Hope in Ministry Transition

As a little girl I often remember being asked what I would like to be when I grow up. I know my response ranged from being a nurse to a teacher. As time went along, I realized God had a different plan for me. I don’t think a pastor’s wife was something I ever really thought about when I was little. Even when I attended Bible college, I remember being kind of surprised when I met a young lady who said she wanted to be a pastor’s wife. Her hope was to marry someone who was a pastor. I knew I wanted to serve God and if I happened to meet someone who was going in that direction then I would be happy to serve in that capacity alongside him. But I never sought out or aspired to be a pastor’s wife, and yet as it happened, my husband did end up going into pastoral ministry at the beginning of our marriage. As I look back now I see how quickly that identity took hold of me.

After six years serving in our first church, we realized it was time to move on. We had some personal family issues that needed to be addressed. It was five years before I would find myself in the role again as a pastor’s wife. This time I was a little more aware of life as the spouse of someone in pastoral ministry and tried to be mindful of the things I had learned previously. I loved supporting my husband in that role when I could, but I also see now it took over my identity more than I realized. Looking back, it was important to me to be known in that role. It was more important at that time than I was aware, honestly. I am pretty sure the expectations I put upon myself, or even the perceived expectations of others, made the value of the role more important than what I was doing.

After four years as a family pastor at that church, my husband felt God was leading him out of that ministry and into hospice/hospital chaplain. After my husband transitioned into his new job, I found myself in the middle of an identity crisis. This transition was much harder for me than the one in earlier years.

As I have tried to look back on that time and process it all, I believe there were several factors causing it to be so difficult. The biggest one was where I had placed my identity and value. I was no longer the pastor’s wife; I no longer had a role in what my husband did because of the nature of his new job. I was not working with him or able to be involved in his daily ministry. And sadly, most importantly, who was I now when I met new people at church?  It left me feeling quite bewildered. I needed to grieve the loss of ministry that I also enjoyed being part of with him. Yet there was also a deeper issue that needed to be addressed. My value has nothing to do with being a pastor’s wife. It is in my identity as a child of God.

I am grateful that I can share this with you, because I know so many of you dear ladies pour absolutely everything you have into helping, serving, and fulfilling your position as a pastor’s wife. But at the end of the day it is a role; it’s not who we are or where our value comes from and if we have the wrong view of what we are doing, then when things change quickly, unexpectedly or even by choice, you may find yourself, too, in the middle of an identity storm.

We need to make sure we understand where our true value is –  who we are in Christ and not what we do, because when that changes, we will have a very hard time. I also realize the importance of understanding this truth while you are serving, because I know it will totally affect your perspective. Remember, how we connect with others, in church or outside of church, should absolutely not be related to being the pastor’s wife, but because we are a sister in Christ who wants to love and serve others well with or without a title.

It has been a journey for me, but as I wrestled through it and gave it over to God, I think the biggest help for me was knowing that I am known by God. I don’t need to be known by my role or ministry.

I am about four years into this new season and while transitions are never easy, even good ones, there can always be hope because of Christ and the power of the gospel working in and through our lives. He is faithful. When I look back, I see how I have had to change the lens I was looking through. I love the following verse because as Christ followers this is what all of us are commanded to do no matter the role we play in ministry.

”For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

We are supposed to live this way no matter our role. It will help us be more obedient in all of our transitions knowing that we are living out of the fullness of whom we are in Christ. It will also take away the fear of not being loved or known because of our role or how or where we serve. 

My hope is in the freedom of knowing my identity in Christ. I will find joy and hope in wherever I am and how I am serving and reaching others for the glory of Christ.

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About Jayne Gautreau

Jayne currently lives in Sutherlin, Oregon with her husband Sabin and three sons. Jayne grew up in Northern Ireland, but met her husband at Moody Bible institute when she was there for a year as an exchange student from Belfast Bible College. Her husband has served as a pastor in church pastoral ministry for over ten years but currently works as a hospice/hospital chaplain for a local hospital. Jayne has a passion to support and encourage moms who have children with special needs since this is also part of her journey. Jayne currently home-schools her youngest and supports her older two boys in distance learning. She also helps with kids ministry in their local church. She is grateful to live close to the Oregon coast as that is her favorite way to rest and restore.