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There are many ways to make Mr. Minister feel appreciated during this Minister Appreciation Month, but if you really want to touch his heart, befriend his missus.

“I’d love to,” you say, “but I don’t know how!  She’s just so…”  Fill in the blank.

Whatever word you chose, I assure you there are ways to get around that barrier.

My husband Todd and I have been in ministry together for over twenty-five years. We served in three local churches before he began denominational work ten years ago, and as much as I’d like to say I was the same person in all of those settings, that would probably be a lie.

Of course, I knew all along I was called by God to impact the Kingdom as helpmate to my husband. However, I wasn’t always sure what that was supposed to look like, and the capacity and manner in which I was able to serve varied according to age, life stage, and church dynamic.

Sometimes I felt confident and empowered. Other times, I felt insecure and helpless.

Sometimes I felt strong and productive. Other times, I felt fragile and stymied.

Sometimes I had lots of leftover love to lavish, and other times I was too busy licking my own wounds to notice anyone else’s.

In short, I was just like everyone else.

God was always strong, of course, and I trust that He was able to work through my obedience and in spite of my weaknesses at every age and stage.  However, I know all too well what some people expect from the families of those in vocational ministry and how unrealistic those expectations can be sometimes, so I cringe to think how folks may have finished the sentence above in reference to me.

This being true, I am extra thankful for those who took on the challenge of befriending the minister’s wife.

Want to do the same?  Here’s how:

Examine your motives 

Why do you want to be her friend? What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? Odds are, she’ll be wondering these same things, as most minister’s wives have been burned at some point, so if your answers are self-serving, you’d probably better wait until they aren’t.

Set aside preconceived ideas 

There are as many opinions of what makes a great minister’s wife as there are people in local church. If you go in expecting your friend to live up to your expectations, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment and both of you for hurt. However, if you make a point of destroying your mental checklist, you will leave room to be pleasantly surprised and for a healthy friendship to grow.

Get to know her

This could be a challenge. Years of living in a fish bowl may have left your friend feeling exposed. If so, it might take a while to break through the wall she’s built to protect herself from those who forget she has feelings. Don’t give up! Ask her questions. Listen to her answers. Spend time with her outside of church. Watch what she does and how she reacts in different situations, and you’ll catch a glimpse of her heart.

Be real

Be yourself. All the time. Don’t act one way around your friend and another around everyone else. She doesn’t expect—or want—you to put on a show for her. Doing so will only breed distrust. No, let your friend see you at your best and your worst, and she’ll eventually trust you with hers. When she finally does, don’t spook.  This peek at her personal journey toward Christ-likeness is a privilege, as she probably doesn’t let many people in this far. Be sure to steward it well.

Love her family

This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often minister’s wives are expected to listen to criticism about their families—their husbands, in particular—without losing their cool, overlook mistreatment of their loved ones, and play go-between for the discontents in the congregation. Show your friend’s husband and children the same patience, mercy, and forgiveness you want others to show your family, and you’ll have set yourself apart in a big way. Heap grace on them, and you’ll have your friend’s full attention and gratitude.

Protect, include, and support her

Most minister’s wives have thick skin, but it’s often made of scar tissue.  One word or action leveled with strength in just the right—or wrong—spot could open them wide and do serious damage. Stand up for your friend.  Don’t allow others to gossip about her and/or her family. Keep her confidences to yourself.

When groups get together, remind them to include your friend in the guest list. Most don’t because they assume the minister’s wife is busy elsewhere. This may be true, but that busyness probably has very little to do with self-care and/or building the relationships she wants and desperately needs. She may turn your invitation down, but that doesn’t mean she prefers the things that are monopolizing her time. Keep asking! Sooner or later, schedules will align, and she’ll be able to join you. Until then, just being invited will make her feel loved.

Minister’s wives, perhaps more than anyone else in the church, are expected to be all things to all people. Sometimes, the best gift you can give your friend is to need her a little less than other people do. Yes, it might feel at times like you’re giving more to the friendship, but that’s just because your friend’s stick of butter has to cover more bread.  Don’t get jealous or angry. Encourage her. Share her. Help her, and maybe she’ll have more time for you.

Respect her boundaries

Minister’s wives are privy to information other people aren’t.  Sadly, many people befriend them because they want the power, real or imagined, that comes from being “in the know.” Don’t be one of those people. If there’s information to be gleaned, get it somewhere else. Don’t compromise your friendship by pumping your friend for information that’s not hers to give. Furthermore, if you sense she’s telling you more than she ought, stop her. Protect her from herself. She’ll thank you later, and you will have proven yourself a genuine friend that loves her for her.

Give and take

As circumstances call for it, do what you can for your friend and let her do what she can for you. Yes, there’s something to be said for needing her a little less than other people do, but if you keep her at arm’s length when she has the desire and means to meet a need in your life, she’ll feel like your project instead of your friend. If you want her to share her mess with you, share your mess with her.

Stick it out

From a distance, the life of a minister’s wife looks like a lot of fun. Sure, people know who she is, give her attention, and want hers in return, but it’s mostly hard work and folks are fickle. They won’t always like your friend. What will you do then? If you are a real friend, you won’t abandon her just because her approval rating goes down, even if she has truly messed up. You’ll stick it out. Sure, you may have to correct, forgive, and/or restore her, but you’ll stay because, in Christ, she’s more than a friend: she’s your sister.

Want to be a blessing?  See and value your minister’s wife for the uniquely designed individual she is, complete with her own quirks and needs, then love her like you would any other friend.  It may take a little work, but she’ll be yours for life!