Last year God gave me a wonderful opportunity: He provided for me to go to the very first Leading & Loving It retreat for pastor’s wives & women in ministry. I was so excited! Then I began the process of registration…One of the first questions I had to answer (after giving my name & address, of course) was “church size.” The options listed were <500/500-1500/1500-5000/5000-10,000/>10,000. I almost backed out. Less than 500 is the smallest option?!? What about less than 100? ‘Cause that’s where I am! I immediately began to question whether or not I belonged at this retreat. But I was not too far removed from a very difficult time in ministry and REALLY wanted to get away and connect with other PW’s. So I continued with the registration. As the time for the retreat grew closer, I began to stress about fitting in and attempted to transform my wardrobe from podunk to posh with a budget of $15. But God had provided abundantly for me to be able to attend this retreat (and eat while I was there)! I was not going to let talk of designer heels and new makeup deter me from what promised to be a great source of spiritual refreshment! Leading & Loving It, here I come!
As I arrived in Nashville the voices in my head started raising concerns: What are you doing here? Do you really think anyone is going to notice you? You’ve got nothing to offer that these women don’t already have! They’re probably going to set you aside or ignore you or pity you because your church is so small and your ministry is so insignificant! You don’t have anything in common with these ladies from these big churches! What do they know about your life?
I shoved my insecurities in my frayed back pocket and marched into the ballroom of the beautiful Union Station- determined to make some real connections. I asked God to give me courage and to lead me to some ladies who had something in common with me. I ended up eating supper with a group of ladies from all over the country: Ohio, New York, West Virginia, California… all of whom came to the L&LI retreat alone. Instantly we connected and began to get to know one another. Over salads we began to share our lives: travel stories, parenting dilemmas, marriage joys, ministry struggles. Over an hour full of laughter and friendship passed before someone casually asked: What is your church like? As my new friends began to answer I began to squirm. They were all from really interesting and exciting ministries. The lady next to me answered the question by stating nonchalantly that she was from California and that her husband was the senior pastor of a church of over 8,000 members! I wanted to melt into the background. What am I doing here acting like I’m on the same level as these wonderful ladies? They’ve obviously got it together to come from such great churches. What’s gonna happen when they find out I don’t belong? Oh no. Everyone is looking at me. It must be my turn to answer that dreaded question. “I come from a half-traditional/half-contemporary church in rural Kentucky that was established over 150 years ago and runs about 75 people on a good Sunday,” I whispered apologetically. Then the lady next to me at the table, the one whose church has over 8,000 people of course, put her arm around me, looked me in the eye, and said “Wow! I admire you so much! I don’t see how you do it! You must really love God to devote your entire life to ministry like that! What an amazing person you are!” I did a double-take to see if she was being sarcastic or if she rolled her eyes after making such an outrageous comment… she didn’t! She made me feel so very good about my current situation that I spent the rest of the weekend looking for other ladies that I could encourage the way she had encouraged me!
Turns out even ladies who are in obviously successful ministries need encouragement. Even ladies who look fabulous in skinny jeans want to be told they’re pretty. Even PW’s from large, rockin’ churches with flashing lights and fog machines can enjoy the friendship of a PW from a tiny church who only recently introduced Chris Tomlin’s music to her congregation. They might not be fighting with their organist over the volume of the invitation song but they still deal with difficult people. We have much in common. Our outsides may be very different, but our insides are the same. We love God, we love our families, and we love our people… no matter how many or how few they may be.
Registration is now open for the next Leading & Loving It retreat in September. (Click here for more info) I encourage you to do everything you can to be a part of this encouraging get-away. I know money is an issue but start saving now! You need this time to be encouraged in your life and ministry, to connect with other PW’s around the world, and to discover that you are not alone! If you are a small church PW, don’t let insecurity about your own situation keep you from coming. Come knowing that we all have something in common: large or small, Gucci or Goodwill, rockin’ or country, Corona California or Spottsville Kentucky. We are all Leading & Loving It! Hope to see y’all there!