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Hello pastor’s wives!

Thanks for joining me today as we hear some of Ashley Gray’s story. Ashley serves in Mississippi alongside her husband David, who is a bi-vocational pastor. If you’d like to hear our entire conversation, click below to listen now!

Episode Description: Protecting family time at home can be challenging for ministry couples, especially when the pastor hubby also has another job. Bi-vocational pastor’s wife Ashley Gray shares how the double-job life works for their family. Check out Married to the Ministry to hear Ashley’s perspective on parsonages, fill-in grandmas, and church hurt.
Related Links and Product Info:; Diane Nix/Contagious Joy 4Him Refresh Retreat for pastors’ wives
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Tell us a little bit about your family background.

My husband David and I have been married for 11 years and we have two children. Matthew is 9 and Alora is 3. So we have one foot parenting a tween and one foot parenting a toddler. We live in Lumberton, Mississippi, which is a little bitty town out in the middle of nowhere off of I59 between Hattiesburg and New Orleans. And we serve at Gumpond Baptist Church, and we have been there 6 years.


It sounds like you’re in a rural setting or rural community. Is there a main industry or are people farmers in your area? 

Yes, there’s a lot of farmers. We’re kind of a commuter area. We’re about an hour from the Gulf Coast. A lot of people work at Stennis Space Center, NASA Military, a couple of the military bases on the coast or they drive into Hattiesburg. But it’s a very rural area. We have cows for neighbors!


Are you living in a parsonage or do you have another house? 

We live in a parsonage, which is great. It has been a huge blessing because we still own a home in Louisiana from our previous ministry. That’s a totally different story, but God has just provided, so we still own a home, but it’s being rented right now. And so it’s been a big blessing just from a financial standpoint of not having to worry about two house notes and being right here next to the church. It’s great if we need to take care of something at the church or if somebody’s like, “Hey, I need to come by and pick up something.” But also, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a disadvantage, but we’re at a four-way stop, and so we have a lot of people come by the house that break down or need gas money. Let’s just say we’ve had some interesting characters show up on the front door. We have church people over if we need to, if we want to, but it’s been very much just a safe space for us. They really are respectful of our space.


What’s one thing about ministry life that has been a blessing to you?  

Being able to have a backseat view or backhand, backstage view, backstage, I guess is a better word, backstage view of all of the things that God is doing behind the scenes that everyday church people don’t normally get to see. Yes, they may see somebody’s marriage restored, but they don’t get to see all of the hard work that was done behind that. And they don’t get to see truly how God restored that. Yes, they may see people, teenagers, I think you and I have talked about this.

But our youth group, but seeing teenagers come to the Lord and get baptized, but they don’t see that we’ve been praying for that student particularly by name for six months. Or they don’t see the things that God has been doing to draw those people to him and to the church. 


So what about the challenging side? Have you experienced any burdens in ministry? 

I think just the heaviness of things that we face with our church members. David and I say all the time, it’s real people with real problems and real issues. That can be a burden. It’s so heavy and a lot of times you can’t really do anything. There’s not really anything that you can do to fix that, but it’s just a lot of heavy things. So both with his job and then I’m a school social worker, so that’s its own little avenue of ministry as well. So we just both deal with just heavy, heavy stuff.


When you have a heart for people but can’t meet all their needs or fix all their problems, how do you manage that heaviness without letting it get too overwhelming? 

Just reminding ourselves that we’re human! I think this is when we really have to tap in into the sovereignty of God and just remember that He’s over all things. This situation may bigger than us, but it’s not bigger than Him. And just resting in Him but then also trying to find some physical rest as well, whether we unplug the phone or take a vacation. We really prioritize family vacations. Try also to just have some family time or do things that aren’t necessarily ministry involved. My husband is a big hunter and fisherman, and so that’s kind of his outlet. I like to write. Don’t get to do a whole lot of it because being a mom and two little people, but naps are good too! But just trying to find some physical outlets as well. Just some things that aren’t necessarily having to use a lot of brainpower with ministry, I guess.


Your husband works full-time at Home Depot, which is a physically demanding job. Plus, his wife works full-time and y’all are raising two kids. So when does he have time to be a pastor? 

In the nooks and crannies. I don’t know how he does it. I mean, really don’t. He has an hour commute every day, so I think a lot of his prep is in the car and in the nooks and crannies of the day. He’ll stay up late sometimes. Most of the time he doesn’t get up early because he has to leave the house at seven, so he has to get up early to get there. So he makes it work. 

Home Depot gives him Sundays off, and then he typically has a Monday off. On his off day, he’ll do some prep as well. He doesn’t really have extra meetings for church. We laugh and just say a lot of our Deacon meetings are right after church or quick via text message like, “Hey, we need to do this. We have a question about this.” But no, there’s not a whole lot of extra meetings and demands on his time because we are such a small church. There is demands on his time, but there’s not a whole lot of extra things. 


How do you protect family time when your husband works a full-time job on top of his church responsibilities? 

We use the calendar and pencil in things that we think we want to do or things that are important to us. Friday nights are our family pizza and a movie night. If he has a random Saturday off, we try to use that as family time. Sunday afternoons are our low-key, chill afternoons when we do stuff as a family. 

You have to just be intentional with it. And you also have to realize that things can’t always be written in pen. You’ve got to be flexible and you’ve got to realize that things are going to change if something comes up at the last minute or a church member needs something. There’s always unexpected things that come up, but using the calendar has really been helpful. We schedule in family time, just like you would schedule a meeting, even if we don’t have specific plans yet.

And then we also make family vacations a priority. We try to go to the beach every year.  Again, planning it on the calendar and working around youth camp and his vacation time with Home Depot, that kind of makes it challenging because we have some little extra variables and things to work around. We are going somewhere, even if it’s just to the coast for a night or two in a hotel. 


How far away are you from extended family? 

Two and a half hours from my family and six hours from his. My parents come and visit when they can, and help out, which has been super helpful. 

But then we also have a couple in our church, I call them our church grandparents. I think every pastor’s family needs a church grandparent. It’s wonderful. It’s our music minister and his wife, but they love our kids just as if they’re their own. And there’s very few people that I let keep them or that I trust with them. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call her and the kids have gotten sick at work or something. I’m like, “I can’t take off today. Can you keep them or can you pick Matthew up from school?” Recently my son had grandparent’s day at school but my parents were out of town. I called her and she stepped in—went to grandparents’ day, then checked him out of school and took him to McDonald’s and he hung out at her house in the afternoon because he thinks her house is just the coolest. It’s a grandma’s house. I mean, they have a tire swing and a pond! So that’s been just a big blessing as well.


Did she just feel led to develop that kind of relationship with y’all or did you approach her? How did that happen? 

It happened just naturally as a God thing. Her husband was on the search committee, and when we came to interview, we didn’t have our daughter at the time, we just had Matthew. And so she came to the church and kind of occupied Matthew during the interview, and they just bonded. But it happened organically and God just wove it all together. 


Since David is the only one on staff at your church, how do you find support or companionship as a ministry wife?

Online Facebook groups for ministry wives have been just a huge blessing. This is probably a shameless plug here, but I’m going to go for it because it’s been such the biggest blessing for me. I attended a Refresh retreat last year with Diane Nix which was just amazing. And there was two other minister wives there, and they’ve become my people. We talk every week, and every other week we have coffee over Zoom. One’s in Florida, one’s in North Carolina, and the cool thing about it too is they are several seasons ahead of me. They have adult children. They’ve been in ministry longer, and we’ve had similar ministry experiences and things. Finding those people has been the biggest blessing.

When I went on that retreat, I was very weary. I told Diane, “I need to come somewhere where nobody needs anything from me. I just need one weekend where I don’t have to do anything for anybody. I don’t need to wipe noses. I don’t need to fix meals. I don’t need to need help. I don’t need to listen to anybody’s problems. I don’t need anybody. I just need something where nobody needs anything from me.” 

Find those ministry wives, whether it be through your association or through ministry wives groups on Facebook. 


You have been through a season of church hurt that was pretty personally devastating. What did you learn through that or what were some ways that you found healing after that situation? 

Well, I want to be very careful with what I share about it, but we were victims of church politics. Lots of ministry wives and pastors can relate to that.

We were blindsided by it. We had uprooted everything to come, and then it was like, “Oh, sorry.” It was really, really hard. Our son was about four or five months old. We had just bought a house. Fortunately, we were able to move back to my husband’s family and live there. Thought we would be there six months, we were there three years.

During that time David was able to go back to Home Depot, and then he did some youth ministry at another church while we were there too. So it was just a time of healing, but also just of seeing God provide, because financially it was tough. Looking back, we never missed a bill. We never went with our needs not being met.

And there were months where it was like, “How in the world are we going to do this?” God was so faithful and it just took a lot of time to process it. And there was a lot of bitterness. I can’t speak for him, but I know for me there was a lot of bitterness because it was human people. It’s like churches can have some of the nicest people, but they can have some of the meanest people as well. And I was just really bitter because this is not what we signed up for. We didn’t do anything wrong. I think that was the biggest thing was that we didn’t do anything wrong. 

You hate to say that your life is in their hands. I mean, it’s not, but they don’t understand the magnitude, especially if they’re in church leadership, of the decisions that they make. They don’t understand that it’s not just affecting the church, it’s affecting the family. 


What steps did you take that led to healing? 

Like I said, I was a part of a different minister’s wives group, so I processed some of that with them. I journaled a lot. I prayed. I don’t know if I have a step-by-step checklist for getting through this kind of thing. But I think just time and then just praying through that and just allowing God to deal with the bitterness and bring out the things that needed to be dealt with. Because you can’t move forward until you heal from that. The last thing that you want to do is move into a new ministry and carry all of that stuff with you.

The church that we’re at now, they had their own share of hardships and things, and so they had to heal as well. And I just thought about this: “Okay, why did it take so long?” But we had to heal to get to a place to be able to serve them, and they had to heal to get to a place to be ready to be served, if that makes sense. So I just think time and prayer and just allowing God to move and to sort out the feelings and get to the root of things and just heal your heart, I guess.


Tell us about your blog so we can connect with you.

Really it’s just the power of story. Something that the Lord just laid on my heart, just the power of story. Like the Big Daddy Weave song, to tell of my story is to tell of Jesus. And I write about all kinds of things, motherhood and faith, adoption, infertility, just defining moments, and then also just the mundane moments. I think motherhood can be kind of boring sometimes, or you’re not glamorous, but you find God in those ordinary moments and everyday moments. And everybody has a story, sorry, everybody has a story to tell and somebody might need to hear your story. 

But Psalm 118:17 says, “I will not die and I will live, and I’ll tell of what the Lord has done.” And that has kind of been my life verse, I guess. It’s just like the Lord just took that verse and just stamped it on my heart. But I went through a very, very trying time early in my adulthood that really defined my faith. And it was like, “Okay, are you going to believe who I say I am, or are you going to go?” I couldn’t go back on the coattails of my parents’ faith or my youth minister’s faith or anything like that. All of a sudden it had to be my faith. It had to be the things that I experienced God firsthand and not anybody else’s. And so that’s really where that came from. It was just the story of walking through life and lots of unknowns and lots of uncertainties and different things. 


I hope that what we’ve talked about today encourages you because so much of what Ashley has shared really resonated with me. We all have different experiences, but there are so many things that we share in common being ministry wives, and she touched on a lot of them. So thank you for hanging out here, and I pray God gives you an extra special delightful day!