My mother was one of the loneliest women I've ever known. The phone rang constantly in our modest parsonage, and my mom, small-town preacher's wife, attended every church function. Day after day she'd spiff up her 1970s beauty-parlored hair and don her pantyhose for women's events and missions meetings. My mother was rarely alone and yet... I don't remember her ever sharing a personal issue with a kindred spirit, or laughing lightheartedly in our kitchen with a friend over a cup of coffee. Quite frankly, she lacked the support of close, trusted friendships. When I asked her about this many years later, she stated matter-of-factly, "Pastor's wives just can't have close friends. It makes other women feel left out."
Okay, I get it, but still... There has to be a way for women in leadership to have close-knit friendships. We need it. I'm not a preacher's wife, but I am a ministry leader.
And all these years later, I still see women in leadership struggling with the same isolation my mother experienced. It's a dangerous problem, because as leaders we are on the spiritual frontlines and we should not be there alone.
Recently a women's ministry director told me about a squabble with one of the women in her church. Apparently this disgruntled parishioner was upset about not being invited to my friend's personal prayer group.
"I think she felt left out," moaned my weary colleague, as she considered canceling her small group to avoid the conflict.
As ministry leaders, we pour ourselves into making sure each woman's needs are met. But when our commitment to "include everyone" and "exclude no one" overflows from ministry obligations to our personal life, we lose out on intimate friendship and personal prayer support. And we leave ourselves dangerously vulnerable to the enemy.
With the added pressure and responsibilities of ministry demands, I carry a heavy load—in life and in prayer. So, I'll be the first to say it... "HELP!" I need the prayer support of committed comrades who diligently intercede for me and with me. I can't imagine leading in ministry without the prayer support of my loyal friends—my Prayer Sisters.
Ministry leaders need a safe place to vent. My Prayer Sisters see me cry, complain and pout. They see me being real in prayer. Sometimes real ugly. It's okay to be temporarily ugly in front of friends who know the beauty of our heart. Let's face it. Life is hard for a leader, and sometimes we just need to sit back and be comforted in the safe circle of faithful friends.
I realize when leaders choose to surround themselves with a small group of spiritually like-minded women, it can cast an image of having an "in" group. But over time, as the true nature of this humble prayer group proves itself, more women will want their own Prayer Sisters. Here are some ideas to help you develop your own safe circle of close, praying friends.
Pray. Ask God for his direction in choosing friends to surround you in prayer. Listen intently for the names of women he places on your heart. Be assured prayer support is God's desire for you as well. He will help you choose the right people.
Look. To begin looking for friends to join you in prayer, you can search within your circle, but also look outside your church or ministry. You may find leaders of other organizations, neighbors, or members of other churches to be remarkably safe allies.
Observe. Watch for women who display godly character. You will want to surround yourself with friends who consistently choose to honor God and others with their words and actions.
Enlist. If you are married, recruit your husband's support for this kind of personal prayer network. Talk to your boss or pastor about your need for personal Prayer Sisters, emphasizing this is not an elite group, but a necessary group of comrades.
Explain. Describe the vision of Prayer Sisters with the women you're considering for your group. Discuss your needs and desires for your personal Prayer Sisters. Stress the importance of honesty and confidentiality, as well as the commitment to not judge one another.
Limit. Keep your group small. This is not to be exclusive, but to cultivate an atmosphere of trust.
Plan. Put together a plan to pray regularly together and make it a top priority. Schedule a time and mark it on your calendar as a recurring appointment to keep that time slot committed to prayer.
Persist. Having a close group of praying friends is worth fighting for. You will see your ministry blessed, your friendships deepened, and your life enriched as you pray together with your Prayer Sisters.
From the heart of Kathy Groom, Founder and President, Prayer Sisters International
(More ideas and free downloads at www.prayersisters.org)