When Bridgette Tomlin and her husband, Chresten, began traveling as Assemblies of God evangelists in 1998, she soon discovered a need that went beyond their scheduled platform ministry. As they sat across the table from pastors, the deep needs of ministry wives she met concerned Bridgette. Though only 21 at the time, she began praying for God to open a door for an outreach to women who serve alongside their husbands in the local church.
After spending years observing the needs and speaking with many women, Tomlin stepped out in 2015, holding a ministry wives retreat in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sanctuary Ministry Wives developed from the retreat.
“For many women in ministry, the sanctuary has been a place of hurt,” says Tomlin, 43. “We want to return sanctuary to the original meaning of the word: a haven, a place of refuge and safety.”
Sanctuary Ministry Wives offers four avenues to achieve its vision. Guest writers create a weekly blog, sharing from their own experience the joys and sorrows of ministry life. They cover topics from overcoming disappointment to nurturing a marriage and managing children in the fish bowl of parsonage life.
“Let’s Connect” is a networking service that assists ministry wives in setting up quarterly dinners in their own geographic area. Sanctuary team member Richelle Wingo, children’s pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Stillwater, Oklahoma, helps women locate a dinner group close to their home or assists in establishing one. More than 30 groups meet around the country. These dinners are promoted on the Sanctuary Wives website and Facebook group.
“Let’s Come Alongside” serves as a mentoring ministry, connecting individual women for more personal care. Interested women fill out an application on the website’s mentoring page. They are matched with another ministry wife who commits to a minimum of four personal contacts. Sometimes the mentoring lasts for the season of need; other times lifelong friendships form.
The semiannual retreat also continues to be a major focus for the ministry, moving from its original location in Tulsa to a retreat center outside of Waco, Texas. The retreat is kept small intentionally so that personal ministry is a priority. Tomlin has discovered that many ministry women isolate themselves and struggle with being vulnerable with others, due to the hurts that often accompany ministry.
“It takes time for us to put our true feelings out for others to see,” Tomlin says. “We are so good at helping, but not always very good at asking for help.”
Angi Jackson, who serves First Assembly of God in Stroud, Oklahoma, with her husband, Jeromye, attended the first retreat in 2015. She hesitated after being invited, trying to manage her own grief while ministering healing to others. Attending a retreat with people she didn’t know seemed daunting, especially because she recently had dealt with the trauma of the loss of her infant son.
“I went to the retreat just trying to survive each day,” Jackson says. “I left with a new word: thrive.” Jackson joined a Let’s Connect group and is now hosting her own. She is grateful to have intentional time with friends who understand her circumstances.
Although the Tomlins are AG evangelists and Bridgette serves as an administrator for pastor Luke Crain at CrossPoint Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the Sanctuary outreach is interdenominational. Many pastors serve in small towns and their best hope of connecting with colleagues can be cross-denominational. While many towns have ministerial alliance for the pastors, few offer connection opportunities for women serving alongside their husbands. Sanctuary Ministry Wives helps to fill that gap.
Source: AG News