When pastors and pastors’ wives struggle with the challenges of ministry, many find encouragement when they begin to walk alongside others in the same journey. In the account below, Ginnie Varnam shares what the journey has been like for her and her husband, as they received encouragement from other pastors and wives through a regional pastoral cohort.

In the spring of 2023, when my husband Devon Varnam, senior pastor of Southport Baptist Church, began attending a cohort for pastors in the Brunswick County area led by Pastoral Ministry Strategist Sandy Marks, he did not know what to expect. 

This small group of pastors met monthly at 8 a.m. — which he thought was very early for a weekday morning — at a local church in Brunswick County. 

Little did he know that this group of pastors would become an essential part of his life. 

In addition to praying with and for one another and encouraging each other at these meetings, Devon and I began establishing a community with the other pastors and their wives. 

That fall, we, along with two other couples from the cohort, went out for pizza then to see the movie “The Blind.” We enjoyed a time of fun, fellowship and food and looked forward to when we could be together next. 

In the spring of 2024, we invited two more couples from the cohort and went on a “quintuple” date to Cracker Barrel and a bowling alley. While we laughed, enjoying country fried steak and other home-cooked goodness, the waitress asked why we were having so much fun. 

One of the men explained that we were pastors and wives from Brunswick County. She said she lived there and was looking for a church, so the pastor pointed out another pastor at the table whose church was closest to her. That pastor told her about his church and invited her to that Sunday’s service.

We had gone in search of physical food, but God allowed us to plant a spiritual seed with the waitress that evening. 

We truly enjoy living life together. Recently one of the wives spoke at a women’s conference at her church, and three of the pastors’ wives from this cohort went and supported her (from the front row!). 

We continue to live in community with one another. The wives keep up with each other in a group text, where they continue to celebrate with and pray for one another.

Being in ministry can be a lonely place, or it can be filled with fun and laughter as we take seriously the apostle Paul’s direction to “encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

EDITOR’S NOTE — N.C. Baptist pastoral ministries exist to equip, encourage and connect N.C. pastors to lead all and finish well. Learn more about how N.C. Baptists support pastors at ncbaptist.org/pastoral.