It is increasingly difficult to be a pastor or a pastor’s wife in our culture. Pastors are trained at Lutheran Brethren Seminary, but there is a need for training the women who serve alongside them. Women’s Ministries planned the first SWEET Retreat (Seminary Women Encouraging, Equipping, and Training) in 2003, provided materials for weekly Bible studies, and scholarships for women to take Seminary classes. Thirteen years later, this training continues annually, planned by a committee including wives of our Seminary professors, funded by your contributions to WMCLB. It is a worthy project!
I asked a few current students’ wives and recent graduates how this has impacted their lives and preparation for ministry. Recurring words were: “building relationships,” “encouragement,” and “support.” These gifted women move to Fergus Falls, MN from all regions of North America; big and tiny churches, city and rural, from being raised in a Christian home to coming to faith as an adult. Ministry is their common thread.
Following God’s call can be lonely. “So having the opportunity to connect with women who are going through a lot of the same things has been really encouraging and a blessing.” “Hearing the speakers was invaluable. I can name them all (four retreats for me) and at least some piece of advice they each gave. And I have used everything I have learned. It is just like the Lord knew what tools we would need and would fill our tool belt. And the worship; wow, the worship! Imagine a group of twenty women honoring our God with song and prayer in his natural beauty. More than once the tears flowed, or my breath was taken away.”
There is great value for them in connecting early in the school year in “an intense bonding experience” and continuing to immerse themselves weekly in God’s Word with others who authentically share prayer concerns. This is building a network for their future ministry. “We know each other, we know who to call/message when we need help, encouragement, and prayer.” “As we will be serving alongside each other in this denomination for the future, the relationships and accountability we build now will have great payoffs for years to come.” “I like the encouragement and advice I get from the ladies in different places in life and in their ministry.” (For example, Regional Pastors’ wives, missionaries, and others.) “The Bible study has been really great—to study God’s Word together and share our hearts and be able to pray for each other.” “One thing I’ve loved about the Seminary women Bible studies is the chance to practice leading studies and talking through how to choose good studies for various groups.” “One thing I have struggled with is the feeling of inadequacy in thinking about being a pastor’s wife and being involved in ministry. God has really been laying on my heart to give those things to him—that he uses us, ordinary people—and being willing to trust him in the things and places he calls us to.”
Continue to pray for these wonderful women, as the Lord prepares them for ministry in our world!
Cheryl Olsen is the Faith & Fellowship correspondent for Women’s Ministries of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.