The Need for Coming Alongside Church Planting Spouses

I was in my twenties when my husband and I were first time church planters. Well, honestly, at that age we were first timers for just about everything! We were too young to realize how much help we would need, too ignorant to know where to look, and frankly, too proud to think we needed help in the first place. 

Our first experience with church planting was in Madrid, Spain. My days were filled with walking our daughter to and from school four times a day and lifting the stroller up and down subway stairs with a toddler strictly admonished to hold on to my coat. Laundry was hung from the line between apartment buildings. And our bible studies and prayer meetings didn’t start in our 800 square foot apartment until after 10 or 11pm. 

If Spain taught me anything, it was that we weren’t meant to walk this journey alone.  Our subsequent utter meltdown led us to encounter an understanding of the gospel that would throw out the window any “pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps” and “just-try-harder” approach to life and ministry. Years later, after returning to the States, we were approached about church planting again. This time it was with new eyes and a new heart.

We found amazing resources. We discovered World Harvest’s Sonship material and we devoured everything we could get our hands on by Tim Keller. Along with great reading material, my husband found peers and older men who mentored him. However, finding resources for me was a more difficult issue. Where could I get help to live and minister from a gospel understanding as a church planter’s and pastor’s wife?  

I knew loving my husband and children took priority over extending myself in ministry to others.  I knew prayer was key. I knew Christ’s finished work on the cross gave me a righteous verdict. Thus I didn’t need to frantically add my own works to his as I’m so tempted to do. But I didn’t know how this new comprehension would apply to the many decisions that would need to be made when planting a church. How would I discern when and how to say yes and no? Could a gospel understanding impact the amount of responsibilities I took on? Even if it did, how much choice did I have?  

When we first started the church, there wasn’t anyone else but our family. As our church grew, I wasn’t prepared for women wanting a relationship with me just because I was the pastor’s wife. I wasn’t aware how my involvement in leadership was impacting our launch team and eventually hired staff. 

I’m incredibly thankful for wise women who prayed with me during those years. However, both my husband and I desperately needed coaches. I needed a woman who didn’t have my husband for her pastor. It needed to be someone who I knew saw his dignity and wouldn’t be surprised by his depravity. 

My desperation took me to our denomination’s director of church planting. Coaching was new to the church planting world then, and at the time, there was nothing for the wife. Thankfully, the director, too, was aware of many women who were struggling— isolated and without help. He was a wise man and recognized a calling in the making. He challenged me to develop a coaching system for church planting wives. This led to the creation of Parakaleo, an organization devoted to coming alongside church planting spouses. 

In the process of starting Parakaleo, I discovered I wasn’t alone— other women were also placing the burden on their husbands of what they needed to know about church planting, along with their worries about the children and the church. Without others speaking into their lives, this was placing a tremendous stress on the marriage. In my next blog post, I’ll share the specifics of how Parakaleo comes alongside and provides coaches and support for church planting spouses.