The first staff wives retreat I attended came very early on in my 26 years of marriage and ministry with Clay. I’ll be honest: at the time, I did not think it was all that great. My biggest takeaway from the weekend came when my then pastor’s wife told me, “I will never get close to another church member again. I did that once, and I got burned.” I was young. She was seasoned. I respected and valued the wisdom and experience she had. And her outlook was troubling to me. I recognized the line I would walk in relationships as the wife of a minister. I also knew friendship was something I would need.
Then, there was the time we were on staff at another church and we wives drove five hours to attend a retreat together.... three hours later, we got back in the van and drove back home. My husband had been taken to the ER with severe back spasms. Those sweet ministry wives drove the whole way and let me sleep so that I could tend to Clay and the kids when I got back home in the wee hours of the night. They also prayed for him. Out loud. While we were driving.
I had the privilege of attending another retreat with a different group of wives, not long after Clay came on staff at a new church. The retreat had a spa theme, and during free time we sat down together for makeovers. The beauty technician noted my fair skin and suggested I use the lightest color foundation; then she told us to each use one application. I took her quite literally, and by the time I was finished with that one application, I very much resembled Boo Radley. In no time at all, my thick pasty white foundation face had the other staff wives from my church in tears. I did not care one bit that their laughter was at my expense. It was, to me, the moment we became friends.
That’s an important thing, no matter who you’re married to or if you are even married at all. But for women whose husbands are in ministry, deep friendships can be a little bit more difficult to come by sometimes.
That’s why when a pastor’s wife who had attended another Platform 320 retreat suggested we plan one for ministry wives, I thought it was great idea. Stellar, even. But, in case you need more convincing, here are seven equally compelling reasons ministry wives need to retreat together.
- You are misunderstood. Let’s face it. You are part of a unique people group. As much as I disagreed with her assessment about what to do after being burned in a friendship, I could understand where that pastor’s wife was coming from. So can every ministry wife, because we get it. We experience certain specific-to-us struggles that are difficult for others to understand.
- You do not have to be “on.” If you want to skip a session to take in the beautiful scenery, swim in the indoor pool, or take a nap in your room, no one will judge you or wonder why. And if you want to put your hair up and wear sweats and your favorite t-shirt all weekend, we won’t care.
- You also do not have to be in charge… of anything. The speakers are secured, the worship team is set, the activities are scheduled, the meals are planned. And if any part of that unexpectedly goes wonky, it’s not your problem to fix.
- It makes church members happy. People usually can come up with some ways to thank their pastors. But it’s sort of an awkward endeavor to thank the pastor’s wife and family. A retreat, though, gives church members the opportunity to invest in you as a show of thanks for the way you so faithfully invest in them. If it’s not a budgeted item to send staff wives away for a weekend, it’s a great gift idea - The Getaway just so happens to take place during pastor and staff appreciation month.
- It only takes a spark to get a fire going… and when it does, you get to eat a s’more.
- Different is good. It is never a bad thing to engage in worship with other believers in a new setting with different speakers and worship leaders. Sometimes participating in such a thing sends us home with full hearts and a fresh desire to serve the Lord and the people He calls us to.
- You’re on a team. Recently, someone at church told me they love seeing how much our staff wives seem to genuinely like each other. That does not happen in every church, and it doesn’t happen by accident, either. It takes intentionality. Sometimes it is birthed with unexpected laughter over a makeover gone wrong. Other times it happens in a really long, late night road trip. But it can never happen if we don’t intentionally set aside the time to spend connecting in new and deeper ways.
Cynthia Hopkins is a minister’s wife from First Baptist Church College Station.