By: Irene Rollins

Over five years ago, when my husband and I were in the infancy stages of launching what is now i5 City, I struggled and toiled with the thought of what in the world was it going to look like for me in my role as “lead pastor’s wife”. There was no playbook to follow, but I was determined I would figure it out because I knew God doesn’t make mistakes, and if He led me to marry this man then He had in mind that I would be leading alongside him one day.

I struggled with what I had known to be the model “first lady,” and knew that the hat, gloves, and trophy-wife-thing did not suit me. My husband got the idea and suggested that I champion our water outreach initiatives by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa to raise money for well projects in remote parts of Tanzania. What a crazy idea but brilliant all at the same time. I was born in Africa and have always felt pulled to make a difference there. I also love fitness challenges. You mean God could use me like that? It was a life changing moment for me that truly awakened the call on my life at a time when I was searching for answers, direction and clarity from God regarding my purpose and role in ministry.

Managing the expectations of what it meant to be a pastors wife in the culture of a pre-existing church was difficult for me. The pressure I felt when I heard people call me “first lady” or “pastor’s wife” had much to do with the expectations I thought people had of me as well as the unending list of expectations I had of myself.

Successfully summiting Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The guide assigned to help me up the mountain kept saying, “you have to respect the mountain” and, “take it pole pole” (slowly, slowly in Swahili). If you don’t, you will get altitude sickness, which was the body’s way of attempting to re-pressurize under the changing conditions during the climb. My mentor who was a seasoned climber was there to encourage me. When my strength was failing and I could no longer hear her or the guides voice, the Lord reminded me that He is my total source when the climb of life and ministry gets hard! I needed this reminder desperately as I faced what I saw as my mountain at home launching i5 City.

3 things I learned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that I pray inspire you in your journey:

Be the best version of yourself. We all must learn to get comfortable in our own skin and be who He called us to be! As you begin to identify and embrace your talents, God will use them in great ways to serve His people. All your gifts are important and meaningful in serving the BIG PICTURE, whether your assignment is to sing, teach, preach or create a haven at home for your husband to come home to.

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)

Free yourself from the expectations of others. Rather than allowing the opinion of others to dictate your life, free yourself to be a God-pleaser not a people-pleaser. Play for an audience of ONE as Jesus did. He was always about the Father’s business and His will above all else.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38 (NIV)

You cannot do ministry alone! We all need a support system. We all need other women who can cheer us on, who have been there, done that, and can offer guidance when ministry and life gets crazy. All of us need friends in our lives that will say “pole, pole!” and “You got this!”

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Irene Rollins is a wife, mother and pastor at i5 City Church. A health and fitness enthusiast, she co-founded the first youth track and field club in her county that has since grown into a full fledged sports program, mentoring hundreds of students ages 6-18 years old and impacting the lives of their families for Jesus Christ. In her downtime you can find Irene reading, exercising or clowning around with her husband Jimmy of 17 years and her children Kayla (16), Jaden (14) and Maya (11). Fun fact: Irene once came in 2nd place in an amateur downhill skiing competition in the Swiss Alps. 



The Rising conference is going to be a life changing weekend with hundreds of girls at DAR CONSTITUTION HALL, plus guest speakers Holly Wagner, Lisa Bevere, and Jo Saxton. Who are YOU bringing? Don’t wait to REGISTER!

“Going to the Beautiful You Conference has been an uplifting and treasured time with girlfriends. The speakers share such powerful testimonies that encourage me long after I leave.” –Sue