Now, I’d like to start looking a little more specifically at different stages of being a youth pastor’s wife. The first I’d like to tackle is the honeymoon stage. No, not the marital honeymoon, but rather that first exciting year in ministry that is full of fire and energy. Everyone has this stage whether it is a first ministry or even a move to a new ministry. People are welcoming and you’re the newest and greatest thing to come along in most people’s minds. Here comes the warning: this stage does wear off! That’s not to be said in a negative way. Actually, it’s kind of nice when it does wear off so the focus can be off of you and, hopefully, onto the Lord and His work.
When people think of a honeymoon stage they often think of it in mostly the positive light of a fresh new stage that is full of happiness. However, just like in marriage, it is also full of learning and stumbling along the way in dealing with others. We found that it was hardest on the older teenagers who had been under the ministry of another youth pastor for a long while. They didn’t like change and some even resented it. I laugh now, because one of our dearest graduates from the first year who is now in ministry himself, talks so kindly and fondly of us. What he forgets is that he was one of the loudest objectors to change we had that first year. We often heard the phrases, “But we’ve always done it this way!” or “ We never do that!” To which we’d just grit our teeth and smile and go on.
One example that comes to mind is in regards to camp. Our church had, unfortunately, developed a reputation as a rebel group who pulled pranks all the time. 2nd man and I aren’t fuddy duddies, but we do like to help enforce rules of those hosting our camps and retreats. Harmless horseplay is one thing, but our group would do nasty things that damaged people and property. I even slept with a fully loaded squirt gun under my pillow always ready to counter attack the girls. They know now that, though I can appreciate some jokes, I don’t like to lose sleep or have my person wet or dirty due to a prank. Upon, learning of this reputation, 2nd man made it known to the kids that we weren’t going to be pursuing that route anymore and we’d appreciate it if the kids would refrain from bringing prank items to camp. We received a phone call one evening, after this announcement, from a mother of one of the older teens. 2nd man expected her to be thanking him; instead, she chewed him out! “I understand you’re not allowing pranks this year.” She started, “Yes, that’s correct.” He replied. “Well, how do you expect them to have any fun? This is just ridiculous!” And on and on she went. When he hung up we both were astounded. After returning from camp and exhausted from the week we were awakened at 6 am the next morning to our doorbell ringing…several times. People wanted to know when our garage sale started. (This was in the day when beanie babies were all the rage). People would race to be the first at garage sales selling them. “I’m not having a garage sale.” I replied to several angry people. We later found out that the previously complaining mother had put an ad in the newspaper with our address for a garage sale with the beanie babies. She figured she’d pull her own prank. The funny thing is, when we had testimony time Sunday evening, her own son got up in front of the entire congregation and announced that he had been disappointed about the whole “no prank” thing, but that this was the first year of camp where he’d actually felt like God spoke to him about some things in his life. I have to admit, that was a great moment of satisfaction to 2nd man and I.
As a wife to my 2nd man, I felt very defensive during this stage. I was excited to help him kick start this ministry, but often felt the need to defend it instead. I had to establish with others that they couldn’t get to him through me. Instead, if they had an issue they could make an appointment. This was when I had to learn to support him in ways I never expected that he’d need. Just as he was feeling out and getting comfortable with his ministry, I was learning what my part was in it for him. I was also trying to get used to new surroundings and people. Sometimes that can be hard on a woman. He got to go into the office everyday and grew by leaps and bounds in his relationships with the staff. Meanwhile I was sitting at home wondering what to do and what my place would be. I had just graduated college and was trying to figure out if I’d teach in the public school system or the Christian school or at all. I was also trying to weed through the many people who would show up at my door, often unannounced, just to see the newly renovated missions house that the church allowed us to live in for a year or so until we got our own place. I even had some ladies look in my closets as they toured the house! I kid you not, it was like a sitcom. I must have had a dozen or more people offer to help with the youth. I look back now and laugh at some of the ones who offered. They said they had a heart for youth, then when I’d see them with their own kids they were like scream machines. You know, the ones you see at Wal-Mart constantly making more noise shushing their screaming child than what the child makes. “Uh, no thank you J we have enough help right now, but I’ll keep you in mind if 2nd man says there’s a need.” Became my rote response.
I had been warned by another woman, who had grown up in the same church as I and had married a minister, “beware the ones that meet you at the train.” I didn’t understand fully what she meant until a few months into the ministry here. It seems that there are those who want to be the first to meet and greet you and pick your brains about all things youth. It would seem, also, that these same people want to somehow have a hand in the control of what you think about the youth. We had several of these when we first came to Oklahoma, those that wanted to steer different activities, or those who wanted to be youth workers with us, but were constantly handling things amiss. I’m not sure how many fires had to be put out because of these people, and though we loved and still love them, we’re glad that there was a changing of the guard after a while and 2nd man was able to hand select the helpers.
That brings me to what I said earlier and that is when the honeymoon is over and how great things start to get. It is then, that changes can really begin to take place. People are used to you and more accepting of the changes you want to make. It isn’t taken as an affront to them or any previous pastor who had been in that position. It’s when you can make the ministry your own according to how you feel led of the Lord.
Honeymoons are nice. When I was first married to 2nd man, I couldn’t believe that I could ever love him more. However, I look back now and realize how I hardly knew him and had so much to learn. The same is true in ministry. The honeymoon is a nice stage, where you feel liked and accepted. But as time goes on you love the ministry and those you minister to. Enjoy your honeymoon, for sure, but expect and prepare for even greater things ahead!