This is a follow-up post to A Lonely Calling. If you have not had an opportunity to read it yet, you might be interested in checking it out before reading this one.
I have been touched by the responses I have received after posting A Lonely Calling. Many of you shared of your own heart ache as wives or children of pastors, and many others were saddened to realize what many pastoral families experience while serving in ministry. Some were even moved to take action steps in better supporting the leader of their church, and I was so grateful to hear of the ways you have been doing this. Your responses have led me to encourage you further in your desire to be obedient to Hebrews 13:17 by writing up some practical ways you can work on being obedient and submissive to your pastor.
Does your husband serve in one of these roles?
- Associate Pastor or other form of support staff at your church
- Committee chairman
- Sunday school teacher, coordinator or small group leader
- Service team leader or other leadership position
If you answered yes to any of the above, I am talking to you.
My husband is an associate pastor at our church. While this is a leadership role, it is more importantly a servant role. In obedience to the call God has placed on his life, he serves the entire church body, and he also serves and supports our senior pastor. He is a helper. One of his biggest responsibilities as a helping pastor is to uphold the command of Hebrews 13:17 and be a helper to the head shepherd.
If you are married to a man who serves in a role listed above, he is a very important helper. It is important for many reasons, but especially because he is one of the men God has called to help your pastor shepherd the flock well. To qualify as this kind of helper, he is required to be of mature character and integrity, and he is to conduct himself in a manner that is above reproach. To faithfully serve, he must embrace a humble spirit and willingess to sacrifice his own comfort and convenience for the good of the church.
As wives, we are called to be suitable helpers to our husbands (Genesis 2:18). We are uniquely designed to fill this role like nothing else in all of creation, and our husbands are deeply influenced by our dedication or neglect as their helpers. In the broadest sense of the word, our job as wives is to serve in ways that support and benefit our husbands. God desires us to bring glory to God by helping our husbands bring glory to God.
If we are helpers to important helpers, we must help them help others in the most helpful ways possible. (Okay, I’ll admit I was going for a quick tongue twister on that one.) In all seriousness, though, a man who is called to live above reproach will need his suitable helper to be dedicated to her call. I am convinced that as wives of support pastors, deacons, elders, or other church leaders you are filling some of the most influential roles within your church. With it comes great power to build up, but also to tear down a church body. Your commitment to obey and submit to your pastor plays a vital role in your husband’s efforts to do the same.
It is one of the most influential service positions in any church, and it belongs to you!
So I ask you:
What are you doing [or not doing] that helps your husband be a God-honoring helper?
What are you doing [or not doing] that hinders your husband in being a God-honoring helper?
Some ideas on becoming a better helper to a helper:
- Pray for him daily like no one but you can. You know him better than anyone. You know his weaknesses and insecurities, and you know his strengths. You know his day-to-day struggles, and you know the areas that God is stretching him. Pray.
- Develop a biblical understanding of his calling. If you are going to help him be a successful servant, you need to know the depth of what is expected of him by God. (You can start with 1 Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9 for elders, and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 & Acts 6:1-4 for Deacons and other lead servants. I also recommend looking at 1 Peter 5: 1-5.)
- Be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things (See 1 Timothy 3:11). No matter who you are married to, be mindful of this expectation!
- Let me repeat: not slanderers! A “slanderer” is a person who makes false or damaging statements about another person, especially statements that harm that person’s reputation. Let’s be honest: women are prone to gossip, especially when they have access to information that others do not. Gossip is sinful, but it is also an especially dangerous platform for slander. If you are a wife to a leader in the church, participating in opportunities to gossip is neither dignified nor obedient to your responsibility to refrain from slander. You may have access to information that others do not, but it is not yours to share. Sharing it without permission or with sinful motives will be harmful, not helpful, to your husband.
- Foster a submissive and respectful attitude toward anyone with authority over you and your husband. This is extremely important in helping your entire family be obedient to Hebrews 13:17. To do this, develop a clear understanding of what it means to submit. (Check out my Submission Recognition series to read more about this.) Keep your private conversations between you and your husband in check with your responsibility to submit to your spiritual leadership. Continually ask yourselves: Does this conversation honor and respect our Pastor and serve in the purpose of building up our body of believers? If you are struggling to submit, you might benefit from reading this post where you will find tips for submitting in difficult circumstances.
- Strive to be an example of the humility and selflessness that is required of him. It might be tempting to wear the title of “Elder’s Wife” or “Deacon’s Wife” in a prideful way, as though holding such offices is grounds for loftiness. This is quite a misinformed perception of the call of a lead servant. Remember: No matter your calling, consider others more highly than yourself (Philippians 2:3).
- Be mindful of your attitude! It can be easy to slip into feelings of resentment or bitterness towards the demands of ministry life. As a wife, your feelings can have a dramatic affect on your husband’s attitude towards serving. Pray through these feelings and discern what is selfishness. Repent of it and leave it behind.
- Seek to focus on the good in others and know their strengths, including your husband’s. We live in a world that finds pleasure in focusing on the bad in others. As Christians, we must not return to this way of life. Look for the good in others, encourage them in their strengths, pour grace onto their every weakness. Do so especially with your husband, and help your husband to do the same.
- Handle conflict like a true Christian. As the wife of an important helper, you are going to be more aware of the presence of conflict within your church. It might be conflict between members, conflict between staff members, or conflict between a member and a pastor or other staff member. Strip yourselves of pride, rely wholly on the Holy Spirit, and use God’s word as your sword in every battle. Do not allow conflict to be a motivation to ignore your responsibility to submit to authority, and never approach conflict without first examining your heart in the matter and repenting of your sin. In your marriage, you have a great ability to either fuel the fire or to help put the fire out in a way that honors God and builds up your church.
- Be a voice of reason for your husband by humbly pointing him towards scriptural truth. There will be moments when your husband is feeling beaten down and moments when he will struggle to see the greater purpose in his service. There will be moments that he questions his own dedication to God’s calling on his life. Be prepared for these moments by knowing how to best communicate truth with him in a way he will receive well. In my home, I have learned when I need to let my husband think and when he is ready for my respectful input on a matter. Though I don’t always do it perfectly, I have also learned the tone and manner of suggestion that best ministers to his heart in these moments. My hope is that you are able to do the same in your marriage, and that by doing so you will be a light of Christ to your husband in these moments.
As I wrote about in a Lonely Calling, we are called to submit to our pastors in a way that allows them to do their work with joy. Our husband’s have a great impact on our pastors and their Gospel driven work. By stepping up as the wives to these important men, we are playing an important role in preventing pastoral “groaning.” I hope you will deeply consider the list I put together above, and I would love to hear more suggestions for wives in similar roles. To be fair, no matter what capacity of service your husband is doing in your church, these tips apply to you.
I’ll leave you with another slight tongue twister:
Let’s strive to serve well as helpers to our husbands by helping them be godly helpers.