Where do you find pastoral care when you’re married to the pastor–or you are the pastor? Who shepherds the shepherd?
Whether you’re married to the minister or on church staff yourself, the difficulty of finding pastoral care is one of the challenges of ministry life. Even when you have deep relationships with people within your church family, there are times you need your own soul shepherd. Here are five strategies to use to find pastoral care for ministry wives or women in ministry.
- Remember that Jesus is your Shepherd. I was at a conference breakout session for women in ministry where the speaker showed us an illustration of a lamb held in the arms of a shepherd. She asked if any of us saw ourselves as the sheep. There was silence, then everyone started nodding. It was a good reminder for me. When you’re constantly writing or teaching, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of reading Scripture for other people. How can I teach this passage? Oh, I should share this verse with her! That’s a perfect illustration–let me add it to my file. But Psalm 23 is in first person. The Lord is my Shepherd. Not your shepherd. Not their shepherd. My shepherd. Though I don’t think you have to draw a hard and fast line between lesson prep and your personal devotions, we need regular times of drawing aside and letting Christ shepherd our own souls.
- Connect with other women in ministry. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s worth making an effort. I have been blessed over the years by my relationships with other ministry wives. No one can laugh or cry with you like someone who has been there–and there’s no one better to encourage you than someone who walks in your shoes. If you’re not already part of a support network for ministry wives or women in ministry, check out Leading and Loving It or Pastor’s Wives Thriving in the Fishbowl. Both are great resources and opportunities for connection with other women in ministry.
- Read. I’m an avid reader, and I enjoy reading books from a variety of authors. But there are some books and authors I tend to come back to because they restore my soul. C.S. Lewis. A.W. Tozer. Oswald Chambers. Andrew Murray. Brother Lawrence. There are contemporary authors I read and follow, but there’s something special about books that have stood the test of time. Read books by dead people. Read books by people who have been at this ministry thing for a lifetime. Read well and deeply, and let yourself be shepherded by those who have gone before us.
- Find a getaway church. Sometimes it’s refreshing to sit in worship without any responsibilities. No list of announcements to remember, no five points and a poem to review, no list of people you need to talk to after the invitation. It can be difficult to get away on a Sunday morning, but look for other opportunities to worship. Watch your local event calendar for churches having special conferences or speakers. Find a Saturday night service. Join a Bible Study Fellowship group or a mid-week Bible study at another church.
- Take a spiritual retreat. Everyone needs off time, and ministry families need it too. Go rent a hotel room by your lonesome, or check out this list of retreat centers that provide free or discounted services for pastors and their families. There is something deeply restorative about being alone in a room with just you, your Bible, and God, knowing you can let the calendar slide for a couple days. Sleep when you need to. Take some walks in nature. Read your Bible, pray, and rest in the Lord’s presence. Practice some re-creation–participating in those activities that renew and refresh your soul. When I’m able to do this–maybe once or twice a year–I always come back with the sense that my soul has been tended.
Q: How do you find pastoral care as a woman in ministry?