Women in Ministry: What God Wants You to Know

We were greeted with warm handshakes and pleasantries, an outline of the morning service, and then a startling announcement:  “We assumed that your wife would want to take the children.”  In the early days of our marriage when my husband was the area director of a children’s ministry, I used to travel with him to his weekend engagements.  However, in those days, I had a full-time job, no children yet, and no — I did not carry a Bible lesson around in my back pocket. (Given the same situation today?  I’d probably go for it!  Why not?)

Ministry wives are often subject to assumptions and misconceptions, and it is with this audience in mind that Kay Warren has written Sacred Privilege.  However, her words are relevant to all women in ministry, with or without husbands.  She writes from the perspective of a life-long “church girl,” the daughter of a pastor, wife to Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Life fame, and also as the mother to a pastor’s wife.  The book is a distillation of wisdom gained from an entire life lived in the fish bowl of ministry — not from the viewpoint of “perfect wife,” but as messenger and strong survivor, as one who has taken strength from God for a very specific calling and now wants to pass that encouragement on to others who share that call.

If you are a woman in ministry, here’s what God wants you to know:

1.  “You need to embrace your own story — all of it — for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom.” (31)

Kay’s story includes a brush with a porn addiction and a rocky start to her marriage.  It includes a struggle with depression and the mental illness and ultimate suicide of her son. She assesses this terrain and concludes that the life she has lived is the exact price required for becoming who she is today.

2.  “There is no greater heritage than for children to see that ministry is not just for dads but also for moms and brothers and sisters.”  (50)

Sharing a ministry focus as a couple and also as a family protects everyone from resentment and eases the claustrophobia of the glass house that can plague ministry families.  Kay defines “thriving” over the long haul  as the ability to share a God-given dream and points to Ephesians 2:10 to affirm that God is the architect of that dream.

3.  “Success in ministry is not about numerical results or recognition but about thriving, flourishing, and growing strong in one’s calling and in one’s character.” (58)

This does not mean that women in ministry will meet everyone’s expectations.  On the flip side, it also does not mean that we will always be free to do the thing we love the most.  When it comes to defining success in ministry, the most important voice in the room is God’s.

4.  “You have a story that is worth telling.”  (125)

Sharing God’s redemption process in your life is risky because your weaknesses come out of hiding.  However, in the process, others are drawn into the Light, and true friendships can be formed that will endure for the long haul.  Life in community — knowing others and being known — is so much safer and more comfortable than life on a pedestal.

5.  “No one will take care of you but you.” (139)

That sounds cynical, doesn’t it?  And it’s not to say that God, your husband, and/or your loving church family are all out to exploit you and suck you dry, but there are some aspects of self-care that are completely in your court:  eating, sleeping, and moving every day are your responsibility.  My favorite of Kay’s aphorisms applies here:

“Control the controllable and leave the uncontrollable to God.”

Nourishing the inner life and stepping away from ministry for Sabbath rest may require some adjusting.  Cultivating this flexibility is a discipline that is well worth it in the end.

6.  “Accept the loss of privacy with God’s grace.”  (180)

Gail MacDonald and Edith Schaeffer have blazed a gracious trail for ministry wives (and all women) with their writing, and Edith is eloquently accurate on this subject of boundaries:

“A family is a door that has hinges and a lock.  The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family.”  (183)

7.  “Live with transparency and work hard to do what is right in the sight of God and others.”  (194)

Because ministry is a “sacred privilege,” God-honoring integrity is key, particularly in the crucial areas of sex, money, and power.  Kay and her husband maintain a “warnings” file with details about well-known pastors who have left the ministry because of moral failure — just to remind them of their own vulnerability.

8.  Maintain an eternal perspective.

Practicing radical forgiveness will make the battle scars earned in church conflict more bearable — and will even speed healing!  Franςois Fénelon offers wise counsel:

“Don’t be so upset when things are said about you.  Let the world talk; just seek to do the will of God.  You will never be able to entirely satisfy people and it isn’t worth the painful effort.”  (215)

The shared dreams and plans, the sacrifices and the adjustments required of women in ministry can be viewed alongside Paul’s metaphor of the Christian life as a race.  We run toward a finish line that is difficult to see, and the noise of the crowd — whether cheering or jeering — can be a distraction.  Making it “our aim to please” God is the mindset that will foster self-acceptance, a thriving family, and the ability to live out God’s calling on our lives with integrity and joy.

//

This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For more information about Kay’s writing and ministry check out her website here.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

74 thoughts on “Women in Ministry: What God Wants You to Know”

  1. I applaud Kay Warren. She is one of those stunningly integrous people who has the right to talk to us about keeping our hearts right when in ministry. She’s seen the heights and the depths, both personally and in the Church, and she has stayed the course. What a courageous, godly woman of integrity. Kudos to her. I am looking forward to reading her book

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  2. Super review, Michele. I’m a big Kay Warren fan … and have always had a focus on women in ministry. I was already talking about her new book before I even read it!

    I’m so appreciating your post today …

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    1. This is the first of Kay’s books that I’ve read! Good to know that you’ve enjoyed her ministry. God has certainly given her great insights — and she has gained them in the trenches!

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  3. Michele, Thank you for another wonderful book review. There are so many helpful points here, some I have a solid understanding of and others not so much. I because a pastor’s wife late in life and God seems to be also now leading me into women’s ministry (after years and years working with preschoolers!). This is really good timing for me! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Really inspiring post for any women heading down this route. My cousin is a woman in ministry and it has never been made easy for her like it was for her husband. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele,
    “Let the world talk, but seek to do the will of God.” This is great advice whether in the ministry spotlight, sharing the spotlight, or just trying to walk your walk. Thanks for sharing some great, truth-filled reminders.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    ps. Thank you so much for your earnest and heartfelt prayers for me 🙂

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  6. These takeaways are so valuable to me. I’ve been a ministry wife for 22 years now, and can so relate to some of these things. Yes, no one will take care of you except for you!

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    1. I just love that Kay made that point. We tend to over-spiritualize the lives of those in ministry: “Oh, God will just strengthen her. She’s the pastor’s wife.” Those in ministry need to take care of themselves and those who benefit from their ministry need to be sensitive to personal boundaries so they can! And on that note, Betsy, enjoy your wonderful time away from blogging!

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  7. Having lived a life of ministry and then counseled many others involved with ministry including pastor’s wives and kids, I am acutely aware of what challenges they face. This contains a list of very important things to keep in mind. So much is expected of these women, but too often the lack of getting healing for their own wounds collides with the demands of their position and it is a mess for everyone involved. Thanks for this insightful review.

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    1. Yes, I’ve met some pretty sad women who live in parsonages. It’s good that Kay has been willing to go first in this conversation about some of the gritty realities. But she does it in a way that exalts ministry. Such a great resource!

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  8. So much good advice here. No. 3 stands out to me- it is so important to keep our focus on pleasing God and not on our perceived success or other people’s opinions. Also, no.5- it’s so true that we have to take responsibility for taking care of ourselves, otherwise it’s unlikely to happen.

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  9. In our third church, an older woman in our seniors group, herself the wife of a retired pastor, took me aside and told me I needed to just be me. I have never forgot her words or how much she cared to share that with me. Her words came to mind on the first point you mention from the book. Your reviews always have me chastising myself for not reading more. It’s a good thing 🙂

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  10. Wow, what an insightful review! This book sounds fantastic. There is some great advice here for every woman. My husband’s ministry is his work, and even though I (thankfully) don’t live in a fish bowl, I can relate to a lot of her points. Adding this one to my list for sure! 😊

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    1. I think that even those who are lay leaders in the church can benefit from Kay’s insights. When all my kids were tiny, my husband was a deacon, and that certainly made for some challenging conversations.

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  11. Totally getting this book for my cousin Kelly and a few others who are pastor’s wives. I don’t think there is much out there for them and they have quite the hard position.
    Praying you sense God’s rich blessing on your life today!
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

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  12. Wow! Can’t wait to get my hands on Kay’s book, since I resonate with so much of her life. I am a pastor’s daughter, pastor’s wife and now have a pastor son. And ministry is not for the faint of heart. That is where many of my wounds have come from, but with God’s grace, they are healing! Thanks for providing such incredible reviews and resources, Michele! And congrats on your son’s wedding (or was it engagement?)! Either way, congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I commend Kay for so bravely sharing her story and opening up to offer others hope. It sounds like such a unique perspective, and I love how you described her stance — not as one who’s lauding it over others, but more about one who is willing to walk beside and counsel those who find themselves in a similar position.
    Michele, I really appreciate your insights and value the points you share in your book reviews. You’re quickly becoming my go-to source, my friend! ❤

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    1. Wow, Marva, thanks for these encouraging words, and I am in total agreement with you regarding Kay’s impact. God has given her a message and a platform, and she is using it to His glory.

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  14. This sounds like a really good read Michele. We have been in such a strange place these past few years since leaving a thriving ministry behind in Washington State and moving to South Carolina . . . where I sometimes feel like we are doing absolutely nothing for the Kingdom of God. This past year especially, our family has been going through some very difficult trials. Every time I get antsy and want to jump into doing something for the Lord, another rut in the road throws me off balance and I have nothing I can do but pray. I love Edith Schaeffer’s quote. I think maybe we are in one of those times of pouring our energies into our family. Thank you sweet friend.

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  15. How funny that the quote I have this week is so applicable to your post. God planned that perfectly. 🙂 Looks like a great book, Michele. I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for sharing. ((hug))

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  16. I’ve never been a ministry wife, but these still apply to every woman out there! We all need to be focused on pleasing God and living for Him while living before people. I know I need to remind myself to rest and take time to nurture myself in the midst of working so I don’t wear myself out. Thanks for your points and thoughts here. Sounds like a great book! God bless.

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    1. You are so right, Jessica. I have found so much of what Kay shares to be relevant to just being a women who goes to church every week (and raising a herd of rowdy kids within sight of the pews!).

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  17. The theme of this book is becoming prevalent (again) in the Christian world. I don’t know if it coincides with me finding my place in ministry or a maturity on my part or the current stage of my life. I’ve read many similar articles and books that highlight a women’s role in ministry and how it should not just be relegated to what our culture has determined women should do. So, many of her points are reinforcement for me and resonate with me.
    Thanks for this review. How did you start reviewing books?

    Stopping by from #NoMoreRules Linkup

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    1. Good question. It started with one author who offered to send a book to anyone who would review it on their blog. I think I heard about Baker Book Bloggers next, and I had to meet some minimum number of readers before I was eligible. I thought it would take forever. Most of the places I review for are on the left sidebar of my blog. If you are interested in reviewing books, you should check out their sites and their requirements. Let me know how it goes!

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  18. Michele, I always enjoy your book reviews. How do you have time to read all of these and share them so well? 🙂

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  19. It seems so very difficult to be a married couple in ministry. Our church pastors have zero privacy. The pastor’s wife (also our associate pastor) shared with me once some of the appalling questions congregants think it’s okay to ask her about her personal life. As a result, they wall themselves off a good bit. Which is tough because I really think we could be friends except for how I’m sort of her work product as part of her church.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to read and try to figure out some ways to care for our pastors.

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    1. Yes, and what you said about being a “work project” has to come into play with so many church relationships. Ministry wives can be very lonely if they don’t open up to REAL relationships.

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  20. I am so excited about this book Michelle – I have started it and can’t wait to finish it – I love your review and your insights – Kay has so many worthwhile things to share!

    I didn’t realize that she shares about her son’s suicide in this book – do you know what chapter that is in and does she go into the story in depth or is it more of a passing mention?

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    1. She writes about it retrospectively. Almost as if she assumes that the reader already knows it’s part of her story. And she definitely draws helpful conclusions. Happy reading!

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  21. Thanks for this review, Michele. Sounds like a good book! In a sense, I think every Christian woman is in ministry whether she is married to a minister, holds a paid position there, or, as in my case merely ministers in daily life, at church and elsewhere, for the Lord the best she can. So some or your quotes from the book really resonated with me, as well! I especially appreciate the quote about just doing the Lord’s will, despite what people might be saying against you. Having just experienced a hostile response to attempted kindness, I was struggling with that very issue today. Thank you for passing along this encouragement!

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  22. This sounds like another must-read! Especially the areas of self-care, and not trying to control the uncontrollable … areas I may or may not have some difficulties handling.

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  23. I was an assistant pastor’s wife for a very brief time (same husband just not a pastor at the moment), and I remember thinking, “I’m so not pastor’s wife material!” I felt like I wasn’t bubbly enough. So silly. Sounds like she has so many wonderful truths to share. Can’t imagine walking the road she’s walked.

    Thanks, Michele, for sharing your review at #LMMLinkup. 🙂

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  24. This is so good, Michele. I particularly appreciate these words as leader of Women’s Ministry in my church. Yes – I do need to be responsible for maintaining down time. Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

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    1. Hi, Aimee! As Kay has said so well, we should strive to “control the controllable.” In spite of the way it feels sometimes, time really is one of those things we can make choices with.

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  25. I love Kay Warren and this book seems to be filled with much with which we could all be encouraged. Her authenticity is courageous. I pray it helps other women embrace who they are, their story, and yet know when to put boundaries in place. I love getting the chance to stop by here, Michele! I’m always smiling by the time I leave ♥

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