There are easily one million expectations for a pastor’s wife. In other posts, I’ve talked about some of these and how it isn’t our actual duty to fulfill those for people. But one that does seem like a non-negotiable when it comes to the church is socializing.
For many of us, this seems obvious and we think, “Sure, but isn’t that the best part?” If you’re wired like I am, the idea of socializing with people you need to be constantly “on” for sounds exhausting. If you haven’t guessed, I fall under the category of “introvert”. Actually, I don’t fall there, I’m happily nested there with a cozy blanket, cup of tea, and a good book.
A Range of Introversion
If you spend much time taking social media quizzes, you will undoubtedly know there are several types of introverts. What they all have in common is that introverts recharge with quality, alone time. As an outgoing introvert, I am comfortable meeting new people and giving presentations but socializing at length exhausts me. When socially exhausted the filter that helps me act like a “normal” person withers and I start rambling gibberish about Star Trek and why fuzzy socks are underrated. Truly, I haven’t had too much wine, I am just done people-ing.
I’m making light, but on the scale of introverts there are those who experience real social anxiety–who require a whole set of coping strategies to set foot out the door of their home each day. Yet God has called some who fall into this category to be the wife of a pastor. Not only do they get to be expert at supporting their spouse in ministry and life, but they also must regularly interact with expectant strangers when the idea of that makes them literally shudder.
I think any of us in ministry knows, the flock of people God called our husbands to do need to cross paths with our lives at some point. Whether that be a dinner invitation at their house, at our own house, a counseling session, or small talk before and after church, we don’t get to just be a supportive face in the congregation and then evaporate into thin air when the service is over. We get to not only be muddy in the mire of ministry but also spend time with the actual people in that mire.
So how do you navigate your introversion when you’re married to a shepherd who must know and love his flock when sometimes that act requires you and your family? In this first of two posts, we’ll cover some practical ways you can do this well.
Talk to Your Husband
Communication around a tricky subject is always a great idea. There can be no hope of shalom in relationship if you don’t clearly express your expectations. Regardless of how well your husband seems to “get” you, chances are if he isn’t an introvert, he won’t 100 percent get it. Talk about the things that are hard for you, what you need to “be ready” to engage well, and why this particular connection is important to him. Context makes all the difference in expectations and in supporting each other faithfully.
In the same vein, discuss wise boundaries. There has to be time reserved only for the pastor and his wife and children beyond just sleep. Which days and times are “off limits” other than a real emergency or amazing opportunity you both agree is worth rearranging the schedule for?
Offer to set the social calendar for your family to help you navigate when and how you engage with people. Set a plan between the two of you for frequency of get-togethers each month and in that same rhythm, plan your personal down time. For example, if you have dinner plans for Thursday evening, keep the afternoon clear of other social commitments.
Plan for Spontaneity
When scheduling down time, include it in your day-to-day, even if you don’t have a planned event. Sometimes random social invitations pop up and often, those end up being the most fruitful to participate in. While the idea of an unplanned event can sound nightmarish, your preparation in planned down time allows you to more easily mentally accommodate the unexpected.
These practical strategies are not law. You may have strategies of your own that work well for you, but maybe you aren’t accustomed to the ministry ups and downs of people and their desire to spend time with your husband, and consequently your family.
In the next post we’ll leave the practical behind and look toward the Gospel, where our true hope and rest is found, and is what is at the heart of the work we do in ministry.