Editor’s Note: This article was written by Nikki Strother, wife of Executive Director, Dr. Ryan Strother. 

 

We all know ministry life is hard and marriage is hard so combining those two can be extra complicated. These are my personal reflections of a few things that I wish we could have tweaked earlier in our ministry years so that we could have been an even stronger team. All the years we served were blessings so I don’t mean to take away the important Kingdom work that was done during our time when Ryan served as a pastor. He served as a lead pastor in his last position for 12 years and as a youth pastor for 3 years at one church and 3 years at another church. Do the math on that and you’ll see that being in ministry is just what Ryan has always done. We started dating when we were 15 so it’s basically all I’ve known for a long time as well. When he took on the role of Executive Director, all that we had known and done for so long suddenly shifted and I was left with a season of grieving and evaluating all those years of service. I wished that during those years I could have communicated my needs more clearly to Ryan. So I write this in hopes that you can communicate well with your husband if you feel similarly in order to strengthen your marriage and your ministry!

I wish that Ryan and I could have had more connection on Sunday mornings. He always got up before me on Sunday morning and got to church early to practice with the worship team. I love that he uses his musical talents to lead worship, but that left me at home to wake, feed, dress, and get our five children in the van and to church in a presentable manner. That alone could lead a person to feel crazy. For the 12 years we served in our church, I taught preschool Sunday School and volunteered on the children’s church rotation. I’m guessing this sounds familiar to many of you in whatever way you serve. Ryan was teaching a Sunday School class as well, so I rarely crossed paths with him. During the service, he was in front with the worship team and preaching—all with the best intentions and using his gifts well. After the service, there was the gathering of children and small talk with church members. One night after Ryan had left that pastorate, I said to him, “I wish you had looked at me more at church.” I didn’t mean this romantically. Just simple looks, smiles, and hand squeezes to know that he noticed me and that we were in this together. I was one hundred percent in for serving the church and sharing Jesus well with the people there. I just felt lonely some days and would have liked more small connections with him because he brings me comfort and calms my crazy.  

I wish that he would have given me a heads-up when he planned to use a story from our lives in his sermon. I didn’t mind at all that he shared cute stories about our kids or funny moments from when we were dating. I actually felt honored and special, and I knew how much the congregation enjoyed getting to know us more personally through those stories. I just wished I knew they were coming because the moments leading up to the story when I could tell he was heading into something personal, would leave my heart racing and my mind spinning as to which story he was about to tell or which parts he was going to include. Preparing my mind would have been great, but I truly could have benefitted from preparing my face so that I could have properly and respectfully respond! I have never been good at my face not showing exactly what my head is thinking, so a heads up could have saved me from feeling like I didn’t respond to the moment in a mature way like I would have wanted.  

I wish Ryan would have pursued friendships more so that I felt more comfortable doing the same. It took me years to learn that it was ok for me to have friends. Friends that I truly connected with. I always struggled with not wanting to show favoritism to anyone or wanting anyone’s feelings to be hurt if they didn’t feel included. Both of those things are important and should be considered as a church leader, but we all need friends who are just there for us— a normal person, not a pastor’s wife. I think if Ryan had sought out friendships with other men or a couple for us to hang out with together,  I would have felt more at ease to seek out those relationships that are just for fun, just to relax, and just to eat good food with. Plus, he would have actually liked it!  

I wish that Ryan could have let me know when he was facing hard situations at church without giving me confidential details. Pastors see the ugly side of people and have to counsel people through really weighty situations. I never wanted to break the confidentiality he needed with church members or with the elders, but I would have liked to know if he had had a particularly hard day. Maybe a secret code word for “Today was extra hard” rather than internalizing and trying to just be strong on his own. I want to be strong for my husband. I wanted to support him, but I couldn’t because I didn’t know he was struggling. As a person who processes my emotions outwardly, I felt like I was always sharing my struggles. When he didn’t give any sign of hardship, it felt like I was a weak and whiny Christian. Sharing struggles brings people closer and deepens marriages. Strong marriages make strong church leaders.  

Some of these situations could have been easily changed if I had paused to think about what I would have liked to be different in the ministry part of our lives. I hope that you will take a few minutes to be reflective and consider what small details you could ask your husband to think about so that you two can serve even better together. Let’s be proactive today so we don’t look back years from now with a list of things we wished our pastor husbands would have done differently!