Ministry Couples at the Leaders' Conference
Why you should think about coming to the Leaders’ Conference with your spouse, and how to make the most of it if you do.
If you’re married and in ministry, time away together is precious and often hard to organise around busy calendars, particularly if you have children at home. We have two (aged 10 and 7), and even with both sets of parents pretty local to us, we don’t get to go away together that often.
So, why do we choose to use some of this precious time away each year to go to the FIEC Leaders’ Conference together? And, if you’re married, why should you think about doing this too?
Because you are in ministry together
Every ministry marriage is different. Many ministry wives work part- or even full-time, whilst others give most of their time over to church life in its various forms. However, whatever your context, the reality is that you will both experience the joys, sorrows, and sacrifices of ministry life together. It is a shared ministry, even if the wife is normally working 9-5 doing something else.
That’s one reason why we’ve valued going to the FIEC Leaders’ Conference together. Whilst there are other great conferences for ministry wives (and we’re not knocking those), the Leaders’ Conference has given us time away to think about our walks with Christ and our ministry together.
It’s easy for one person to come home from a conference excited about something and wanting to talk but be met with less excitement from the other because they weren’t there! At the Leaders’ Conference, we’re largely hearing the same teaching (apart from the odd seminar) and having lots of shared conversations with friends new and old who are also in Independent church ministry (and so ‘get it’ in a way others might not).
That has sparked some great ideas and conversations that have served our marriage, our family, and our church back home. I (Vicky) have had the chance to meet some more of Will’s ministry friends too, which again has helped me to feel part of something Will’s involved in more widely.
More generally, the conference presents a chance to go away together and get more specific help or advice from experienced ministry couples. You may find it easier to open up together with others completely out of your local context. Whether you’re both just starting out in ministry, or wondering what ‘retirement’ looks like, there are couples there who have walked that path and have wisdom to share.
One couple we know well came to a recent Leaders’ Conference wrestling with parenting issues and found the time to get together with two older ministry couples invaluable. As they put it: “when else would we get that sort of opportunity together in our busy ministry/marriage/family lives?”.
You obviously don’t have to go away to a conference to do all of that, but we’ve found that it has refreshed us with a shared vision of ministry together. Our church gets this, and so pays for our tickets, accommodation, and transport. This also speaks to our church’s desire to invest in Vicky, which relates to the next point.
Because ministry wives need to be equipped for their ministry
Just like every ministry marriage is different, so is every ministry spouse. Alongside the ministry done with her husband, every ministry wife will have her own role in church life based on her gifts, experiences, and capacity.
We’ve found the FIEC Leaders’ Conference has been a place where Vicky has been further equipped for her ministry. Whether the seminars that focus on particular aspects of local-church ministry (eg. youth work, evangelism, safeguarding, or women’s ministry), or the informal but invaluable conversations with more experienced ministry wives, she has always come away helped and encouraged.
Again, there are other conferences that focus on specific aspects of church life, but the Leaders’ Conference brings together a much wider group of people with whom she can network and be encouraged by. The bookstore is also bigger and more specifically geared towards wider ministry than other conference bookstores, and so it’s great for her to be able to access that resource.
It’s also given her the chance to catch up with old friends in ministry in different parts of the UK that she otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to see. For the last few years, we’ve hired an Airbnb local to the conference and stayed with a few ministry couples who are close friends of ours, where we can all just pick up where we left off.
Again, there are lots of ways of investing in and equipping a ministry spouse, but we’ve found the Leaders’ Conference has worked well for this.
Because you can serve others together
We’re increasingly finding that the opportunities to encourage others - particularly those who are going through tough times in life and ministry - are what we come away most thankful for.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and the conference is an opportunity to encourage others who are walking a similar path, often with significant limps. It might be sharing wisdom gleaned from decades of ministry; it might be by encouraging a couple with simple gospel truth, or something else.
However the Lord has used and equipped you for this ministry of encouragement, why not come together with a heart to bless others? You never know how the Lord will use you.
There are other reasons too. The conference is much better and more rounded because of the increasing involvement of women (both on and off the stage), and singing all together is great too!
Make the most of the conference as a couple
Here are some practical ideas for how to make the most of it together:
Before the conference
- Speak to your church leaders (or whoever you need to speak to) about the church covering both of your costs (perhaps by sharing this article).
- Communicate together. Carve out some time to think about what you want to get out of the conference individually and together. What are your expectations about time spent together and apart (eg. meal times)? Don’t assume you think alike on this one!
- Look at the programme and make a plan. If there’s a couple you’d like to catch up with, get in touch with them (the conference app is great for that) and suggest spending some time together. Have an idea of which seminars you’d each like to go to, and which session you might want to miss so that you can go for a walk/snooze/do something else (let the reader understand). Inevitably, there’ll be lots of spontaneous conversations, but plan to do what you want to do. The conference is set up to allow plenty of time for this.
- If you’re coming to the conference in a tough place, there are loads of people who would love to help you. Just ask.
- Think about if you could make it into a wider break. Could you tag on a night before or after in a hotel somewhere on the way to/from Blackpool? Think outside the box.
At the conference
- Make a point of catching up with (or making new) mutual friends. Those shared conversations are often precious, encouraging, and thought provoking.
- Keep your phone on. There are about 1, 000 people at the conference, so you won’t just bump into each other!
- Touch base with each other about how the other is getting on during the conference.
After the conference
- Use the journey home to talk and pray about what encouraged you, and what you’d like to do differently when home. Shared experiences away at conferences are great for stimulating these kinds of conversations.
- Tell your church about what you found helpful about being away together. Particularly if they’ve paid for you to go, it’ll encourage them to hear what the Lord is doing, and how it has blessed you.