You Are Not Alone
A Note to New Clergy Spouses

by Mechelle Stockett

You Are Not Alone.


When you’ve moved to Timbuctoo and your heart is homesick for the familiar,
You Are Not Alone.


When your high school friends have all moved back to your hometown and formed a clique,
And you’re in a town of strangers, trying to penetrate a clique just to find one good friend,
You Are Not Alone.


When your spouse encounters opposition and stress within the Body of Christ
And neglects your body and times of intimate conversation,
You Are Not Alone.


When you spent several years advancing in your career, building a client base,
And your spouse has been appointed to a church four hours away,
You Are Not Alone.



Why are you not alone?


The most obvious---and most ignored answer---is Christ is with you.
There is nowhere that you are appointed that He is not already present.  He goes before you to prepare the way.  Look for Him… in the smile of a child, the kindness of a parishioner, the delta sunset…the little things.  And remember, there’s not a church so remote, or a parishioner so mean-spirited that Christ doesn’t already know …intimately….before you even get there.  Ask Him.  He knows how to guide you, strengthen you and comfort you in your new surroundings.
As a 50+ year old, I am realizing how important times of silent reflection with God mean. Carve out time to sit, read, journal, listen and connect with God.  It really makes a difference in the long run.


You are not alone, because your spouse is with you.  Face it:  the one person who will be with you, no matter where you move, for the rest of your life, is your spouse.  Developing a strong relationship between the two of you is pretty doggone important. Take time to be together.  Plan a date night.  Keep a running list of things you like about him/her…look for the good…remember why you fell in love. Learn to talk and really listen to one another.
Communication between clergy and their spouses carries over and affects their role as a minister.  Keep the doors of communication opened.  When you get stuck, get help.  Don’t let pride or cost get in the way of getting the counseling and help that you need.  (See EAP information on our website.)

 


Every couple is different and has to figure out what works for them.  There are no hard-and-fast rules of how to relate to your spouse when it comes to matters of the church.  However, there are things I wish someone had told me early on to help put things in perspective.  I will share them and you see if they fit for you.
Don’t bring it home.  Let your home be a haven from the worries and business of the church. 

I used to resent it when Cary would close down conversation when I wanted to talk about church events when he got home.  I felt like my observations and opinions were as valid as any other church members.  And, they are.  It’s just that my timing was not good.  Cary needs to compartmentalize and “detach” from church business when he gets home.  Realizing this, and also recognizing that I had something important to say, we’ve been known to  set a time to “meet” during the workday at his office. Other times, I’ve written him an email he can read at the office.  ---  Like I say, that might not fit everybody.  It works for us.
If you think he/she made a bad choice, voice your concern, but don’t dwell on it.
Remember, you are not there to compensate for or make excuses for your husband/wife. 
Don’t complain to parishioners about your husband. Period.  Find a counselor or very trusted out-of-town friend for that.
And, as a rule, you are not the person to relay messages between parishioners and your husband/wife. 


Have you ever been driving a car and someone tells you how to drive?  They treat you like you are a 15-year-old training for a drivers permit.  When that happens I want to say, “Hush.  I drive all day long without you in the car, and I manage to get from place to place safely… without you giving me advice.  Relax and let me do my thing.”
As clergy spouses, we have a lot “riding on” how well our husband/wife does in church work.  We’ve got all kinds of “good pointers” and helpful hints to offer—just like an “advising” car passenger does.  But, realize that God called him and will equip him.  If he makes mistakes, he can learn from them and grow to be a stronger leader.


You are not alone because others have walked and are walking your path.  Being an “itinerant clergy’s” spouse is a very unique thing we all have in common!
You might ask God to put trustworthy clergy spouse friends and mentors in your life to help you with the journey.
We have events like our fall retreat, brunch at conference, district picnics and holiday dinners which offer opportunities to network and build a web of support.
But, that might not be “your thing.” You might want to consider casual gatherings.  I know a group of older UMC ministers and wives who got together every 4th of July, every year for decades.  They were there for each other for all the good times and hard times.  Good appointments and “dis-appointments.”
When we lived in Vicksburg, we’d get together with other clergy/clergy spouses couple for a fish fry at somebody’s house or meet at a restaurant. 
Even if they don’t turn out to be your best friends, there is something to be said for being with people who have a similar calling and face similar life challenges and special joys. 


YOU ARE NOT ALONE
…in your struggles
…or good times…(There are a wealth of blessings being in ministry.)
Remember, what you do matters.  What you do day to day is kingdom work.
Be fully you…you are unique and gifted with your own special blend of personality.

 

 

God did an amazing job when He created you.
He had a twinkle in His eye when He drew you and your spouse together,
And a thrill in His heart when you answered the call to ministry.
Live in the fullness of who you are.
Celebrate the love and union of you and your spouse.
Go forth in the calling He has placed on your life,
And, Live In the Glory!