The blogosphere is a neat place. You can get connected to people through Internet channels in ways you probably wouldn’t in traditional, physical spaces. In the past year or so, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Kathy Ferguson Litton.
Kathy gave us some helpful advice as we were in the developmental stages of The Gospel Project. She’s passionate about discipleship. You may recognize her husband, Ed, pastor of First Baptist North Mobile. He was in the movie Courageous as the pastor who preaches a funeral and counsels a grieving family).
Kathy serves at the North American Mission Board as the National Director of Ministry to Pastors’ Wives. She has established a new website called “Flourish” for ministry wives. Or follow her ministry on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve asked Kathy to tell us more about the online community she is developing.
Trevin Wax: You’ve obviously got a heart for ministry wives. Where did this come from?
Kathy Litton: Trevin, I might have answered this differently ten or fifteen years ago. Recently, I have arrived at two observations that drive my heart in this ministry.
The first one is simply pragmatic and practical. Perhaps some would consider this as unspiritual. The aim in ministry is to advance the gospel. If ministry were to be viewed as an industry, which it clearly isn’t, yet if it were, we would see ministry wives as personnel to advance the gospel. She is uniquely and vitally connected to his calling.
Yet most ministry wives receive little encouragement, have lacked training opportunities, and been under-supported. No company or organization would want 50 percent of their personnel overlooked in this way. The church should not as well.
She is the key to her husband’s health as a leader. It is imperative we recognize her needs and quickly build avenues of support.
The second observation is revisiting the name God assigned to women in the garden. Genesis 2:18 introduces the specific, descriptive name “Ezer,” which means ”helper.” On the surface this word does not suggest strength or power. Yet it is used nearly twenty times in the Old Testament to refer to God, most often in military contexts as He defended, helped, delivered, and protected the nation of Israel. God serves as a clear, colorful illustration of “ezer.”
Like God’s example of “help,” wives can be their man’s greatest ally. We share his mission. We fill his gaps. We can bring him vital provisions in battle.
Ministry wives are not more greatly bound to this role than any other wife, yet when we apply this concept to the calling to advance the gospel, it is significant.
I long to see wives become the “helpers” we are called to be.
Trevin Wax: What are some of the challenges of being a ministry wife?
Kathy Litton: Being married to a man in ministry automatically places her inside his career. He doesn’t commute off to forty hours in a distant world. She lives IN his work-world. She has the greatest potential to add or diminish value to his world.
Yet this role is undefined for her. No templates exist. Every church and every person she serves has a different set of expectations of her. The words “the perfect pastor’s wife” ring in our hearts. Yet there is NO perfect pastor’s wife, and down deep we know it. Expectations, others and ours, make this a slippery slope.
Finding our way through “wearing” the role is a personally unique process. None of us do this the same way. We work it out in a public venue that creates opportunity for hurts to be incurred.
Trevin Wax: What can help a pastor’s wife reach her full potential in ministry?
Kathy Litton: I see three big issues that could help wives immensely.
Because of the unique nature of spiritual leadership, a wife may feel isolated and lonely far more than most ever realize. While people surround her, she feels isolated. Finding community and transparency that create a healthy environment to foster personal spiritual growth is very challenging. Without this we are prone to hide behind masks of pretending and performing, which is our dangerous default. She needs a safe place for her soul to grow and be healthy.
We long for understanding. While our lives are not bitter, they are different. Daily we engage a lifestyle and culture few understand—and yet many have opinions about. We are refreshed and recharged by sharing with women who walk in our shoes whether they are Teva’s or heels. We need to be sharpened by one another. Yet those opportunities are far too rare.
Our training has unfortunately been “learn as you go,” but we must do better. We need help that emphasizes competency and equipping, help for our daily realities. We need some “been there, done that” relationships. We long for mentoring from those trekking ahead of us. Far too many are on their ministry journey with no tools and no place to find them.
We could ward off much burnout and collapse if these above features were more available to us.
Trevin Wax: What do you notice in this generation of ministry wives?
Kathy Litton: My heart naturally gravitates toward church planters’ wives. Years spent in Denver actively involved with church planting beside my former husband, Rick, has fueled that passion.
This generation fosters radical commitment such as I saw rarely in my generation. Their willingness to do hard things and incur personal sacrifice is bold. They are not merely looking for survival as ministry wives. They are proactive. Many embrace life as ministry wives with great passion and intensity.
Recently, a young evangelical female leader made this statement concerning her generation:
“We want to be women of vision, women who use our minds, our educations, and our time to change the world. This requires more than a Christian self-help book or a pep-talk style devotion at the beginning of each day. It requires leaders and teachers who can challenge us to think critically about our culture and what is going on in the world, as well as engaging Scripture in an active way, and living it out radically.”
I recognize these traits in this generation of ministry wives. It is time to step up ministry to them that matches their passion. To penetrate lostness in North America, we are dropping them down into difficult fields to advance the gospel. We cannot fail them.
Trevin Wax: How is the new site, Flourish, designed to encourage and equip ministry wives?
Kathy Litton: Our tag line describes us as “An equipping community for ministry wives.”
We want Flourish to be a community of understanding we long for. “We get you” is a phrase we use often, as the Flourish team is comprised of ministry wives. With honesty and transparency, we want to address the realities of ministry life.
This is a new landscape, and we are figuring this out. We want to find and nurture ministry wives who are innovative, fresh thinkers to serve as our resources.
With their help we will post insightful blog posts, book recommendations, downloadable resources in print, audio, and video, and the telling of ministry wives’ stories from across the country.
As the site develops, we anticipate using the platform to form local or virtual groups. Soon we hope to provide an online conference for relevant training that can be viewed at home at no cost.
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