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Relating to people in your church needs a vulnerable spirit that can only come from GOD. You remember the pain of rejection, good-bye's, being excluded. #pastorswife #churchpeople #churchulture #marthagrimmbrady #healthyrelationships

photo: Martha G. Brady

Two weeks ago, I talked about how church women can be encouragers to their pastors’ and ministry wives.  But the “problem” with relationships is that they are two-way propositions.  A relationship can’t grow when only one of the people is doing all the heavy lifting.

When she comes, she is the outsider.  Even if she is experienced, she is new to this group.  There needs to be some intentionality on the part of the members when it comes to making friendships with her on whatever level that will be.


But before long, something else comes into play.  It is a problem that I often struggle with…and I know I’m not unique in this regard.  For lack of a better term, I’ll call it the Goddess of Competence.  

When we arrived at new churches, I felt obligated to be or at least seem to be competent.  My husband was their pastor, or at times, a staff member.  I didn’t want people to be distracted from his ministry to them by my incompetence or ineptness as a person.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Yes, it is called rationalizing.  I’m good at it. I didn’t feel I needed to be wonderful at everything. I gave that up long ago. I just wanted to be competent enough when out in a group of people that I didn’t embarrass him or didn’t drain everyone there. By having that goal however, it was very difficult for me to ask for help unless I REALLY needed it seriously.


Moves are always difficult for me.  ALWAYS!  I get rooted in where we minister.  I’m sure my many moves as a child affected me, but I feel like my soul gets torn up in a move.  It results in a feeling of disorientation for awhile after the move, well, that along with grief and sadness over all the good-bys.

I plug away at the job of settling in and it seems to take forever to get the house together and get reoriented to a new community.  All the details of where things will go, how they will fit in the new space?   OVER.WHELM.ING!  Surprisingly, each move tended to be more difficult than the one before…even after the nest was empty!

But rarely do people realize that this is even going on.  Remember, I must appear to be competent.  I go to church on Sundays and during the week.  I meet people and get to know them gradually, family by family.  But all the while, I must appear to be competent.


On occasion people will ask if they can help with settling in or with this or that…or they may just ask how I’m doing.  My normal answer is, “Fine.”  Generally eyes glaze over when I actually do answer that question honestly on a bad day.  These are the people who really don’t want an honest answer.  They are being polite.

So the few that ask, “No, really…how are you?” are the ones I answer honestly.  And no, honest isn’t code for complaining.  These people tend to become friends…no surprise there!

Of course, that isn’t fair in some ways.  It’s almost like I’m making people earn the right to hear an honest answer.  I have failed in that way even though I thought I was being such a good (self-righteous) person!

But when people offered help, I should have taken them up on it…in ways that would grow a relationship.  Honestly, they don’t care that my house isn’t together.  That’s why they offered help.  And often, when I give the honest answer, it breaks down walls that the fake answer doesn’t touch.  Who knew?

Trying to be independent, show competence and togetherness, these are some of my failures.  Because they don’t encourage relationships.  They separate me from others.  They can cause a competitive attitude rather than a cooperative one in relating.


A few years ago, we had an assistant pastor and family that came to our church.  One thing that I noticed about his wife that was very helpful for me, was how she was able to draw people in, in a variety of ways, to help her and her family…and build relationships with them too!

Frequently, she gave a choice of one or two things or would ask if they would do x with one of their kids for a couple of hours or help with y.  She knew how to do all these things…but she also knew that bringing people in to help would draw them into their circle of friends.  They felt needed and wanted.

Their goal was to get to know as many people in the church as possible.  This was one way they did it.  They had two small children at the time and it was amazing to me how they found ways to ask for help…and people responded so positively to it!

Frankly, I was shocked.  All this time, I was trying not to make demands on people and making some “demands” of the right kind would actually have built more relationships.  Stunning!

I guess it may seem difficult to believe, but that was a very revolutionary concept to me.  As I thought about it, I realized that nothing could be more Biblical and in a funny way, humiliating for some of us, than asking for help.


Yes, it is scary.  Our fear is that either they will say, “No.” or will be unpleasant in some way.   But the deeper issue is probably more like: I don’t want to have to admit I need you.  Admitting my need puts me in a more vulnerable place where I can be hurt by you.

So it boils down to my own pride and/or fear.  When those hurts happen, and they do, I am drawn closer to the other person as I learn to love and forgive them.  No, it isn’t easy, but relationships are like that!

As you have become active in a church or even been a pastor’s wife, what have you learned about relationships?

There will be more on this topic tomorrow.