-grandpa were both preachers as well; thirteen years ago I married Jeremy, who had just graduated from Bible college and was heading into full time ministry.

It’s safe to say that “ministry” has been part of my life nearly as early as I can remember!  As a P.K. and a P.W., I’m fairly acquainted with the many aspects and pressures of life as a part of the preacher’s family.

For the Pastor's Family | blog series @ Kristy's Cottage blog | October 2015

I want to talk about some of the specific issues that pastor’s families face during this series, but today I want to lay a little “ground work.”

There’s one little word that I keep thinking about, and pondering how it affects the dynamics of family life in the preacher’s home:

Resilience.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what resilience means, but I’m going to anyway!  🙂  When I really want to get a handle on a particular word or idea, I grab a dictionary.

Here’s what my online dictionary had to say about resilience: 

the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but the part about being “pulled, stretched, pressed, bent” kind of grabbed my attention!

Ministry will do that to you… it will pull, stretch, press, and bend you.  

In fact, ministry can break you if you let it.  It can break your spirit, your marriage, your children and your family life… unless you learn to be resilient

Let me give you a few examples from the typical life in a pastor’s home…

  • Your husband surprised you with plans to attend a weekend marriage retreat you’ve been dying to go to for several years!  On Friday night of the getaway, an emergency from the church congregation interrupts your plans and you have to go home early. You try to keep a positive attitude, but inside you are devastated.  

 

  • You plan a simple family celebration for your son’s fifth birthday, but it turns out a congregant passes away and the funeral will be on the same day as your little boy’s birthday.  Hosting and serving at funerals are generally an all day affair for the preacher’s family, and, quite honestly, you struggle to not feel like church obligations are stepping all over your family life.  

 

  • After years of serving at a small, rural church, your husband accepts the pastorate of a larger church in a big city… and your kids are completely devastated to have to leave their friends behind.  Inwardly, you have apprehensions about moving too, especially since you’re relocating to a temporary rent house in the middle of a busy suburb after years of living in a rural community. 

 

  • To support your growing family, your husband takes a job in addition to pastoring.  He commits to a night shift in order to leave time during the day for family and ministry obligations, but after only a few weeks you can see the strain is affecting his health.  He told you he’s committed to the job for at least a year, but you cry yourself to sleep every night wondering how your family is going to hold up under all the pressure.

The Importance of Cultivating Resilience as a Ministry Family | Minister's Wife Monday | "For the Pastor's Family" #1

Maybe one of these stories sounds familiar to you? 

These are my stories; a few of my stories, anyway. 

I know could add your own stories, your own “pulling, stretching, pressing and bending” experiences.

How do you handle these stories?  

How do handle them?  

How do we stay strong, healthy and successful as a family in the face of the pulling, stretching pressures of ministry life? 

Let me share three simple ways the Lord has helped me cultivate resilience in my own life as a pastor’s wife.  

These attributes are good for every woman, but I believe they are absolutely necessary for the preacher’s wife!

Flexibility 

I can’t tell you how many times our family’s plans have been interrupted, or completely changed, because of ministry raining on our parade. Whenever possible, my husband does his best to preserve our family time despite ministry obligations, but sometimes changes in plans are inevitable.

In those times, we flex.

Jeremy frequently quotes the phrase, “Bend or break,” and this is certainly the case in preserving the integrity of your family equilibrium.  Be flexible!  Go with the flow!  Give yourself a “rain check” and move on.

Flexibility: 

capable of bending or being bent

easily changed : able to change or to do different things

willing to change or to try different things”

In the situation when our marriage getaway was interrupted by a pressing need at the church, Jeremy and I had to give up a little of our time away.  We came home a day early.

Was that what we preferred?  No, but we enjoyed the trip anyway!

I’ve learned over the years that the health of my marriage hinges more on my daily attitudes than it does on the “big” things, like marriage retreats, weekly date nights, or ideal circumstances.  

The Importance of Cultivating Resilience as a Ministry Family | Minister's Wife Monday | "For the Pastor's Family" #1

Gratitude 

Oh ladies, this is a biggie! 

So much in life either rises and falls on our choice to choose gratitude over feeling sorry for ourselves.  I’m not sure if there is a more important virtue to cultivate as a preacher’s wife than gratitude!

My online dictionary defined “gratitude” as

a feeling of appreciation or thanks.”

I would personally tweak that definition just a bit:

a CHOICE of appreciation or thanks.”

I don’t always “feel” grateful, but I can allow Christ to work in my heart and change my perspective to one that values the eternal over the temporal.  

I can always choose gratitude.

It’s very important to cultivate a thankful, resilient  attitude in your children, those precious kiddos growing up in the middle of the pressures and demands of ministry life.

In the case with our son’s birthday being “interrupted” by a church funeral, Jeremy and I took the kids to celebrate the day before his birthday.

We didn’t complain about the interruption or make a big deal about it, and neither did he.  Our little man had so much fun riding the city trolley and going to the park the day before his birthday, and that was all he talked about for the rest of the week!

I seriously doubt that my son will grow up with memories of “having to go to funerals on my  birthday” because he grew up in a preacher’s home.  My prayer is that his memory vault with be full of life-giving, joyful moments shared with people who love him.

I believe gratitude can give him that gift.

Gratitude will keep my heart, and the hearts of my children, resilient in the face of the disappointments and demands of life.

Trust 

This has been a tough one for me as a pastor’s wife, because there are often so many unknowns in ministry.  And, as wives, we have to trust the leadership of not only our omnipotent Heavenly Father, but also our very finite husbands.

And that’s the really hard part!

Trust: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

The driving need to control is the opposite of trust.

Seeking to control wears me out: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Releasing control into God’s hands, and truly trusting His provision, timing, and will, restores me and sets me free to live an abundant and resilient life in the face of many unknowns.

Nearly five years ago when our family moved locations and churches, I felt like my “trust” was pushed to the limits.

I had to trust that God was leading our family through my husband, despite our differing personalities and opinions.

I had to trust God’s provision for our family when finances were tight (and when my husband worked a night shift for a year).

I had to trust God’s timing when our family moved twice in a twelve-month period (not easy or fun!).

I had to trust that Someone much more capable and wise was truly in control of the situation, because I knew I certainly wasn’t in control.  In fact, I felt very much at “loose ends” for quite a while.

Letting go of control and truly trusting God, and my husband’s leadership, allowed me to reach a point of emotional resilience in my life that I’d never previously known.  

(I believe it played a huge role in my overcoming depression during that season of my life, as well.) 

The Importance of Cultivating Resilience as a Ministry Family | Minister's Wife Monday | "For the Pastor's Family" #1

Ladies, if we’re going remain resilient emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally as preacher’s wives, then cultivating these attributes is non-optional. 

Inflexibility, ingratitude, and seeking to control will undermine our emotional and physical health as women, and those attitudes will slowly decay the core of our husband’s ministries: our marriage and family life.

Scripture is clear that

Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish plucks it down with her hands.”  Proverbs 14:1 

If you find yourself on the same path as I’m walking today: wife of a preacher, mom to a houseful of young kids-

Remember this: our daily decisions are either building up or tearing down 

  • our joy and emotional equilibrium
  • our physical and mental health
  • our relationship with our husband and kids
  • our marriage and family life
  • the atmosphere of our home
  • our children’s character and mindset about life
  • our influence with other women
  • our husband’s ministry, and ultimately
  • the kingdom of God

I want to be a builder! 

In order to do that, I’ve got to choose to cultivate a resilient and strong spirit.  One that is characterized by flexibility, gratitude, and trust.

Minister's Wife Monday @ Kristy's Cottage blog | a weekly column for pastor's wives

This post has been much longer than I originally planned, but I hope it encourages you, sweet friend!

If you’re a minister’s wife, I’d love to connect with you over at my private Facebook group for preacher’s wives.

Your choices today matter greatly.  

In the face of your own unique disappointments, needs, and pressures, will you choose resilience?

How can flexibilitygratitude and trust in God help you “bounce back” and stay strong through the power of Christ?

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Cultivating Resilience as a Ministry Family

  1. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read this Kristy.
    I totally connect with what you shared here today…resilience,gratitude, flexibility, & trust …what gifts from our Fathers hand!!..when His strength overrides my “feelings”!! Thank you so much!

    Posted on October 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm
    1. Thank you so much for sharing your heart here, Brooke! Our heavenly Father is so compassionate and faithful… blessings to you, my sister!

      Posted on October 5, 2015 at 8:46 pm