Is the Grass Really Greener?

Posted by: Lori Wilhite

Q: You know how “the grass is always greener”? I think it would be interesting to discuss the benefits and drawbacks to serving in both multi-staff and single-staff churches. There are blessings and trials that come with both circumstances and maybe seeing both sides would make us more content with the ministry in which God has placed us. -Stephanie

Put your seat belt on, because today is going to be a long one! 🙂 Before I turn things over to Cyndi and Brandi to answer this question, let me just chime in with a couple of thoughts. I think Stephanie’s words are very wise about contentment to the ministry in which God has placed us. This question has actually come up a lot. I have found that both the joys and challenges of ministry are quite universal. The danger that we face when we sit back and imagine “how much better things would be if … ” is that we are really aren’t comparing realities. We are only comparing our perception of someone else’s reality. For instance, we don’t really have any idea how tight budgets really are for small churches or large ones. It is sometimes quite surprising. We have no idea what the volunteer ratio is but assume that another church probably has it better. That is why contentment is so key!

Cyndi (Sr Pastor’s Wife at Woodland Ave Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia):

I think we all can say that leading a church is hard work, no matter what size you are. I have talked to many Pastors’ Wives who come from both backgrounds, and I am struck by the similarities of the two. We have all been at a place of hurt, joy, frustration, and pride; you name it. We have all experienced the same emotions.

As the PW at a smaller church, I have envied my “sisters” many times for the resources available to them (whether it be financial or having access to additional volunteers), because it allows them to reach so many more than we can. We have envisioned goals for WABC which have yet to come into fruition. It’s been a long standing dream of my husbands to host computer labs for the people in our community but unfortunately because of the size of our building, it’s not possible at this time. There are events we would love to host and ministries we wish to begin that would benefit our community. But though the harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few. I look forward to the day when we have additional team members, or partners to share the burdens that come with ministry.

Now having said that, there are some pros to leading at a smaller church. I love the connection I get to make with each of the families at WABC, but I know that with growth, that opportunity will dwindle. I love the intimacy of our baptisms, baby dedications and weddings; all of which are my husband’s favorite part of pastoring. And even though we are predominately a congregation of older members, we also have a diverse group of young people. Nothing makes me happier than seeing those two groups work together in unison. There is a family atmosphere at WABC that I hope is never lost no matter what size we become.

Many of us have heard the saying, “If the grass looks greener on the other side, water yours!” I think there is a place for churches of all sizes, and there is no reason that we cannot learn from each other. Some of the most valuable advice I have been given has been from church planter wives. In this big pond, whether large or small, we are all striving to work for the Kingdom. The most important thing is that we stay focused on the mission….reaching out to those who are hurt, or lost and telling them about the love of Jesus. That has nothing to do with the size of your church, but the condition of your heart!

Brandi (Sr Pastor’s Wife Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN):

Is the grass greener? Oh, the age old question. I have to say we’ve been blessed to serve in both multi-staff and single-staff churches, and both times had the opportunity of knowing we were exactly where God had called us at be in that season.

Currently serving in a multi-staff church, I have to say the biggest difference is probably that more staff allows more “focus” in the actual role. For instance, our Spiritual Formations pastor can really focus in the area of growing our congregation spiritually without having to spend time aligning childcare workers and such. Obviously for events we practice an “all hands on deck” philosophy, which is nice, but when it comes to day to day functions staff are allowed to be more specified and serve in areas where they’re most gifted and passionate.

But ultimately, ministry is ministry and multi-staff churches face the same problems as single-staff churches. Budgets are tight. Fires need to be put out. Work hours are long and days can be stressful. So, no, the grass isn’t necessarily greener,  at times it might need less water and other times the grass is down right brown. But, I think Cyndi said it best when she said “It’s not the size of your church but the condition of your heart.”

So, let’s discuss: What are the benefits and drawbacks to serving in both multi-staff and single-staff churches?

13 thoughts on “Is the Grass Really Greener?

  1. Stephanie Shouse

    Cool! You’re using my question! ( =
    Thank you for addressing this issue and I love how the focus is all about contentment. My husband has served at several churches but always as the single-staff person. We often dream of how great it would be to have multiple staff members that could take some of the pressure off my husband to “be all things to all people” in the church. But you’re right in saying that we often only dream of our perception of how things are, not the reality.
    Like Cindy I love the fact that I know the name of every person in our church (and all about their grandkids, pets, jobs, passions). I love that my husband is an integral part of each ministry of the church because he is so good at sensing God’s leading. I wish that he could focus on the things he’s good at without having to do the necessary things that he struggles with. But then again, being stretched usually is for our own good.
    I also wish for multiple staff sometimes because I long for someone to talk to about ministry-related things…but now I have you ladies at L&LI! So, I am repenting of my jealously and am choosing to be content with the grass where God has placed me. ( =

  2. Becky

    With mostly multi-staff experience under our belts, I like that as PW the buck doesn’t stop with me, that there are other PW’s and staff spouses to be involved–or not–in ministry and attend–or not–to different things. I’m very thankful for the group of PWs and staff spouses that I am a part of, that there are others who can relate to my roll and who can offer advice and a listening ear.

    A big cheer for those of you PW’s of single-staff congregations. What you do is amazing, especially the way you connect intentionally with your congregation/church family. I learn much from your examples.

  3. Lori Wilhite Post author

    It took me a while to get it all pulled together … but it was a great question! 🙂

    I’m so glad you have connected with the other PWs here & know you’ll be great when you can connect with other staff wives on your own team someday! 🙂

  4. Lori Wilhite Post author

    I agree Becky! Major cheers to those single-staffers out there! 🙂

    So glad we can all learn from each other no matter what our church’s size or situation!

  5. Abbie

    As a church planter’s wife in a small church and small town, the thing I long for most is a peer – hard to find as a single pastor church.

  6. Gina

    God has walked us through both ministry experiences and it has been fruitful in both. I will say that right now we are part of a 6K plus member church and it’s amazing! I find that with a strong brood of leaders on staff and a solid core of teamwork, the multi-staff church is a much easier bull to take by the horns. I am so thankful for all of our experiences because it has grown my husband and his ministry by leaps and bounds. No matter in what capacity, large or small, we all just have to captivate an audience of one, our Lord and Savior. Blessings and strength to all!

  7. Brandi Wilson

    abbie, i know the longing for a peer all too well. praying that God brings that friend to your life.

  8. DisneyCyndi

    Stephanie I don’t know what I would I would do without this community of women. Marc is also bi-vocational and I long for the day when he can just concentrate on church stuff. But most of the time that is a bigger deal for me then it is for him. lol

  9. DisneyCyndi

    As the womens ministry director I have been blessed to have found a great team of women to work with and its kept me from feeling completely alone in this thing (and means the buck doesn’t stop with just me). Its probably the best advice I was ever given.

  10. Elizabeth

    Oh Abbie, Please don’t drink the kool-aide that having a multi staff church will provide a peer for you. Maybe it would, but my experience has been that it will not. I have been where you are in a single staff church and am in the same place at a multi-staff church; longing for a peer, companionship, and just someone who “gets” this crazy journey that we are traveling through ministry. I have been fervently praying for God to provide that special friend for me (and me for her as I know that there must be someone close by with the same heart crying out). Finding this site has quenched a thirst in my heart, but I am still looking for that special someone since it is not provided for me among the other staff wives in our church. Press on good and faithful servant.

  11. Abbie

    Thanks! This is a very small town, in a very rural community, means not many people. God is blessing me with non-pw friends!

    And I do realize more staff at church wouldn’t necessarily mean “instant” friends for me! But at least someone in the same boat.

    Also, loneliness/being alone is a good way to be quiet and rest in God.

    Thanks to all of you!

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