Even if you’re not someone who sets formal goals for the New Year, you probably just naturally resolved to get your act together this year. I always encourage pastors’ wives to set boundaries in their lives, and with January it’s a good time to analyze if we seem to be accepting more responsibility than we should. More responsibility than God expects of us.
I am privileged to be a part of a new program for pastors’ wives to roll out this year. It is a mentoring program under the auspices of Breathe Ministry [www.BreatheMinistry.com]. The program is called Admonish, and is patterned after Titus 2:4 (KJV). “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children…”
I am so excited about it. I learned something during the training that I wish to share here. Dayna Garver, creator of Breathe explained to us the differences between being a mentor, a counselor, and a life coach. Knowing the distinctions is very important, not just for those of us who will be mentoring, but more importantly for those of us in ministry. We need to be aware of where the limits are on our ability to help others; we need to place boundaries that keep us from trying to help when professional help is necesssary for someone we know.
A counselor is someone who has been trained and licensed to help people deal with trauma from their present or past to gain healing.
A life coach is someone who is trained and licensed to deal with someone’s present to help them navigate their future.
A mentor, however, is someone who comes alongside another to help them grow in Christ, by showing them the way.
Mentoring is definitely what we are called to do. And when women approach us with more serious problems about hurts and wounds they carry, we need to encourage them to seek professional help. We walk alongside them as they gain the help they need, to demonstrate friendship, but we do not try to heal them ourselves. When someone wants to talk about their dreams and their future, we encourage them and share their vision, but if they are having problems knowing what steps they need to take and how they should be structured to reach their goals, we need to encourage them to seek out a life coach.
Fullfilling what God has called us to be – mentors — is what will satisfy and not frustrate us.
What am I doing borrowing a title of a movie I’ve never seen? I did a quick search on the summary before keeping the title because a girl trying to adjust to a new school — the cliques, the unspoken rules and the tricks paid by her peers — is really appropriate for a pastor’s wife trying to adjust to a new church.
There you are on candidate Sunday, smiling until you’re sure you’ll never get the crease out of your face. Everyone, you included, is on their best behavior. They all laugh and joke with each other, nary a cloud in any relationship surfaces, no hint of politics churning beneath the calm sea of Sunday morning. Whatta gift! You’ve visited the perfect church of perfect people and you can’t wait to move and minister.
THEN it’s six months later and you’re wondering where the people you met that Sunday are now. You have been subjected to intense pressure to join a side. The people not in power with the previous pastor see an opportunity to seize a bit with the new pastor for themselves. Invitations to dinner aren’t just an invitation to a meal, it’s a campaign. You’ll hear everything that was wrong with the previous administration and the way we would do it from your hosts.
Why on earth would I write a post about something this ridiculous? Because it happens and you need to be pre-warned before you mistake friendliness as only good will. Let’s take the dinner invitation for example. Who doesn’t want to be gracious and friendly to your host for the evening? However, you must guard your response or they will take it as capitulation, and two days later your husband will ask why you had agreed that having a daycare in the facility is a great idea.
Maybe it’s as Charles Issawi said, “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” [Issawi’s Laws of Social Motion]. And so are the politics of a church. Members will fight just as doggedly about their perceived ideals — Whether church begins at nine a.m. or ten…whether there will be a Sunday night service or not…whether the women’s group is passé and needs to be dropped from the roster. All of it will be hotly contested and each side will want your approval.
Much angst can be avoided if you will take time. Don’t make close friends or offer opinions on controversial issues until you’ve been in your new church at least six months. I’m not talking about the running of the church as that is your husband’s administration. You should always direct any questions addressed to you by saying, “I don’t have any information on that, you’ll need to ask my husband.”
I’m talking about friendships. Everyone will want to be your friend, just take your time before you reciprocate anything beyond friendliness. You do not want to spend your years regretting who you let get close and sway your opinions before you’ve given yourself time to sort them out.