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Monday, January 6, 2014

.10 Things Your Introverted Pastor's Wife Needs You to Understand Right Now.

I hesitated to piggy back this post off of the last one, being that they are both written about introvertedness, but this has been on my heart for some time. Let me get this out of the way - I really have no authority to write this. I was only a pastor's wife for a blip on the map - just three short years. But I am an introvert through and through, and although my time as a pastor's wife was short, I gained a lot of empathy for other introverted women who are in this role. There is a lot of misunderstanding that swirls around pastors' wives in general, but when coupled with being an introvert, in a church that is likely colored with many extroverts, the perceptions and expectations can be caustic to this poor woman. I have seen a few articles written about introverted pastors, but I have yet to come across anything about introverted pastor's wives, so I am cautiously adding my voice. The church seems full of extroverts, and it seems as if introverts are in the minority, maybe because the extroverts make their presence known so much more. We live in a world where extrovertedness is exalted, but the truth is the world needs both of us. I am guessing that many, many of you reading this actually know (or are) an introverted pastor's wife. This is written for you to better understand her, so that more grace, more mercy, more love, can be poured out over these precious women, so they can realize that there is a place for them in this ministry.

1. She doesn't hate people. However, being around a lot of people for an extended period of time, i.e. Sunday mornings and church gatherings, is draining. She loves her congregation - just not all at once. Please don't assume that your introverted pastor's wife is simply unfriendly or snobby. This is probably so not the case. Introverts tend to care deeply - very deeply for people. Many of them are intense feelers, and if you talk to a group of them, most will tell you (with tears welling in their eyes) times when they believe they can truly feel someone else's pain. She is most likely very acutely aware of the people around her and the hurts they carry, and she hurts with and for them in a very unique way. She is perceptive and sensitive. What one must understand is that being friendly to so many people, and to have so many people looking on at her as the pastor's wife - to feel completely put on display every time she walks through the church doors is exhausting. Conversations for an introvert need to be meaningful and purposeful, but that does not typically happen on most Sunday mornings. She probably isn't great at small talk - few of us are - and the amount of small talk that is required on a given Sunday can make a grown woman hide in the bathroom stall just for a few moments to breathe and recompose herself (not that I would know this from experience, of course). Sunday morning produces a whole lot of handshaking, hugging, small talk, and interacting with a whole lot of people all at once, and it sucks out every ounce of her energy very quickly. By the end of Sunday morning, she is in need of space to retreat to in order to process and analyze the events of the morning.

2. She needs space. She needs physical space - time, solitude, quiet and the grace to be allowed to withdraw from people and re-energize alone. She craves this. It is how she was wired by her Creator. Sometimes this can be hard in ministry, but it is absolutely vital for an introvert. She also needs space in conversation. What I mean by this is that she needs people to respect the silence. When in conversation with her, it's okay for there to be moments of silence. She has a deep need to process knowledge, and will not come to a snap judgement. An introvert doesn't talk unless she has something to say, and sometimes it takes awhile to come out with what she wants to say. But when given the space, and when you really are quiet and listen to what she has to say, you might be pleasantly surprised to know the deep thoughts going on inside of her head.

3. She most likely will not be the social hub of the congregation. Leading the women's ministries, being "captain hospitality", heading up Bible studies and prayer meetings are most likely not her cup of tea. She {gasp} may not even attend every social event in the church. Yes,she is capable of leading, quietly, unobtrusively, but more organically.She is a reluctant leader, unsure of her abilities. She probably cannot spontaneously lead - not even something small. It may put her in a state of panic to be called out to lead even a break-out prayer group in the middle of prayer meeting. She's not wired that way. Perhaps once in awhile she will lead one of the above, but it will be after months of careful and tedious planning, preparation, thought, precise execution and prayer. It will be exhausting and taxing, and even if she excelled, she will walk away feeling inferior, as if another woman could have done it much better. She is analytical and will always second guess herself.

4. She's not exclusive. Perhaps you are noticing that your pastor's wife seems to only have a small group of intimate friendships. It's a tight, very small circle, and you perceive it as cliquish - especially for a pastor's wife who should be friends with everyone. What you need to understand is that she intensely values people and friendships, but she doesn't make friends easily. She is cautious in relationships. It is hard for an introvert to become vulnerable and let others penetrate her walls. True friendships take a long time and hence are fewer, and because of that the losing of a friendship is particularly painful to an introvert. Losing just one friend can leave a gaping hole in her life. It is so painful that it makes the whole process of making friends even harder the next round. She most likely prefers one-to-one interactions with people, so friendships build at a snail's speed, and this can often times come across as exclusive.

5. She probably doesn't want you to call her on the telephone. I kind of squirm to even type this, because it makes her sound so unfriendly, but go back to number one, she really is not. However, talking on the phone is probably not your introverted pastor's wife's most favorite thing. She probably screens your calls, and not because she is a snob, but to mentally prepare herself for the conversation to come. Many introverts think and respond slowly (we are analytical and purposeful in conversations but sometimes that takes time and space for us to be ready to talk), and let's face it, silence on the telephone is really, really awkward. She probably would much rather a face-to-face conversation over coffee or tea, where she can gather information from your body language, facial cues, etc. and really process through a great conversation. If you have a quick question, email or social media is a fantastic way to connect with her, and even begin to build relationship - writing tends to come easier than speaking.

6. She likes to listen. Maybe you pass her over, because she is so quiet and reserved, finding someone else to open up to. But what you may not know is that your introverted pastor's wife may be one of the best listeners you will ever meet. This is a gift. She may be naturally quiet, and allow you to do the majority of the talking. She will listen intently and empathetically. She processes internally and thoroughly, and will not make snap judgments about you or the subject of your conversation. She may or may not have a lot to contribute to the conversation at this time, although often she is capable of offering wisdom and insight. She likes to develop well-thought-through ideas and responses in private before offering them up to you, so don't be surprised if she comes back to you at a later date with this information. One thing is almost always true, you will walk away from her feeling heard, understood, and loved. Being listened to is a priceless gift in this loud, busy world we live in. Take advantage of this gift.

7. She thrives on serving the Kingdom outside of the limelight. She most likely really enjoys working behind the scenes, organizing details, washing dishes, nurturing the fatherless, making meals for people in need, writing etc. - anything she can do for the Kingdom outside of the limelight. She prefers to work alone and to work quietly without any fanfare. Your introverted pastor's wife's area of service may look very different than the pastor wife image in your head; let it be different. Encourage her to find her unique gifts, callings, and talents inside of the Kingdom. She is so needed. Many introverts are wildly creative, and their creativity is needed both in the Kingdom and in the church. Step back quietly and allow her to nurture that.

8. She has a really hard time saying no. Introverts can feel trapped and backed into a corner when being asked to serve, participate, or obligated to give you an answer right away. This can lead to way too many things on her plate, to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated. It also makes it hard for her to do any one thing really well, and this is especially frustrating to an introvert who also has perfectionistic tendencies. When approaching her, give her the specifics for what you are asking from her, and then give her the time and space (remember number 2?!) to respond - even better let her respond to you via email in a few days!

9. She cannot "fix herself" and become an extrovert. God created each of us uniquely. Being an introvert is not a flaw or a weakness in and of itself. Yes, there are weaknesses that introverts gravitate more towards than an extrovert, but extroverts have their own sets of weaknesses as well. Introverts are needed in the church - they bring depth and wisdom and empathy that the church and this world are hungry for. Your church needs your introverted pastor's wife, she was specifically placed in her position by God. She cannot change her personality, and should not be made to feel as if she has to. Rather she needs acceptance, understanding, and grace as you encourage her specific strengths. Strengths that the body needs, just as it needs the strengths of her counterpart - the extrovert. Your introverted pastor's wife is a gift, not a liability. As much as you need your introverted pastor's wife, she in return needs you. She longs to be understood and known, to be accepted and cherished, just as she was created to be.

10. She's not perfect and neither is her husband. Introverted or not your pastor's wife is human. She will mess up. She will disappoint you. And so will her husband. She has hurts, fears, and messes just like you. Pastors and pastor's wives are pulled in so many different directions. The demands and expectations can be insurmountable. She and her husband need your love and encouragement in huge ways. Perhaps your pastor's wife is not typical. Maybe she doesn't fit the mold that you expected her to fit. But the truth is that God knew exactly who He was calling to fill this position in your church. Pray for her, be kind to her, give her grace, and respect the person that God has created her to be.


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