Welcome to the first post in our First Ladies Diariesseries!
In this exciting series, we will be interviewing the First Ladies of various churches to talk about their lives, their struggles, their victories, their families, things they’ve learned, advice they have, their thoughts about modern-day pastorship, and so many other amazing things!
In today’s post, I will be sharing thoughts and answers from First Lady Gwen Craft of Christian Life Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.
My husband and I had the privilege of following under the leadership of Pastor Robin and Sister Gwen Craft for three years. Take it from me when I say they know how to LOVE their people with all of their hearts. It shows in their ministry and their everyday lives. (100% recommend if you’re looking for a great Apostolic Pentecostal church in that area.) Click here to visit their website.
Today we will be talking a little bit about Sis. Craft’s background and how she juggles ministry, saints, and her family.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Gwen Craft was born and raised in Birmingham Alabama until she was 10 years old. Between the ages of 10 and 16, she lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Burbank, California; and Raleigh, North Carolina. Gwen attended Jackson College of Ministries from 1993-1995. She married the man that she had prayed for in 1995. In the 24 years that they have been married, they have been student pastors, church planters, AIMers to the Dominican Republic, and they currently pastor in Worcester, Massachusetts. They have two amazing daughters, Elaina (age 17) and Addyson (age 8).
Now onto the questions!
Dream church building style: modern or traditional?
Modern, because they typically allow for easy expansion.
What are your three favorite events held at your church?
- Ladies Retreat
- Kids Summer Music Workshop
- Summer Revival
What was your biggest challenge being a new pastor’s wife?
Juggling being a new mom, my career, and what I thought was expected of me.
Was it difficult to take over from another pastor?
We planted our first church, but our current pastorate is a church that had three pastors before us over 25 years. I would say it was challenging for sure. For one thing, because there had been such heavy turnover in pastors, it took a few years for the original ten saints to trust that we were there to stay.
It’s also a challenge to use wisdom on what to change and when to make those changes. We decided to just have good church and love people to death for the first few years.
What is something you know now that you wish you had known in the beginning?
That while others may have expected me to have it all together like the pastors; wives that had been in ministry for 30 years, Jesus didn’t expect that of me.
What do you do to get spiritual R&R?
WHEN POSSIBLE (meaning my husband and girls are out of town), I like to shut in with Jesus for 2-3 days. During those days, I plan times of studying the Word more in-depth, prayer that is more intimate than usual, listen/watch preaching, eat my favorite foods?, and do some repurposing to a piece of furniture while listening to praise & worship music or preaching/teaching.
What are your thoughts on the importance of having a strong spiritual mentor?
It is a necessity! Sis. Carla Depriest has been my pastor’s wife & mentor for 19 years. Sis. Vickie Oliver has been my mentor for 10 years. There are some things I COULD NOT talk to my husband about because of the pressure it would put on him. These ladies knew just what I needed to hear. They have spiritual authority to put me in my place when needed, and I’ve needed it! They also know exactly how to love me like Jesus does. I don’t want to do this without them.
What are some of your favorite books and/or devotionals?
Anything by Lysa Terkeurst, Warren Wiersbe, and Phillip Harrelson
What is your best advice for raising kids in a pastor’s home?
Our home is our haven. It’s our safe place. First of all, Monday is our “day off” unless someone in the church has an emergency. We don’t take calls, answer emails, or discuss ANYTHING related to church activities, etc.
My husband and I have made a point of NEVER discussing anything negative regarding God’s people in front of our children.
Also, when our kids come to us complaining about church people, we hear them out. We try to help them process the situation through scripture and remind them to pray for the other person and also for themselves that they will know how to respond.
We NEVER use “because you’re the pastor’s kid” as a reason for anything. We want to teach them character that would be displayed by both a PK and/or a saint.
Looking back, would you change anything about your approach or methods in the first few years?
Absolutely! I would RELAX about everything!
I would know my field of labor instead of trying to do something in our church because it worked somewhere else.
I would love people more than trying to prove myself…??
I would make my family a priority, and on and on and on…
Can you offer some advice on how to build church community in the generation where people are less generous with their time?
In all seriousness, it’s the spirit of the age. The Word tells us that in the end times, the days would grow short. I used to think that meant there would only be 20 hrs. in each day instead of 24. I’ve come to realize that people’s lives are FILLED with so much EMPTINESS that they don’t “have time” to give Jesus more than a few hours on Sunday.
TEACH IT! The American way is the only way they know. However, we as pastors also have a responsibility to respect people’s time. In most households, both parents work, kids have homework, there are “cares of life” EVERY DAY. We do our best to be aware of that. For instance, we keep Wednesday night Bible Study at one hour. No exceptions. We have saints who drive 45 minutes to an hour to attend. It’s a sacrifice that they make to attend on Wednesday night. Shame on us if we don’t consider them.
What outreach techniques do you find are most effective?
One-on-one! 100% of the time! We have three families in our congregation because 8-9 years ago we decided to always go to the same cashier at the grocery store checkout. Once she FINALLY (it took years) came to church and received the Holy Ghost, she brought her sister and her family, and they brought friends. One-on-one is the most time consuming and can feel like an eternity, but IT WORKS.
Which Bible studies would you recommend?
Eat This Book by Melani Shock.
What do you do to cultivate friendship?
When we first moved to Worcester, my husband and I intentionally sought out other pastors and pastor’s wives that we could meet for dinner once a month, talk on the phone, go on vacation with, etc. We watched many from our parents’ generation who had been so consumed with ministry that when they retired or quit pastoring, they didn’t have anyone. We need friends!
What do you & your husband do to build your marriage?
One week a year, we go alone to Maine to a little coastal town: Boothbay. It’s before tourist season begins, so it’s almost like we are the only people around. It’s a week of just us! We like to read, take walks, antique-shop, binge-watch Fixer Upper ?, etc.
We do our best to eat lunch or dinner, just us, one day a week.
Every few months or so, we go “away” for a night or two. Sometimes it’s only 45 min away. Sometimes, we drive 3 hours to NYC (my favorite?). Ministry is THE most demanding job. Be intentional about spending time together!
What piece of advice would you offer to ladies stepping into the ministry?
Have a relationship with Jesus that is not connected at all to your ministry. I went years before I realized that most of my fellowship with my Lord was about the church: the church people, the church finances, the city needing to be saved, THE PASTORS WIFE??. The pressures of ministry weren’t as heavy when I intentionally excluded anything ministry-related from my daily time with Jesus. After all, it’s my relationship (just me and Him) with Jesus that will get me to heaven, NOT my ministry.
That wraps up our questions for this blog post! I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to First Lady Gwen Craft of CLC for taking time out of your schedule to share your thoughts and your wisdom for this interview.
I pray this article is a blessing to all that read it. It certainly blessed me!
Until next time!
Hugs and blessings,