At any church, at some point, there is going to be difficult and controversial situations that arise. As the spouse of the pastor, how do you lead through difficult times and keep your sanity?
Keep your eye on the prize:
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The goal of any church is to teach people about Jesus, with the prize being the furtherance of God’s kingdom. This is a time where things are not about your family and it is not about keeping your friends happy. Yes, both of those groups of people are important, but keeping them happy is not the goal of a church. Your goal in helping your church is to help as many people come to Jesus as possible. Sometimes it means putting your family’s preferences second and risking making your friends upset. If they leave the church or treat you terribly because you (kindly and respectfully) disagree with them, they are not really your friends. They are believers who are in need of discipleship and prayer.
Support your spouse both publicly and in private, church infighting is spiritual warfare:
According to Psalms 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Now, more than ever, it is not the time to say you disagree with your spouse to the general public. Publicly disagreeing with your spouse during this tough time only feeds the fire of discord. This is NOT okay. Right now, your church needs you to promote unity. That means listen carefully to concerns, but publicly agree with the church’s leadership. You can voice your concerns in private conversations with your spouse and other members of leadership in private. This is not to say that your opinion doesn’t count. It most certainly does! Your opinion, as the spouse of a pastor carries more weight. If you publicly talk about how you disagree with the leadership of the church you are undermining your spouse and their co-workers ability to lead the church.
When my church has gone through big changes that I did not fully understand or agree with, I usually talk to my spouse and friends on our elder’s board at length about it over coffee or dinner. They can then explain why and how the decision was made. In fact, I think this is a good practice for anyone in the church. Rather than publicly vocalizing your concerns, go to your leaders and ask them. In our church’s most recent conflict, the vast majority of the misunderstandings and hurt feelings would have never happened had the people who were most vocal in their opposition to a proposed change just talked to someone on the elder’s board. Because that didn’t happen, there are individuals who have not been in church for months because of hurt feelings and there are deep fractures in the unity of our body.
During this period of discussion, be gentle. Your spouse needs your support and not another critic. In my experience, this time period is extremely difficult and stressful. Ask tough questions, but also ask how you can help them. Make sure you encourage them to do things they enjoy during this time period and that you spend time together.
You and your spouse can vent privately to each other, but even then, watch how you talk about your fellow church members. Try keeping a journal during this time. For me and my spouse, sometimes we just have to ban talking about church because we need a break. Find a therapist if you have need to talk to someone, whatever works for you. But whatever you do, do not talk about other church people to your church friends and do not share difficult news that is not ready to be public knowledge. That is called GOSSIP. I get this is tough, but the Kingdom is at stake. Your church’s unity is at stake. Matthew 5: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” Your job is to promote unity. Nothing can ruin a church faster than church gossip and backbiting. Sewing seeds of fear and discord will quickly tear your church apart from the inside. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Ouch. I think this verse speaks for itself, but gossiping is the worst possible thing for your church. Ultimately, you will have to practice discipline and even though this is tough, know when to express your opinions and know when to keep your mouth shut.
The above three things will help you survive a difficult time. But there is one final thing that you will need above everything else: prayer. During this time, pray without ceasing. Pray for patience (yes, I said it), pray for peace, pray for love, pray for unity, and pray for your church’s future. Hopefully you do not come out of this tough situation with too many scars and that in this, your church grows in faith and trust of each other. I’m sure it will all be okay in the long run as promised in Roman’s 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.
Where are you at on the subject of church strife? Anything to add?
*while we encourage honesty in commenting let’s remember to be kind and aware. This site is public and so are your comments.
Morgan is the wife of Grace Community Covenant Church’s youth and outreach pastor Chris Roberds. She spends much of her time working with students. Her favorite thing to do is to disciple young women and help students find their own faith and place in the local church. In her spare time, she works full-time as an office manager at a local law firm. At home (and at church), Morgan loves to cook! She particularly loves to bake and to make vegetarian-friendly comfort foods. She also loves spending time reading and hanging out with her dogs Sandra and Huck.