Shepherdess is a very fitting name for the wife of the one who shepherds the flock. She is the one who fills a unique position. Through the many facets of her character, she reflects God's Tight to the people around her. She completes or "rounds-out" her husband's ministry just as a jewel complements an outfit. Genesis 2:18 says, "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helpmeet for him.— No companion could be found for Adam among the animals. It had to be one of his kind. In God's plan since the creation of Eve, the wife is therefore a helpmeet to compliment the man. A pastoral wife plays a valuable part in the ministry for she is the silent figure who provides moral support and a prayer in every step of the pastor's way. With her, the pastor-husband knows that he has a ready critic, admirer and "thermostat."
When Christ called His disciples to follow Him, He offered no flattering prospect in this life. His shepherdess is likewise playing a major role in this "self-sacrificing ministry" in the form of loneliness, the meager ministerial paycheck, and being always taken as a model (whether she likes it or not).
Is she affected by these "waves"? it depends whether she chooses to glide on them, or let them push her away from the shore. But as she clings to Christ, the Rock of Ages, an ever present source of strength, the shepherdess will eventually reach a friendly port.
The role that pastoral wives are playing is of such importance that steps have been taken by our leaders to provide a new organization for these special ladies. Shepherdess International is a program sponsored by the General Conference under the auspices of the Ministerial Association. Its chapters assist the minister's spouse to grow spiritually, develop personally and clarify her role, It helps her form a team ministry built around her unique gifts and abilities. She also finds fellowship in a support system (with fellow pastoral wives among others) and is assisted in developing stronger family relationships.
This unique position of a minister's wife places her under special stresses and expectations from the congregation that are not experienced by any other women in the church. It is important that the shepherdess feels loved and appreciated and that the church expresses this to her also. How can we support them? Here are some ways:
- Pray for her. She needs the strength of the Lord for her daily living.
- Appreciate her. She deserves some sincere praise for her efforts. Let her know that you care by sending a note or a card or telling her family.
- Be supportive of her programs and projects. She needs your willingness and cooperation as she works for the Lord.
- Be kind and honest with her. All criticisms even when done constructively, hurt. If you must do it, tell her lovingly and in private.
- Accept her for what she is She does not have a monopoly of all talents. Help her realize that you understand her, by protecting and assisting her in areas where she is limited.
- Be friendly. Friends have a way of lifting. On some occasions, she needs to know she is not alone.
- Love her family. Warmly welcome her family to your home. Treat her children with understanding; they are not unlike other kids.
In fulfilling the mission of the church, let us continue to provide a stronger support for one of the most essential (yet rarely recognized) workers of the church —the shepherdesses.