Who Encourages the Pastor’s Wife?

Enter … Sarah’s Tent and Other Pastor’s Wives

Who encourages the pastor's wife?

The Praying Pastor's WifeWhat appeared to be lost, was never lost. Not in your life, and not in mine. Nothing that God begins is ever lost… Sarah’s Tent is rebuilding. 

The word of mouth spread quickly and in just six short months, over 800 women were visiting Sarah’s Tent and participating in online chats, emails and phone conversations. Not all were super active, but I heard from them often as they would tell me how much Sarah’s Tent meant to them. What surprised me the most was that there were patterns, or common symptoms, of pain that I observed from my unique birds-eye view. No matter the title, no matter the status, no matter the denomination. The faces might change, but the stories were all the same.

Never expecting to see and hear what I did, my search to find answers revealed first what the problems were. The answers came later …

At the time AOL was sending out trial CDs of their software.  This marketing campaign was what introduced me to the concept of email, and eventually to the AOL community online. What a treasure trove of answers and new discoveries!  And … what an alarming peek at “The dark side of the force” of pornography flooding my email as spam, as a sign of things to come.

Immediately, I became involved in the AOL community and my activities were spotted by AOL community leaders, one of which invited me to participate in specialized training on how to host chats and manage difficult situations in their online chat rooms.

What I experienced and saw during this time still haunts me today– almost 17 years later. The ability to communicate with others who were familiar with what it was to be a pastor’s wife, and the safety of being able to show up as “anonymous” or a creative screen name such as, “LovinDaLord*”, pastor’s wives began opening up and pouring out their hearts and encouraging one another.

In a recent blog post that I’ve read, Kay Warren says this …

I grew up in a pastor’s home and have been married to a pastor for 36 years. I have no idea what “normal” life is like. Being a pastor’s wife is one of the most challenging endeavors a woman can face. Where do you turn to find support and encouragement for the unique struggles you face? Encouragement for the Pastor’s Wife is more than a study series; it is a journey through the tears, trials, struggles, heartaches, triumphs, and joys of being a wife of a pastor. I have had the honor of walking through the joys and sorrows of being a pastor’s wife and I want to encourage you that you are not alone in the challenges you face every day. Kay Warren

Joy in the Kitchen newsletterAs more and more connected, I saw a need to keep things together and started a newsletter named “Joy in the Kitchen”.  The heart of which was women gathering around a communal kitchen, laughing, talking, sharing, enjoying one another in true relationship and mentoring or friendship.  Chats soon evolved, and guest speakers from various professions were invited to come and talk to these amazing women of influence and humanity.  The most common topics requested were hard core topics that addressed taboo subjects addressing a wide range of addictions. Sexual addiction, food addictions, and verbal, physical and abuse issues were a running theme, much to all of our surprise.

Perhaps one of the most healing aspects of these chats was when a woman would open up and share a serious issue that she thought was only hers to endure. Every time, others would pipe in and tell their own stories.  Stories that would have never been told in a pastor’s meeting or church event. These were gut-wrenching stories that were hidden under cover of shame and humiliation, condemnation and fear.

Fear …

FearfulFear of ‘being found out’, or of ‘ what will people think?’ or, fear of what could happen if …  There were times when the fear was so tangible that you could almost taste it and it struck me that this was not something that should be in the church, let alone behind the pulpit.

Then there were the patterns of disease and health issues.  Why were so many pastor’s wives struggling with Lupus, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and … blindness?

Why were so many pastors and their wives unable to provide for their children or themselves? There were some who seem to be doing okay, all things considered, and some even prospered well, but there were way too many who were serving their beloved congregations while sacrificing their own families in all areas.

Then there were the angry congregational members, the gossip, the attacks and accusations.  Stories so hair raising that local news media outlets would join in on the mud-slinging, glorying in the gore of human failings, while selling more advertising at the expense of the pastor and his family … and anyone else involved.

The hunger to be heard was, and still is, mind-boggling.  Sarah’s Tent was one of the first, if not the first pastor’s wives and ministry women’s community online. In short order, others arose and many still exist and thrive today.  Each one has a beautiful mission and is flavored by the denomination or faith that it represents.

Death by Fire …

Death by fireI praise God that I experienced this two year season of communicating and encouraging pastor’s wives. My own life would take a down turn and our family would be crushed beyond recognition before it was over… but what the Lord showed me through this experience has stayed with me. Gossip, division, blame, death threats, divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, physical death, family trauma, abandonment and abuse … it just never seemed to end.

What had brought me to the point of starting Sarah’s Tent was what I had first thought was the hardest season of my life, but that was pre-school compared to what happened in my life after Sarah’s Tent was birthed.

I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons for anything. I’m a better woman, a wiser woman, and a woman with resources, insights and reinforcements.

The beauty of seeds that have dropped into fertile soil before the forest burns down, is that the soil is super-fueled with the charcoal that soaks into the soil as everything in sight is burned to the ground.  The heat of the fire, the elements that are released into that soil and the rains that come, trigger new life that would never have existed if there had never been a fire.

Resurrection … 

New growthWhat appeared to be lost, was never lost. Not in your life, and not in mine. Things may have changed, but nothing that God plants is ever lost… Sarah’s Tent is rebuilding. Greater wisdom, more resources, better tools and experience.  If you’d like to join with me in rebuilding a safe place for pastor’s wives and women in ministry to access resources, share, and communicate on a very real and very blunt level, I encourage you to comment below and to subscribe to our RSS feed.  We tasted the first fruits and saw the promise … we saw the walls destroyed, and watched others suffer as those walls laid in ruin. We’ve walked around those walls and assessed the damage and have counted the cost. Now we rebuild … with resources and wisdom.

Who are the “we”? I’m not alone … others have joined me in the desire to provide a safe place for those in ministry – both women AND men.  People who have walked through hell and lived to tell about it. People who all have stories of their own fires, and their own resurrections.  People who are not faint of heart, but of strong courage and determination. We invite you to join us …

*Screen name is fictitious and not based upon any known past, present or future screen name and is purely a coincidence if one does exist.

 

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6 thoughts on “Who Encourages the Pastor’s Wife?

Enter … Sarah’s Tent and Other Pastor’s Wives”

  1. Holly says:

    Very uplifting to hear of others and their trials in the ministry. Remember, God knows the answer to your problem before you know you have a problem.

    • Shannon says:

      Thank you Holly – it is, isn’t it? The best lessons come from trials – and when we are honest, we throw the covers off of denial and face the real issues face on. How else can God do the work HE needs to do? He is always deeply concerned about His children, their hearts and their eternal relationship with Him. He is never shaken by what trembles around them in trials of their own doing, or of those around them. That is life on this planet. It is what it is. Shame is nonproductive and has no place in the Kingdom of God! Thank you Holly – He truly does know the answers before you know you have a problem!

  2. janell says:

    I am a associate pastors wife my husband and I have been talked to by the pastor that people in congergation are saying we are more involved in our grandchildren and adult childrens lives and if we dont step up and do better in 3 weeks we will lose our position not sure what to do i dont see it that way and deeply hurt what are some oppions of other pastors wives?

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Janell,

      When problems like this arise, it’s time to assess the situation wisely. It can be difficult when you are feeling personally attacked.

      I use a helpful image to facilitate myself in clarifying what is truth about a situation and what is not. Take a look at this post, “http://sarahstent.com/2014/09/he-said-she-said-they-said-how-to-judge-things-clearly/

      You have a right and a responsibility as leaders to clarify and define these accusations and to look for solid answers. Resist getting carried away by fear and the mental “stories” that come when we are hurt by the accusations of another. Seeing through the smoke of these accusations will help you see where the real fire is so that you can put it out, and use this opportunity to define what is realistic and what is unrealistic and set proper expectations for your ministry efforts.

      I leave you with this thought, The enemy is not those who have complained, nor is it those who have hired you. The enemy is the LIE. The lies that people believe, including you.

      “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 (HINT: Satan is the Father of Lies.)

      And this …
      Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.”

      This trial will make you stronger and wiser … look for the gold!

  3. elisa olavere says:

    Thank God I have found a place where I share my stories…as a working PW, I’m a bit anxious to tell anyone what I feel.There àre times I feel exhausted in my work, yet I nèed to attend to church activities because of being PW

    • Shannon says:

      What I love so much about being able to share online is that there are times when we want to share openly and fully – and have no qualms about someone knowing our name. But there are other times, when we need to share freely, without censorship, until the issue has been resolved and healing has begun.

      Shame keeps too many voices silent. Online chats through Sarah’s Tent are varied. From live video discussions to typed conversations with anonymous names. Sometimes, some things are best typed – to communicate on another level – than to speak about out loud.

      The beauty of reading or hearing of other people’s stories is realizing that others are challenged with similar battles, and you are not alone.

      My personal concern for those whom I serve has nothing to do with what horrendous story they might be struggling with, but in regards to authenticity. Shame and religious responses are not encouraged. There’s plenty of that already preventing healing and growth in God’s people. Unrealistic expectations are dangerous and those two issues (shame and religious mentalities) keep us captive and ineffective when we are called upon to fight intense battles in our lives, and in those we serve.

      No one is perfect. All have stories and all have wisdom. This is indeed, a safe place. So glad you’ve visited us!

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