BALTIMORE (BP) -- When a pastor's wife asks her husband, "How can I help you?" the answer may not be what she expects. But Christine Hoover says a simple question can open the door to conversation that brings clarity to the blurred lines between ministry and a couple's personal life together.
Hoover, a pastor's wife from Charlottesville, Va., and author of "The Church Planter's Wife," advised women attending the Pastors' Wives Conference June 10 to keep the lines of communication open with their husbands through conversation starters.
"As my husband is pulled in so many directions, I want to be that person who is looking to meet his needs, to pray for him, encourage him and remind him of the joy of his calling and what God is doing through him."
That conversation begins by asking, "How can I help you?" Hoover explained. Try to avoid the tendency to assume the answer is to be found in leading some major ministry or hosting everyone in their home, she added.
"He needs me, as his wife, to love him and to meet his needs. That's a lot simpler than leading some major ministry," Hoover said. "When I assume what he needs, I become a frazzled mess."
The next conversation is initiated when a pastor's wife admits to her husband, "I need your help," she said. "Ask for what you need with gentleness and clarify," avoiding an attitude of conflict or confrontation with a spouse.
Hoover recalled a time when she first learned she was hosting an event at their home by reading about it in the church bulletin. She recommended initiating a third conversation by saying, "Let's talk logistics." That discussion may change with the age and needs of a couple's children and their church, Hoover said, but the principle of planning will protect their family.
"By the way you schedule yourself you are communicating at some level your commitment to your marriage, family, ministry and church," she said. Without that discussion, a pastor and his wife will be tossed around by the demands of others and ultimately burn out, Hoover warned.
In what she called "the glass is half full" conversation, Hoover said she and her husband realized they were having a lot of "what's going wrong" conversations. "We committed to have more what's going right conversations -- what is He doing in the life of our church and the people we're serving?"
When ministry seems unrewarded and unfruitful, discouragement sets in, she said. This can lead to a loss of joy and zeal for the Lord's work. "We have to be like prophets to one another, reminding our husbands of what God has called him to and who will empower him to do that job," Hoover said.
"Ministry tends to be a constant fight of discouragement, but we always have something to celebrate. No matter how small, celebrate the victories," she said.
Hoover joined panelists Linda Blackmon of Cambridge, Md., and Kathy MacDonald of Chicago, in sharing experiences as pastors' wives in rural, metropolitan and college town settings. Responding to a question about dealing with criticism, Blackmon described forgiveness as a key to good health.
"Where there are people, there are problems," she said. "The power of forgiveness for when they hurt you releases and frees you. If you hold onto it, it's going to eat you alive."
MacDonald said she and her husband realize criticism is to be expected in ministry. "I know the Lord began something in us and I know He's going to fulfill it," she said, encouraging wives to trust God and stand strong.
"I thank the Lord for what He has brought us through because it has sanctified and refined us."
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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