Welcome, Ministry Sister!
I recently talked with Melanie Redd, another pastor’s wife, about some of the blessings and burdens of serving in ministry. (You can click HERE to listen to the entire conversation in episode 6.) What does Melanie consider to be a top challenge for ministry families? Finances!
Does your money ever run out before the month does?
Ours sure has! Greg and I went from two incomes to one when our first baby came along and I quit work to be home with her. Then a few years later, his salary got cut by 40% when he left his secular job to go into ministry. Those were some lean days!
Melanie said, “Money is just tight. I think a lot of ministry people are there. We never missed a meal, but it was really challenging sometimes. We drove old cars while our friends were getting new cars. Our vacations were real simple, if we had them at all. We lived in apartments or older houses. We just had to get really creative. And you can do it, you can make it, but you are not on the same ladder as your other friends.”
She shared about a time her family was living in North Carolina. They were paying a big house note and didn’t have a lot of dollars left over, but they wanted to take a trip for their anniversary. “So I was getting my hair cut, and I was praying—Lord, we need a place to go free or a really inexpensive place to go!—because when you’re in ministry, you’re not just making big plans to go necessarily to Cabo or to go to Europe.
You’re thinking, okay, where can I find a deal?
And you have to think that way in ministry. But this lady’s cutting my hair, and she said, ‘We have a place. It’s in the Methodist church. You all are Baptist, I know, but I think they’ll let you go because you’re in ministry.’ She told us about a little bitty house on Grandfather Mountain near Asheville, North Carolina. It was beautiful and we got away for a few days. Randy almost couldn’t get into the little bathroom, it was that small, but it was free!”
Melanie said in ministry you sort of have to redefine and think differently, so here are a few creative ideas we explored about how ministry families can stretch their finances.
Buy a tent and camp instead of wishing for a trip to Disney. When your kids are little, they don’t know the difference. They may hear that their friends are doing something else, but they don’t know that you don’t have a lot unless you tell them.
Make work trips fun
When there’s a convention or out-of-town event for hubby, go along and enjoy staying in the hotel with him. Melanie’s friend actually took a crock pot and cooked in their hotel room when her minister husband had traveling plans so that she and her boys could go with him!
Meet challenging seasons with creativity
Sometimes you’ve got to mend the old clothes. Melanie re-soled a pair of Randy’s dress shoes three times because they kept getting a hole in the bottom. Early in our ministry, we sold Greg’s high school saxophone because he needed suits.
Retreat to a buddy’s house
If close friends live out of town, load up the kids and visit them for a few days. That won’t cost a lot of money, plus you get to spend quality time with people you love.
Buy less stuff
Learn to do without. Sometimes contentment can be a challenge. Watch how much you scroll on Facebook. Be careful about looking at things that can stimulate discontent. Guard your heart and focus on what God’s given you to do. And remember–if you accumulate less stuff, there’s less stuff to pack when it’s time to move!
Pray about your pay
Melanie shared that their prayer lives increased exponentially when they went in the ministry. “It was funny, when we first started in the ministry and left the business world, people said, ‘Get all your good stuff now because you’re not going to have a lot of extra!’ I didn’t know what they meant, but I will tell you, we’ve just prayed. And over the years, God just provided. If you’re in a place where you’re feeling a little discontent or you’re frustrated or you feel like you don’t have anywhere to go or you don’t have any money, ask God to provide. He is very well able to take care of us, and He will come through.”
I can echo the power of praying about money concerns and God’s faithful provision. He knows the desires of our hearts, and sometimes He extraordinarily blesses us with gifts in our favorite color or perfect size. God wants to give us good gifts, and so many times we don’t ask Him about those things.
Once while praying through a new church decision, I used money as my “proof” of confirmation. An emotional mess at the time, I told my husband, “If you feel God calling us there, I’m just going to have to trust you because there’s nothing in me that can contribute to this decision.” But I finally prayed: “Lord, all I know to say is if they offer him this salary amount, then I’ll know it’s a confirmation from You.” And they offered him exactly that much money!
Rats! Why didn’t I pray for a bigger number?
Watch for surprises
God’s provision may not always look like you expect. Greg and I have learned that sometimes God gives the money beforehand because “Murphy” is heading our way. We’d better save it back for whatever expense is coming!
Melanie shared another unexpected experience. “We were really tight with our finances and we owned a home in more than one place—it just was hard. We got this bill for $2,000, and I remember getting on my face and I was just begging God—we need $2,000! In that week in the mail we got three different checks, but one of them was for $1,500 from Baptist Hospital. The hospital never sends money to people! Somehow we had overpaid. And here it came that very week. God had it ready. He knew the need before there was a need or those checks wouldn’t have made it to us the very week that we needed the money.”
Do money struggles plague your time in the ministry?
You are not alone. Just yesterday another long-time pastor’s wife shared with me how that had been a challenge for her family as well. Most people serving in ministry go through times of financial strain. So, here are some things to avoid so you won’t lose your joy in serving God because of money.
- Don’t wear poverty like a badge of honor. Now I’m not saying to pretend to have more than we do or to spend more than we have. But our conversation should not be a constant reminder to others that we feel strapped. And we should not rely on a “mooch mentality” that expects others to always pay for things on our behalf.
- Don’t be afraid to let your needs be known in an appropriate setting and to appropriate people with sincere interest in your well-being. Sometimes God lets other people be part of meeting our needs. He gives them extra and a generous heart to share with us. But they can’t be part of blessing you if they don’t know about your need.
- Don’t blame the church or the finance committee for being “stingy,” especially if terms were agreed upon at employment. If unforseen circumstances occur that affect your family’s bottom line, then it might be appropriate to have another conversation about those issues.
- Don’t let money steal the joy of ministry. Serving with integrity through seasons of tight finances can be another way to proclaim a testimony of God’s faithfulness to your church and community. If He calls us to ministry life on a limited budget, then we should be careful not to tarnish the work God wants to accomplish through us in spite of that limitation.
Can you think of a time when God miraculously met a financial or material need for your family?
If He has, would you please leave a comment below to encourage other pastors’ wives? Some of you may really be struggling to trust God for your needs. If that is you, sweet friend, talk to the Lord about your bills, your bank account, your income, your job. Whatever money pressures you’re feeling right now, take them to Jesus! Ask Him to provide, and then watch how He works in your life.
Thanks for investing some time here today. You can connect with Melanie Redd at Ordinary Women. Extraordinary God. She encourages women through another LWF podcast and blog. Until next time, let’s keep loving Jesus, loving our husbands, and loving our people!