This post is for the (in)Couraged Flock- a group of ministry wives that I have the privilege of encouraging and co-leading with my friend Amy. However, anyone is welcome to share their thoughts in the comments!
This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Allume Social Conference in Harrisburg, PA. The conference is for women in social media to be encouraged to live out the light of Christ in their areas of influence. It was- in one word- AMAZING!
The rest of this week, I will be sharing lessons that I learned (I have pages and pages of notes!), memories that were made and the specific answers to prayer that the Lord gave me. But today, I want to share the beautiful community of ministry wives that I found at this conference- and why I think it is so crucial that ministry wives have a vibrant community surrounding them.
Our (in)Couraged Flock group was formed at the beginning of October. It has been a sweet month of community building. We quickly learned that there would be 5 members of our group attending the Allume conference, so we made a plan to meet for breakfast on Friday morning.
We had a lovely breakfast as we spent time talking about where God has placed us and what He is doing through us. As we talked, I was thankful for the ease of conversation that is found when sisters have much in common. We have been getting to know one another online, but being face to face was such a sweet blessing.
Later in the day, I met another pastor's wife and as she shared her story, I felt as if we completely understood one another- many of the hurts that I have experienced were mirrored in her words. And as hard as it was to believe that someone could be treated in the way that she had been treated, there was a sense of peace in the reminder that I am never alone- that there are others who understand. Our hearts bonded in that conversation.
Why do ministry wives need community? Why do we crave it?
As I listened to the words of the women around me, it was so clear to me. We need to know that other people "get" us. We need to be able to laugh at the difficulties and rejoice with the victories. We need to cry with the horrible betrayals and mourn the losses. And we need others to do the same for us!
When you find a sister who you bond with, it is a treasure. And a conference like this one provides plenty of opportunity for that very thing. But more than likely, we do not have this kind of community around us all the time. And we can feel isolated.
Things that can inhibit community...
1. As ministry wives, we must have discretion. We are not able to tell just anyone everything. We need to pray for wisdom and that the "words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in the Lord's sight" (Psalm 19:14). As a result, we can not always be as open and transparent as we might like to be.
2. Women may feel intimidated by ministry wives- believing that they could never be as good as her, that somehow she is unapproachable, or maybe that the ministry wife will point out all of their faults. Meanwhile, the ministry wife is coming with all of her own hurts and failures and just desiring to be understood.
3. Past hurts and betrayals can have a dramatic impact. Once a heart has been broken, it can be difficult to open up again. No one who experiences pain wants to open themselves to the same outcome.
Ways to cultivate community...
1. Building community with others must begin by loving God (this is why love your neighbors, comes AFTER love God in Matthew 22:37-39). When we get to know Him and learn more of Him, we will be able to open up in relationships with others. Getting to know God means that we will pursue righteousness and truth and wisdom. As a result, we will be able to be authentic in relationships while still having discretion.
2. Be real with other women. Share your story- your dreams along with your mistakes- and let them get to know YOU. And at the same time, get to know them. Find out what their desires are and what they struggle with most. Community is only built when we work at it.
3. Find other ministry wives that you can open your heart to. No one can understand as well as a fellow ministry wife. I am always amazed at how many ministry wives have experienced some kind of hurt or betrayal. Not being able to share your hurts is one of the most difficult aspects of ministry. So, search them out. And when you find them, hold on tight!
Our (in)Couraged Flock group did not fill the table that we sat at for breakfast. So when our (in)couragers group leader, the lovely Stacey Thacker, sat at our table, it was such a sweet blessing from God. It has been such a joy for Amy and I to serve under Stacey's leadership. We are so thankful for the community that has grown for us- one that we can serve in, but also one in which we are mutually encouraged.
Thank you to all of the (in)Couraged Flock members that I was privileged to meet- you are all delightful. And for the ministry wives who shared your hearts with me, who laughed with me and who joined me in different sessions- thank you. It was wonderful to meet each one of you. And I can't wait to get to know you all more!
The question for you- what things in your life inhibit community? How do you cultivate community?