by Kaley Ihfe
My husband and I had been in campus ministry for a little over a decade when he decided to go into preaching. We ended up at a great church; and it felt like the perfect fit for us. We had a strong sense that God had called us there. Karl immediately loved his job and the church, but I struggled more than I expected. I still felt like we were called, but it was more difficult than I expected to make friends and figure out who I was in this new role as the “preacher’s wife.” I am definitely my own person and always have been, so I felt some loss of identity at the beginning as I was known mainly for who I was married to. Through the last 11 years, I have made many dear friends and have been able to serve in ways where I can use my gifts. However, it has certainly not been without its difficulties, and I often felt alone in what I was facing.
Six years ago Lavish HOPE was started to help ministry wives connect with each other and be encouraged and spiritually nurtured. HOPE Network recognized the need for friendship and community among ministry wives who often spoke of feeling isolated and lonely. I was invited to be a part of the first cohort in 2018, and I will be forever thankful to be a part of it. I had no idea how much I needed it, and I think the need today is greater than ever.
We know from current research and experience that a number of ministers are experiencing burnout and leaving ministry. A March 2023 Barna article states, “Pastors who are bucking the trend toward burnout tend to portray a strong connection with others around them, a flourishing connection with God and a sense of optimism about the future of the Church.” We believe minister’s wives need this same kind of connection as well as spiritual care.
We all like to have a network of people who understand what we are going through. Ministers attend conferences and other gatherings where they get to know other ministers, but their wives are rarely a part of that. Today’s minister’s wife often has children at home and a career; yet, she is often expected to be involved in several ministries at the church. She has few people to talk to about these expectations. The tolls of ministry are greater than most people realize and the goal of Lavish HOPE is to pour into and nurture these women, support that flows back into their families and husbands in turn.
Lavish HOPE showers God’s grace, love, and hope over ministry wives in the context of a safe community in tangible ways. Through spiritual, emotional, and physical care, we provide opportunities for these women to share their stories and experience God’s nurturing presence. Each cohort consists of 8-10 women who attend 3 retreats over the course of 12-13 months. We ask their churches (or individuals from their churches) to cover the costs of the retreats. In this way, churches can demonstrate their support and appreciation for these women who do so much for their church family. It feels so good to be seen.
Yesterday, I spoke to a dear friend who shared how important it is to be around people who understand what you are going through. For years while her husband played professional baseball, the connection she had with her fellow “baseball wives” was strong not simply because they were at the same place at the same time but because they understood each other’s lives. They had the shared experience of being married to professional athletes. They didn’t have to explain what it was like; they already knew. Similarly, Lavish HOPE seeks to provide this same kind of community for ministry wives.
Currently, since Lavish HOPE is run by a group of volunteers, we are only able to run one cohort a year. We would love to expand this opportunity to more women. If you are interested in learning more about this ministry, contacting us, or making a donation to help enlarge this ministry, please visit our website: lavishhope.org.