The Planter’s Wife in Community: Challenges

By Amy Rager

Odds are, when your wife joined you on the journey of church planting, she left her friends behind. While it is true that she willingly sacrificed the benefits and comforts of established relationships for the advancement of the gospel, it is absolutely vital to her health that the sacrifice not be lifelong.

The church planting process brings with it unique difficulties for building friendships and healthy community. Identifying and actively countering the following ‘community building inhibitors’ sets your wife on a smoother, shorter road to life-giving relationships.

Here are five ways church planting inhibits a wife’s community building:

1. Tending to pursue friendship solely with potential church members

In the early, shaky years of a church plant the temptation is strong to spend time and energy engaging only those who will potentially join your church. Of course ladies from your core team can become valuable friends to your wife, but in all reality she needs several strong relationships unrelated to the plant. A friend who can listen as she relates her struggle with the demands of the church is vital. It’s a rare church member can provide that type of presence for your wife. Also consider if your wife would feel comfortable being supported through a tough time in your marriage by a core team member.

Of course ladies from your core team can become valuable friends to your wife, but in all reality she needs several strong relationships unrelated to the plant.

2. Substituting networking for friendship

Relationships with a goal of advancing your church or your career are not friendships; they are networking. Friendship is for mutual care and support, not mutual gain.

While some men may consider themselves in community while participating mostly in networking relationships and in few true friendships, most women do not function this way. Women want people who love us, not people who love what we have to offer.

Friendship is valuable enough to warrant time and effort without an ulterior motive. Don’t let the scarcity mind-set that is so prominent in church planting tempt the two of you to substitute networking for friendship.

3. Becoming the servant in every relationship

Your wife is invested, reliable and available, which makes her a convenient volunteer and hostess for practically everything in your understaffed church. She is a prime candidate for reaching out to prospective members.

Every team your child participates in needs a ‘team mom’—what better way to meet people? A lady on your core team is struggling with anxiety—you don’t have the available time to meet with her regularly and your wife is in need of community anyway, right? The neighborhood association needs someone to organize the annual yard sale—what better way to get her some name recognition in the neighborhood?

Allowing, or even encouraging, your wife to enter every situation as the servant is detrimental to community building. Relational habits are hard to break and friendships are difficult to form when the foundation of each is the supposition that she is the fixer, the helper and the giver.

Being a part of a community involves giving and taking. Church members, neighbors, potential friends should see your wife doing both.

4. Running at an unrealistic pace

Friendships takes time and effort. Most women intrinsically feel this and will not pursue friendships for as long as they don’t have the time to cultivate them.

Listen, I get it. Your plates are full and your schedules are fuller. What you are doing is important—more important than I can effectively communicate without being able to look you in the eye! But healthy community is important too—not to mention biblically prescribed. Pushing yourself and your wife beyond the point of being able to build community is a lack of faith in the One who truly builds the church.

5. Not valuing fun

Planters, I’m putting most of this one on you. If you don’t value fun and participate in light-hearted things, your wife is not going to feel as if she has the freedom to engage in hobbies or events that will expose her to potential friends.

Even existing relationships are hampered when fun is shoved to the side in the name of productivity. Interfacing only with someone during ‘productive’ events or in ‘productive’ ways leaves no room or honor for the organic nature of friendship.

While the above list is representative of many planting couples’ experience, please consider it only a spring board or a starting point.

Ask your wife what she needs from you in order to build friendships. The question alone will mean the world to her and communicate the value you place on community.

Published May 26, 2016

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Amy Rager

Amy is the wife of church planter, Barry Rager, and the mother of four young, energetic children. She and her family served in established churches for 8 years before relocating to Indianapolis in 2013 to plant New Circle Church. Amy enjoys discipling women and is passionate about planters' wives. You can connect with her on Twitter @amylrager