Gayle Haggard on Embracing Life as a Pastor's Wife
- 2005 7 Mar
As the wife of a man involved in ministry, you sometimes may feel trapped by unrealistic expectations and overburdened by obligations. The constant demands on his time and yours–as well as the feeling that your life is always on display–can lead to discouragement and frustration.
But ministry life isn’t about enduring challenges, says author Gayle Haggard. It’s about embracing joy. After more than 20 years of working alongside husband Ted Haggard, she believes that women supporting their husbands in ministry truly can be free, happy and fulfilled as they recognize the value of their unique vocation.
Haggard has been married for 26 years to Ted, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. From the early days with just a few people meeting in their basement, through its growth into a megachurch of 11,000, Gayle has worked alongside her husband in building the ministry. Today she oversees New Life’s small-group ministry for women, which includes more than 100 small groups. She and Ted are the parents of five.
In her new book, A Life Embraced, Haggard leads wives of pastors and other ministry leaders to find strength in their dependence upon the Holy Spirit and to pursue intimacy in their relationship with God. Her insights, drawn from personal experience, will inspire and equip you to view your day-to-day responsibilities from a fresh, positive perspective. Read more in our recent interview.
Crosswalk: What adjustments did you personally have to make in order for your marriage and ministry to work? How did you find balance?
Haggard: I had to grow up and mature as we all do if we want our relationships and our lives to be successful. As a Christian, I sought the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to help me and I was not disappointed. God met me, spoke to me, and helped me as I sought Him. I learned to lean on Him and He so satisfied me that I felt increasingly free to love my husband and to participate with him in ministry and the life and calling God has given to us. I believe God delights in this type of relationship. It's his desire to make us whole and only He can do this. As we receive his ministry, we become less needy and self-focused, so life and ministry get a lot easier.
As far as finding balance goes, I think this occurs when our lives become whole and the various aspects of our lives – i.e. marriage, family life, personal ambitions, and ministry – are not fighting against each other. Ted and I believe we are called to give our lives to serve and encourage the body of Christ. Everything about our lives supports this, how we are at home and how we are at the church and in public. It doesn't mean that all we talk about at home is the church and that our children are involved in every church activity. It just means we recognize our purpose and are conscious of it in the way we live our lives. This is not burdensome! We love what God has called us to and it is not too heavy. His yoke truly is easy and his burden is light. We only get in trouble when we take on more than God has given us to do or try to take his place as the answer to everyone's problems. Instead, Ted and I try to identify specifically what God has given us to do in the body of Christ (which includes raising our children well) and we encourage others to do what God has given them to do. This keeps our load from being too heavy and brings real freedom and joy to ministry, partnerships and friendships. It also allows us to be home with our kids most evenings of the week, enjoying engaging discussions around our dinner table and growing as a family as we should. The joy and security within our family brings tremendous strength to our lives and ministry. That's what I call balance.
Crosswalk: Is it O.K. for a pastor's wife to simply be a mother to her children? How important is that role?
Haggard: Yes, it is O.K. for a pastor's wife to simply be a mother to her children. It is the second greatest service she can bring to her church; the first being loving her husband well. If this is all she does; this is enough and it in itself is very valuable to her church as well as to her husband and children. I believe that if she embraces this role and sees it as a valuable way to lead by example, she can have tremendous influence on the other women in her church for good. It is wisdom for women to respect the seasons of their lives, so they must invest in their children while they are with them and make them priority above any other service to the church. Even if God gifts her with other ministry abilities, she must recognize that her first and second God-given priorities are to serve her husband and children well. The church will benefit far more from her doing this than almost anything else she could do for them. Doing this season well will mature her and prepare her for other ministry if God should so lead her.
Crosswalk: There must be a lot of pressures and expectations on families committed to ministry. How can a wife and mother prioritize her time, knowing that she can't get to everything or everyone?
Haggard: It really helps to know we are not the answer to everyone's problems. Therefore, we should be proactive in pointing people, particularly in our churches, to the One who is. It is also helpful to recognize that we are part of a body made up of many members, so it shouldn't fall to any one of us to do everything. If we train our churches this way, it relieves us of being overburdened so we can focus on the part God has given us to do. It also sets others free to joyfully participate with us in ministry. This works really well in our church and keeps Ted and I from feeling pressured or overwhelmed with too much to do. I also believe prayer is key for receiving counsel from the Holy Spirit as to what our part is. He never gives us more than we can carry.
Crosswalk: How much influence does a wife have on her husband's ministry or work?
Haggard: She most definitely has influence and it is up to her whether that influence is positive or negative, whether she helps and encourages him or discourages him and weighs him down like excess baggage. How we see our husbands can have a powerful influence on how they see themselves. If we see them with eyes of love and respect and encourage them with our words, we can inspire them to be their best. That is what Abigail did for David (I Samuel 25). But if we see our husbands as disappointments and failures, as Michal saw David in II Samuel 6, then we might discourage them so much that they lose heart and fail. They might even despise us as a result. Instead, we need to discover how to be our husbands' greatest strength and encouragement, their help, and a resource for godly influence.
Crosswalk: Is A Life Embraced written just for pastors' wives, or does it also apply to women married to men involved in other ministries?
Haggard: I wrote A life Embraced for all wives married to men in ministry, but actually, I think it applies to all women. What the Scriptures say to wives of ministry leaders—that they "are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything" (I Timothy 3: 11)—should be the goals of all Christian women. The thing that sets us apart as wives of leaders is that we have the opportunity to model this for others. This is not a burden; it is an honor to be able to influence others and to help them through our lives as we mature in Christ.
I've even gotten some great feedback from the men who have read it. It basically describes my journey toward maturity in God and the things I've learned along the way. I think many of these lessons apply to all of us. This book reveals the principles that have brought both Ted and me tremendous freedom in our lives, in our marriage, and in ministry.
To purchase A Life Embraced by Gayle Haggard, visit Christianbook.com