I love being a church planter’s wife, but it has it’s unique challenges. My husband and I have been doing this for 7 years now. I knew it would be difficult, but I expected the struggles to be financial. We have sacrificed in that area, but the difficulties have been more emotional. That was a huge shocker to me, because I am pretty steady. I am not a fan of drama and emotions. Here are a few things I have found surprising:
I am expected to give grace to everyone but am given very little grace in return. I am good at this game, so I have never been a direct recipient of this double standard, but I have seen it with my church planting friends. You must let people be broken and maybe mess up (because we all do), but not you. You must be perfect. You must handle every situation the way Christ would. This is an impossible standard and leads to pastor’s families hiding their flaws. I have combatted this from the start by just admitting our shortcomings at all times. My children have made this especially easy. We never look put together and I have a child that is more Tasmanian Devil than saint. So anyone with this expectation promptly walked out the door from day one. I highly suggest just embracing your uncontrollable child as a blessing.
People leave. It hurts. We are asked to invest 100% in people. We have thrown huge amounts of our life and effort into ministering to them and they leave. This was such a shock to me. I had been warned of this by countless church planters, but I thought, not our people. They are committed and our friends. They will stick it out with us. That of course is like a first time mother saying my children will never eat off the ground. Yes they will and you will eventually look the other way and pretend you didn’t see it because you don’t want to buy another Ringpop. But I have found that for every heartache God gave us some spark of hope. Literally every time someone left we were reminded of God’s faithfulness. The pain fades and I am now more dependent on God than our people.
No one asks how you are doing. You either have to decide to initiate the sharing or you can find your person elsewhere. It is difficult to really share with people in the church if you don’t have an atmosphere of grace like I mentioned earlier. Finding another church planter wife that will commit to checking on you is invaluable. I am what you would call the oldest church planter in town….by a lot. I love checking on the younger wives because they actually think I know something and they ask how I am doing too.
Everyone expects you to be decision maker, so you get all the criticisms. This is funny to me because I am a highly opinionated person. Yes I do have a direct line to the decision makers but I am woefully uninformed on the inner workings. When I care about something I give my opinion. So by the time someone tells me something to change I have either already said it, or I don’t care. Either way it doesn’t sway my actions. I have found the best line is “I don’t know. You should talk to my husband about that.” That’s what he gets paid the big bucks for.
So my church plant-heory is ministry is hard, no matter where you do it. We all know this, so why would church planting be any different? But it has been the best thing for my heart. I have examined every part of my idea of church through my American mega church eyes. I have relied on God instead of friends. I have taught my children it is not about them. I have watched my husband transform into the man God has called him to be. I wouldn’t change a thing.