Let’s be honest. Sundays are not a day of rest for a pastor’s wife.
Just getting kids out the door looking presentable can be a monumental task. Then you have the job of overseeing them once you arrive at church while greeting people, having conversations with friends, meeting visitors, participating in worship, and listening to the sermon. Sundays are often our busiest day of the week.
I will admit there have been Sundays when I lay in bed an extra moment, gearing up for the day to come and wondering how I ended up as a pastor’s wife. When I think about what I need to do – teach Children’s Church, talk to so and so, practice with the choir – it’s difficult to not view the coming hours as a series of tasks to check off. And I’m certainly not practicing the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
If I could hear a recording of my own voice, most Sundays would sound like this, on repeat: ‘Don’t run. Say hello. Shake his hand. Listen to your teachers. Stop running. Please sit still. Ssh. I’m hungry too, we’ll have lunch soon. You need to share that toy. Please stop running!’
Striking the Right Balance Between Work and Worship
Have you ever considered that God doesn’t want us to be frantic while we head to worship Him? The Lord God doesn’t want us so focused on doing other things that we forget Who we worship. When a pastor family’s busiest day is also supposed to be restful and worshipful, how do we strike the right balance?
I’ve noticed that my attitude and general calmness or anxiety play a great deal into how my kids respond to things. If I’m in chaos and upset about something on Sunday morning, my kids seem to feed off my tension. When my to-do list crowds my mind, I find it impossible to have a heart for worship. So before all the bustle of Sunday morning, I need to take time to prepare my mind and heart for the day to come. In order to make Sundays run smoothly, we begin preparing on Saturday evening.
Our Sunday starts on Saturday night. We intentionally don’t schedule things from dinner and beyond on Saturday nights. There have been a few exceptions – like watching fireworks when July 4 fell on a Saturday – but we strive to stay at home and keep the evening low key.
I ask the kids before bed on Saturday what they are wearing to church. There’s something about Sunday morning that seems to make getting up more difficult. My kids are not early risers any day of the week so the fewer decisions we need to make in the morning the better. We hang their clothes on dresser knobs so once breakfast is done, we all know who’s wearing what and where it is.
I meal plan for Sunday lunch Saturday evening. This has been one of the biggest struggles for me. After church – and we’re usually the last ones out the door – everyone is starving and cranky. No one wants to wait for me to decide on and make a meal. So, again, on Saturday I decide what we’re having for lunch the next day and do any prep (thaw meat, make a salad, etc.). I’ve even made a casserole or soup on Saturday that can be heated up quickly for Sunday lunch. The goal is to think ahead.
Every year I think of a word or phrase to focus my Bible memory on. This year my theme is quiet my heart. I wrote out a whole list of verses about rest and waiting and peace. I have them at my desk where I see them everyday and can recite a few lines to myself when I feel the chaos crowding in. On Saturday night, I try to choose one of those verses to dwell on while I get ready for bed. I pray for good rest and an attitude ready to serve and learn and grow. I prepare my heart for what is to come on Sunday. Psalm 62:5 has been especially meaningful during this year.
It’s also important for me to be realistic with what I can and can’t do on a Sunday. In the stage of life, I’m in with three young children, I have had to step back and delegate some things to others in our congregation. If I find my tasks for Sunday crowding out any chances for fellowship or robbing my joy in worshiping with my family, I’m doing too much. What a pastor’s wife ‘needs’ to do on a Sunday varies depending on the size of the church, the number of people available to help, and the programs offered. But I believe it’s safe to assume your fellow Christians don’t want you to be overextended and they will step up to help if you ask, even if it’s just for a brief tough season.
I have learned it is often best to include my children (once they are old enough) into my Sunday ministries. I strongly believe that a family that serves together is happier. Part of how my husband and I are raising our children is to help them appreciate and enjoy Sundays as opportunities to gather with others for God’s glory. That often includes serving others. I’ve watched my kids drag their feet as we go to church yet again but then when given a task and asked to contribute, they return to that same building the next week with energy and excitement. When my kids are chomping at the bit to head to church, it makes the morning go so much smoother. I have them stand at the door to greet people with us or ask them to walk a visiting child to children’s church. As they get older, we will encourage them to help out in the nursery or children’s program. At home talk about what they learned and who they spoke with. Don’t spring Sundays on them the morning of. Give them a reason to look forward to the day and speak of it with anticipation yourself. We have an unofficial countdown at our house. After school on Friday, we talk about what we’re doing Saturday, and my kids will usually end with, “And then we get to go to church because it’s Sunday!”
It gives me joy to watch my children sing with everyone during the service, carefully place their coins in the offering plate, and try to follow along in their Bibles while a passage is read. Even when things don’t go perfectly, these glimpses remind me that everyone can worship, everyone is called to worship, and my most important role as a pastor’s wife is to encourage that joy and awe for God in my own children.
Proverbs 12:20 says, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” I doubt any of us devise evil for our Sundays but are we taking steps to plan for peace or just hoping to survive the day? As a pastor’s wife, it’s easy to go through the motions of church and to believe that just arriving with clothed and fed children is the victory. I’ve learned from experience that preparing in advance goes a long way towards allowing each member of my family to enjoy church as we get to worship with our church family. Taking steps to prepare for the day and prevent struggles from arising not only makes the day easier, but also allows me to fully worship with a heart ready to serve.