Dave: You just went public with a new blog. What’s the story behind that?
Ellen: I have always felt like there wasn’t much “out there” in the way of encouragement and support for women in ministry, especially church planters and pastor’s wives. I can remember being a young woman with a family, trying to plant and pastor a church with my husband and feeling like “where are all the ‘older’ women who know how to do this?” I really needed support and friends who were not also people that I was pastoring. Yet, I didn’t have much time for relationships with anyone other than my immediate family and church. During that time, I said to myself that I would try to be that support for other women when my time came. So, here I am with years of church life, raising kids and following God behind me and if I have anything to share that is helpful, I want to share it. I think we suffer as women if we don’t have other women in our lives who can walk with us and maybe have a little better vision of the path than we do.
Dave: How is the life of a pastor’s wife different than other married women in the church?
Ellen: Well, there is always a higher expectation on the pastors wife than other women. I don’t think people do it on purpose, I just think that people often have the misbelief that if someone is in ministry or leadership, they must have done something to deserve it, i.e. they are more spiritual, holy, mature etc. And while hopefully they are growing and maturing in their faith, pastors wives are not perfect by any means. When people expect them to always be a pillar of “Christian womanhood”, that is a heavy burden. I once had someone tell me that I was a perfect Proverbs 31 example. I could feel myself cringing in the “you don’t really know me at all” way. I mean, I had not risen before the dawn for a long time! Pastoring can be lonely and pastor’s wives can feel isolated.
Dave: You want to also focus on women in leadership, not just pastors’ wives. Have you been able to recognize different challenges women in ministry face than their counterparts?
Ellen: One of the things I have recognized with women is that we can easily substitute talking to our friends with talking to God. When you are in leadership position, you may often have women who want your perspective, your wisdom and advice. This can be flattering to our ego. As women leaders, we have to constantly point people back to Jesus and not try to be their “source”. I think because as women we tend to be relational and nurturing, it is hard for us to recognize when we are not helping someone to get closer to God, but to be more dependent on us.
Dave: Rumor has it that you are preparing to launch your own coaching ministry. How does one prepare for such a thing, what have you been doing?
Ellen: I have been practicing my listening skills! Seriously, I have been paying more attention to my conversations with people, learning how to listen for what is underneath their words. I think being listened to and understood is something we all need terribly. In ministry, we are used to being “tellers” instead of listeners. Most people who want coaching don’t need to be “told” anything else. They have heard it all! They really need someone to help them see a different perspective on what they may already know. That is what I want to do in coaching. I believe in women and I believe that God wants to speak to them. Sometimes they just need someone else to push the clouds out of the way to get a better glimpse. As far as prepping, though, I have also been doing a lot of study and reading about coaching. Oh, and I went through this training with this guy Dave Jacobs…I guess he’s a coach or whatever? I had already heard pretty much everything he said.
Dave: Uh…ok, now for my next question. What will you be bringing to the coaching-table that will be unique?
Ellen: I don’t know of many women that started church planting as young as I did! I was just 20 when we planted our first church, moving across state with our first baby on the way. Then we proceeded to have four more children while we planted three churches over the years and were on staff in two others. I have planted with a newborn and planted with children in three different schools. I have had to get five children ready for church in the morning while my husband was setting up the “church in a box”. I have wished that my husband was home more and wished that he would get his office out of the guest room! I don’t know that my experience is unique, but it does span a lot of church life scenarios that women can relate to.
Dave: If you could leave only one sentence to the women reading this interview, what would it be?
Ellen: Take care of your soul first, then you can see clearly what God is calling you to be and what He is not calling you to be.
Dave: Thanks. What’s for dinner?