Ministering to a pastoral couple is a bit challenging, but greatly needed. Although a pastoral couple is primarily called to the needs of others, they also need ministry. They too have felt needs. It is said that no one is above needing ministry. Like most ministers in certain fields, pastors and their wives are a unique category. Not only do they do life as a couple, parents, and members of an extended family, they also have the care of all of their constituents/members/congregation.
The temptation is to get “lost” in everyone else’s lives. Peoples’ “demands” can override the pastoral home. Meaning … when people are in the midst of crisis or exciting events, they only think of themselves—their here and now.
Some people never realize the pressures, stress, and so forth, that exists within the pastoral home/relationship. It is difficult and often unwise for a pastoral couple to talk about issues with others. For many, it has caused greater harm, because when people get upset with the pastoral couple they tell what they know; if they want them to leave, then they will be pressured with ultimatums or blackmailed.
How does one minister to those in the pastoral home? Simply by prayer, leadership of the Holy Spirit, being present for/with them, and building relationships with them. It takes people who understand, trust, and have created a “safe place” with full assurance that whatever is shared is confidential. Listening is key. Letting them share openly and honestly the good, the bad, and the ugly. Pray for them, encourage them in the Word, remind them God has not forgotten them and knows right where they are. Their labor is not in vain!
Many times, I have found just being present and listening to the pastoral couple/family really ministers to them. Those in the same shoes know best how to minister to those in like-minded professions. I have had the experience of sitting with pastoral families and listening to their stories, experiences, and life. As they re-count their calling, meeting of spouses, children’s births, etc., there seems to be a reviving of purpose. For some, it is a reminding of Who called them and that they can carry on. One time, we did a Christmas lunch for some of the pastoral couples in Zambia. For many, “dating” their spouse is non-existent. It was so sweet to see the couples of all ages and years of marriage sitting together for a meal. Each was given a red rose. For most, it was their first date. Marriage traditions are different here than in the West.
Simple reminders of the greatest love ever is God’s love for us. This can be so renewing, refreshing, reviving, and refocusing. In ministering to the pastoral family, it really requires prayer, understanding, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and His presence.
-Teresa Kimbrell is a career missionary working in Zambia, Africa.