Confidentially speaking: A ministry to clergy spouses and families, Part Four

Posted Feb 10, 2014 | Academy of Preaching and Celebration


By Joyce Thomas

Joyce ThomasIn my last three blog posts I shared, from my own experience as a pastor’s wife, that the number one issue many spouses face while in ministry is that of loneliness in the midst of their congregations. I described how spouses felt so isolated and unappreciated for the sacrifices they made for the church, and, though they had listened to many others, there was no reciprocation. I also shared three major internal pieces of work I used to strengthen my life at the core so that I could be happier and well balanced. In this blog post, I will share my external work that brought me to my place of well-being. They are staying fit and eating healthy, adding amenities, and lastly, the coaching program.

Staying fit and eating healthy

I want to talk about diet and exercise, which are helpful in curtailing stress. The more stress you experience, I believe the more control you should have over your diet. Nutrition is vital to the vitamins that are needed to sustain the body and allow it to function well in any circumstance. It does not matter whether you over-eat or under-eat because both are harmful. Many people stress about weight, but the important question is: is your weight healthy? Everyone is not meant to be thin, but the goal is a healthy weight for your height and age. Consult with your doctor, who will discuss your family of origin body structure, how your family views food, and how people use food to resolve stress. It is a battle for us all, but we must come to terms with our diets in order to be in balance and control stress.

Nutritious foods that are portion sized power the body and alleviate over-eating or under-eating. The overarching goal is to find the diet that will give you the maximum ability to think, move, and stay healthy. I am now eating the foods that most benefit my body. I find encouragement from Daniel 1:12–13A (NIV), “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance.” When I eat healthy, I compare my appearance, and I am more than pleased with my weight and how I look.

Adding physical movement to your daily routine keeps you in great shape, so that when difficult times come, you can weather the storm. Exercise regulates blood flow in the body, clarifies the skin, builds strong bones, unclogs and keeps the mind alert, and wards off unwanted diseases that may be detrimental to your health. It also keeps weight gain under control, which is one of the leading concerns for many people, as we discussed above. Exercise fortifies the body when it goes through a tragic event, such as a car accident, major fall, illness, or stress. I have been able to navigate through illnesses because I do some form of movement every day. I exercise four to five  days a week to stay fit and in shape and, of course, relieve the stress in my life.

Adding amenities

There are other things that maybe helpful that will allow you to rest, relax, and have fun. Things like travel, hanging out with close family and friends, working on your bucket list, creating spaces to sit and just “be,” grooming (manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, haircuts, and other personal things), or anything that you have wanted to do but for whatever reason could not get it done. These kinds of things take your mind off taking care of others for a while and focus on yourself. Again, I am not saying not to take care of others, because in reality there are many people who need your help such as young children, parents, clergy spouse, congregational members, and maybe friends. What I am saying is that you should be at the top of the list rather than at the bottom. It is important to be able to perform at your best for others without attitude, doubt, worry, or frustration and just because it is something you really want to do. When I decided to work on myself, starting with my spiritual growth and down to the personal amenities, I felt better. I was lifted, energized, calm, and at peace. When I was strengthened internally and externally, I could respond in ways that were healthy and healing for both others and me.

The coaching program

As I worked my plan to become healthy and balanced, I added a coaching program and learned that I could choose how I wanted to fit in the ministry, choose where I wanted work, and choose with whom I wanted to work, or even if I wanted to work outside of my husband’s ministry. Coaching helped me to become self-aware of my actions and thoughts, as well as how I could change anything I felt was not working for me. It was a choice that only I could make. I did not have to be whom others said I should be, but I could decide for myself who I was and what I wanted for my own life. Coaching is a powerful process that helps people to come to their own solutions for problems, challenges, and issues by asking empowering questions to evoke the whats, whens, wheres, whys, and hows that encourage people to go inside the self to find the answers. The process also directs people to look for opportunities in every situation by being creative, being open to new and exciting things, and overcoming limits or blocks against what they want to accomplish. Next, they design a plan to execute their goals and a plan for accountability that will help them stay motivated.

The coaching process blessed me, and I decided to become a coach to serve not only pastors’ spouses, but also those who feel stuck or blocked from accomplishing their goals. It was through the coaching process that I gave myself the ability to celebrate being a pastor’s wife. Coaching helped me to hone my passion to work with spouses of pastors, to be their sounding board, to help them begin thinking about what it is that they really want for themselves, and to learn to be healthy both internally and externally, all in a safe and confidential environment. I believe that many spouses can benefit from the coaching process. It will give them insight about how they see themselves as they participate in their ministries. It can help them work through any issue that confronts them. It can show them how to come to their own conclusions as they move forward to make changes that will give them a healthy balanced life that is workable in supporting their clergy spouses, congregations, family, and friends. They can work toward a plan that gives positive, uplifting, creative, imaginative, and free-flowing energy that is powered from their inner resources by answering the hows, whens, wheres, and what they really want their life to be. Spouses who do ministry the way they really want to, by their choosing, have lasting joy on the journey. I recommend coaching for all spouses who are open to the process. I found it to be a great investment in my life.

With the conclusion of this blog post series, I invite you to think about the following things: When was the last time you encountered a person who allowed you be open and honest about the things in your heart? What situations, events, or issues would you like to have conversations about? What are the hopes, dreams, and joys that you want to share with someone who will help you celebrate all they are to you? Where can you work through the hurt, pain, anger, and fear that you are dealing with in ministry? There is a plan waiting with your name on it.

I am a Certified Professional Coach—Energy Leadership Index (CPC-ELI) from The Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). You are invited to call or stop by my office to converse. Contact me by email at or by phone at (317) 931-4444.

Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.

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