When God began awakening my husband, Kyle, and I to the idea of church planting, I felt immediately certain He was calling Kyle to plant, lead and pastor. At the time, he had been serving on staff at a large church in Texas for eight years, and his passions, gifts and experience seemed perfectly suited for this grand new adventure.
But what about me? I wasn’t sure I had what it would take. I also didn’t know what to expect or what planting would mean for me and our three small boys. My husband, I knew, would preach, lead, evangelize and raise support. But what was expected of me? What was I supposed to do as a fledgling church planting wife? Did I, too, have gifts God could use? These were among the many nagging questions I carried with me into the first few years of church planting.
We’ve now lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, for more than a decade and continue serving at the church we planted. As I meet with new church planting wives in our city – a great joy of mine – their familiar uncertainty regarding their roles eventually rises to the surface. She always wants what I myself wanted: a checklist, a battle plan, a formula – anything to assure herself she’s on the “right” track and an asset to God, her husband and the church plant itself.
I tell her what I wish I could go back to the beginning stages of church planting and tell myself: It’s not about what you do. Certainly, you will serve, help and lead in countless ways. But being a church planter’s wife is not a role with a set job description; attempting to formulate one will only frustrate and condemn you. Rather, your focus in church planting must be on engaging an authentic relationship with God and with others. Out of the overflow of these relationships, ministry opportunities will come, and they’ll be as specific to you as the individual God’s created you to be.
Your goal in church planting, then, is intentionally cultivating authentic, relational connection in every sphere of your life.
Mark of a Healthy Spouse: Authentic Relationships
In addition to the time, love and attention you give your marriage and children, if you want to be a healthy church planting wife, you must intentionally cultivate three primary relationships: your relationship with God, relationships with people in your church and relationships with friends both inside and outside the church.
As a church planting spouse, the most important relationship you have is with the Lord. You must tether yourself to Him, returning to Him daily through prayer and Scripture reading, filling yourself up in His love for you and preparing to pour out onto others what you’ve received from Him. John 15:4-5 (ESV) communicates why this is vital for all believers – but especially so for those ministering in His name:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
You can’t and won’t endure in church planting apart from intimate connection with God, but in gulping His refreshment each day, He’ll enable you to persevere in church planting and the Christian life for the long haul.
As you cultivate an intimate relationship with God, the Spirit grows in you a supernatural love for others. His love working on you, in you and through you produces genuine care and concern for the people He brings into your local church body. However, love in the name of Jesus also is intentional. You must intentionally engage people in your church by getting to know them and their needs, looking for ways to meet those needs and helping them discover and utilize their spiritual gifts. You won’t be close friends with everyone, but your goal is to be authentically open, available and honoring to all you encounter. Paul gives voice to our goal: “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8, CSB). You may not lead the children’s ministry, teach or lead worship, but if you genuinely love people, you’ve done well.
As you walk with the Lord and others in genuine love, you will draw other women to you. In addition, your position and influence in the church plant provide you countless opportunities for ministry-based relationships – women who need counsel, for example. Gladly pour yourself out as the Lord leads you. However, you also must make time and space for authentic friendships with other women. Friendships are distinct from ministry-based relationships in that they are mutual, life-giving and provide you space to be a person rather than merely the pastor’s wife. Friendships involve both a pour-out/pour-in dynamic and are vital to your emotional health and well-being as a Christian and a church planting wife.
Remember: church planting is not about what you will do; it’s about how you will love. As the apostle Paul says, “If I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2, ESV). The good news, church planting wife, is that we can’t manufacture love. God gives us His perfect love and strengthens us to love others as He has loved us.
You are loved by God. He goes with you into what He’s called you to do and will not leave you to your own devices. He’s created you and will use your specific gifts and abilities in your specific church plant. And the very people you go to serve He will use to grow, edify and sanctify you.
Go and make disciples. And love big.
For more on having a vibrant spiritual life as a church planting wife, download your free copy of Five Markers of Healthy Planting Wives today.
Published August 15, 2022