- Virginia’s Website
- Follow Virignia Ward on Twitter
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- Abundant Life Church
Our marriages are impacting the next generation, whether we like it or not! That’s why we’re excited to be talking to Virginia Ward.
Virginia is the Director of Leadership of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. She also leads their Mentored Ministry Initiatives and is a pastor at Abundant Life Church in Cambridge, MA where her husband is the lead pastor. Virginia and her husband have a lot of influence on the next generation, so who better to talk to?
Give us a little about your background and ministry.
I am the oldest twin daughter and one of four. I’m a native Bostonian, I’ve been married for 34 years and we have two grown sons. My heart is really urban youth leaders, but helping people lead themselves first and then helping them lead and grow their leadership capacity.
You say you work a lot with two different demographics. Tell us about that.
I work a lot with parents in an urban environment—and by that I mean people who live in cities of all financial backgrounds. I also work with families in ethnic communities where English may not be their first language and they’re working their way up from the blue-collar realm.
Talk about your heart for the city. What makes that different than maybe the suburbs?
I grew up in the Boston area and then we moved to suburb south of Boston. But when we got married I wanted to go back to the city—it’s a faster pace, it’s constantly moving. Boston is run by knowledge—it’s ironic that we have a lot of academia but so many people who are not educated.
When we started our church my husband and I didn’t have our undergrad degrees but we went back to school and go them. We’ve seen people in our congregation go do the same as we’ve modeled it.
When you talk about going into ‘the city’, what does that look like for you?
We live in the city, we ministry in the city, I work in the city. For us, it’s being connected to knowing who our mayor is, who our city council is. I serve as a mentor in the city of Cambridge for a girls program for 8th grade girls as they transition into high school. I want 8th grade girls to see that you can be a pastor, to help debunk some of the myths of being in ministry.
What would you say to a young girl if she were to think guys can do more than her?
I would say to her to keep her eyes open and store everything. Try things, pick up things and ‘store it in your bag’. Try a sports team, play an instrument, try new things. Keep track of what you like and what you don’t like. That begins to inform her of who she is becoming.
How does marriage impact kids?
We have a spectrum of marriages in our church. We have young marrieds and people who got married a little older. My husband and I married at 22, so we grew together.
I’m seeing a shift lately where marriage is about my happiness and if they can’t help you and satisfy you, then why are you there? But I tell couples to take the divorce card off the table, and if you can get them to take that off the table they tend to be more willing to put selfish things aside and really work toward the ‘we’.
Why do you think there are so many people who have divorce on the table?
It’s an easy way out where you don’t have to change. Marriage makes you look at yourself and the truths about yourself you may not have wanted to address.
People are more educated than ever, but it feels like relationally people are less intelligent. Do you see that in people?
Yes, definitely. We can rationalize everything, but in relationships there isn’t the rationale. It forces us to have to be in that place of love—love God, love your neighbor as yourself and love each other like I have loved you. To bring that into a marriage, that is unconditional.
God’s way of marriage is radical, some would even say ‘old school’. How do we talk to people about how it works?
We have to go back to square one, Adam and Eve. He made man and woman so man wouldn’t be alone, but also so they could be fruitful and multiply. This isn’t just about children – there’s something we can do together as a married couple that we can’t do alone.
When a woman sees a man, she sees his purpose and potential. If she can see alignment with that, she grows together with him. But she also recognizes her purpose in helping the greater purpose be accomplished. I encourage couples to figure out—who is she, who is he and then who are we together.
How has your husband made you even better and how have you made him better?
I would not be the woman I am today without him. When I met him, I was a mouthy, insecure female. I came from a divorce and was a rebellious kid. I knew it all and was going to do it my way. When I met him, he would ask me questions that made me think. He makes me think and process and question.
Together the teamwork and synergy is amazing. I have helped him in that he’ll think and process and think and process and I help him move. We’re both supposed to submit one to another.
Talk a little about family of origin and how you and your husband’s collided.
My husband grew up in a two-parent home and they always knew the presence of a father. My father was there for a time, but then it was my mom raising four kids alone. As a child of divorced parents, I often felt forgotten. That played into my relationship with God—thinking he’d be there sometimes and then disappear.
My husband had a great relationship with his dad and even grandfathers. At first in marriage, it was difficult for me to receive instruction from a man and I had to check that. My husband modeled for me what a man in the home should look like, but he also had to separate and not be my father. That was an eye-opening lesson for me. This has been a lesson because 70% of homes in the urban environment are single parent homes. It’s a real issue we have to address.
Have the people you work with from a single parent home given up on the idea of marriage? Do they want to be married?
Many still want to be married but they want a healthy marriage – the basics. If he doesn’t have a job or a home, he’s not a man to marry. They want both parents to handle discipline, because if you don’t check it when you have a five year old, you’ll have a problem by eight!
Mom’s have a gear that dad’s don’t have and tend to be so nurturing. Does being a single mom keep them from having that?
They have to balance both. I know some single moms who have done an amazing job of loving and nurturing but putting down their foot as well. The danger, especially if they’re raising sons, is they can be so much of a disciplinarian they lose the nurture. Or others who are so nurturing there’s no discipline there.
Does this communicate to you that kids need a mom and a dad?
I know it’s old school and traditional, but we all need a mother and a father.
In a community where 70% of kids are born to a single parent, how do you champion marriage without alienating people?
We’re being very intentional about championing marriage while keeping in mind most of our congregation is single. We help people understand that God’s plan is two-fold—this is what marriage looks like, this is what singlehood looks like.
We try to use examples of both. And even in the married examples, using examples of those without children. But if you are going to enter the covenant with another person before God, this is what it should look like.
Your one simple thing for this week for a married couple: Grow together. No matter what situation you’re in – whether you both work or have different lives (one of you stays home, etc.), find ways to grow together emotionally, spiritually, through all you’re going through.
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If you want more resources, check out Your Best Us. Finally, we hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode!