Having recently returned from the Shepherds’ Wives Conference hosted by Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Illinois, I’ve had some time to ruminate on how such a gathering was absolutely essential and why I pray there’s another one to follow. I had the privilege of traveling there with two other dear sisters from my church and then meeting up with and rooming with my good friend, Jennifer Buck. The sweet fellowship to, from, and during the conference with these gals was in itself worth every penny, but what we all experienced together with the 300 women from around North America was priceless.
The fact is, behind each of the thousands of pastors and elders who are encouraged by the Shepherds Conference at Grace Community Church each year is likely a wife who is desperately hungry for the same experience. Here are 5 reasons why sending your shepherd’s wife away to sit under the teaching of and be encouraged by other godly women should be your goal for next year.
- Unlike pastors who sense a call, step out in obedience, and are trained and commissioned to serve in the church, a pastor’s wife rarely chooses that role. I’m not insinuating that such a role is not worth choosing. It truly is a most worthy pursuit. I’m just saying that it is a role we naturally come into by way of default. I fell in love with and married a youth pastor and therefore I became a pastor’s wife, whether or not I was equipped for the role. Because of this, many women feel unequal to the task they’ve been given. They need training and encouragement just as much as the husband they labor alongside.
- Being a shepherd’s wife can be a pressure-packed existence. There are biblical qualifications and standards to adhere to, which in themselves ought not be burdensome, but too often there are also church-cultural standards that are expected to be adhered to, and rarely are they ever met. A woman can feel very much alone in shouldering the weight of not meeting the expectations of a congregation. As quietly as the whispers might whirl, she can hear them and she very much knows if folks think she is not available enough, involved enough, dressed-up enough, hospitable enough, reverent enough, happy enough, serious enough, friendly enough, mature enough, or the myriad of other enoughs you’re aware of. Sadly, often the last person with which she will share those inadequacies, either real or perceived, is her own husband whom she doesn’t wish to burden with additional stresses.
- This feeling of inadequacy can lead to isolation, as can the natural relational boundaries that exist between church leaders and their flock. A shepherd’s wife may feel like she can never truly be herself with church members. It can thus be a very lonely existence. Added to this is all too often the compounding isolation resulting from past hurts. It’s not just the shepherd that gets bitten and betrayed by beloved members of his own flock. His wife bears the same wounds and because she’s not called upon to swallow the pain and stand up each Sunday and face those hurts head on, she often retreats and hides herself instead. The camaraderie experienced at an event full of women going through the same struggles as you are can be life saving.
- Shepherds’ wives need the gospel. Most entered ministry life at very young ages, possibly before actually being converted themselves. Subsequent years of strained relationships, pharisaical living, and isolation may have hardened her heart to the truth. Many women battle sins and deal with marriage issues that they are too ashamed to bring to church elders or other women for counsel and prayer. Where can they go? If they can’t talk to anyone at their church, and the church is their life to such an extent that outside bonds are practically non-existent, who can they talk to? Connections with other shepherds’ wives can be crucial in that regard, as can the simple act of sitting in total freedom from the usual pressures and hearing the gospel exalted, proclaimed, and modeled by other godly women.
- Finally, being a shepherd’s wife is worth it. The ministry of the gospel is a most noble task and to be a helper in that field is a high and humbling calling. Yes, it has very unique challenges and trials, but the reward of such a life is of eternal value. The Shepherds’ Wives Conference was an incredible reminder of the beauty a woman who is obedient to and fitted for the task can showcase and the integral role she plays in the local church and the building up of Christ’s kingdom. Surely that is worth sacrificing the few hundred dollars and few days away to grow in.
In conclusion, I have to acknowledge the stellar line-up of speakers who were chosen for this conference. Erin Coates, Susan Heck, Lisa Hughes, Martha Peace, and Naphtali Pillidge each brought a unique perspective and message that addressed very real issues in profoundly Biblical and practical ways. Southern View Chapel was remarkably warm and hospitable and if the Lord’s Day service we attended following the conference is any indication, they are as solid a church as they come. And finally, to the dear sisters I traveled with, roomed with, ate with, laughed with, cried with, worshiped with, learned with, repented with, prayed with, planned with, and hoped for a next time with, I love you all and cherish the special time we spent together. Till next year.