Unemployed Employee

Unemployed Employee: The Dilemma of an SDA Pastor's Wife

God intended partnership from the very beginning.

Maria Buwa is a pastor's wife. She has been doing full-time team ministry with her husband for 18 years. They have three children—Mbulelo, Nwabisa and Ayanda. Presently they are facing the challenge of opening a new district at Humansdorp near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She is also a coordinator for Women's Ministries in Southern Hope Conference Eastern Region, and a literature evangelist as well. Maria enjoys reading, preaching and teaching.

God intended partnership from the very beginning. Hence, Jesus also when sending His disciples, paired them in partners to assist each other, encourage each other, support each other, and they become more effective in the work.

According to African culture in general getting married to a pastor is to become a pastor. Even when a married layman accepts a call into Ministry, it is taken for granted or as a foregone conclusion that the wife has also accepted the call and from that day she also is to be regarded (by the congregation) as a pastor.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is using this strategy of man and woman, called together and serving together, to hasten Jesus' coming.

Ellen White recognized the value of team ministry both to pastoral couples marriages and to their ministry. This team working gives us a clear recognition that both spouses are called by God for the service and presupposes that they are both equally dedicated to ministry of proclaiming the good news of salvation and hastening the return of Jesus Christ.

The church seems to shun the responsibility of accepting the spouse as a distinct worker. As a result she goes on carrying along the unjust expectations to serve while not recognized and not prepared for the service (the church does not prepare her or pay her).

Two For The Price Of One

Hiring two for the price of one is tragedy to a pastor's wife. The church hires the pastor and the wife is thrown in. As a result, pastors are employed and their wives are "unemployed employees". This means that wife's labors are merged in their husbands' and this cripples their individuality.

Dr. M. Munroe once said that "everybody is designed to be distinc­tive, special, irreplaceable, and unique" (Maximising Your Potential, p. 1). It is impossible to be special, unique, or distinct when you are merged forcefully to somebody else. How painful it is to be buried alive. Imagine a person who is placed deep down into a grave without a coffin, heavy-soil and stones thrown onto her, oxygen is cut off, the person is suffocating, feeling pains and instead of a rescue a voice is heard, "You are not employed".

This situation places at risk the healthy development of the self-esteem. She becomes confused as to whether she is "dead or alive". Her self-esteem becomes low which ultimately results in inability to form non-violent healthy relationships, especially towards the administrators and in the church at large. This manifests itself in various ways. She may be shy, quiet, careless, or even very strong. All these traits serve as defensive mechanisms.

According to E. G. White, "A woman should fill the position which God originally designed her, as her husband's equal ... she should stand by his side, she faithfully at her post of duty and he at his" (AH, p. 231).

When God says that "husband and wife are to be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24) we assume that we have to decide whose flesh.

God created pastor's wives having a purpose in mind, in them (pastor's wives) there are potentials, hence E. White states it clearly that, " . . . a responsibility rests upon the minister's wife which she should not and cannot lightly throw off. God will require the talent lent her with usury. She should work earnestly, faithfully to save souls" (IT, p. 452). The church ideally contradicts its own counsel by merging the two together... to restrict, abuse, misuse, or repress the potential of any living thing has a direct effect on the purpose and will of God" (Maximising Your Potential, p. 171). The releasing and maximization of the potential is dependent however, on an environment that is conducive to its development and release . . . this great potential is minimized, restrained and immobilised by an improper environment conditions.

The Capacity-Preparedness For Being a Pastor's Wife

The pastor's wife is expected to play an advisory role to her children, church members, and her husband, which must be accompanied by the knowledge of the work in depth. Minister's wives come straight from colleges, laymanship, university, high school, etc. They have never been in the ministry before. They receive no training (because they are not employed) nor told how and what to do. They are expected to know.

The expectations go without assistance in terms of seminars or inservice training to equip them. There are seminars organized by the church for pastors, and in most cases when the pastors' education is insufficient the administrators usually suggest and encourage (they do not force her) the wife to assist the pastor in terms of supporting him at college in order to qualify for the job. Sometimes the church subsidizes the pastor with a certain percentage and in most cases this poor wife has to work hard to assist him with the remaining percentage and support the family until the pastor obtains his degree. In most cases this situation deprives the wife the opportunity for education. She may become less interested in reading and, as a result, her husband may not find her very intellectually stimulating anymore. Instead of growing together, they have grown apart. When the pastor comes back to work after completing his degree, the church is not interested in his wife. The pastor (husband) may be kind enough to and be prepared to send her now to college but unfortunately he does not choose his own congregations and districts. It is very possible that he will be relocated in a district where there is no college or university, etc. or even if there are any, they may not offer courses required by the wife.

The issue may be discussed among the family and they agree that the wife might attend the college or university where the required courses are offered.

The institution may be 100 or more kilometres away, this goes without saying that this woman has to find accommodation at the institution or nearby. As soon as the church becomes aware of this matter, the pastor is humbly called into the office and politely asked that his wife come home. Failing which he will be released to go and stay with her.

After spending so many difficult years at the college studying theology he then will ask the wife to forfeit her education and stay with him because the office has promised to fire him. There is no alternative. The poor wife has to obey and remain uneducated, leading highly educated church members and living with an educated man.

One cannot over-emphasize the fact that this woman will be frustrated, develop an inferiority complex that will manifest itself in various ways and this pastor and his wife will continue growing apart. Uneducated, untrained, unemployed as she is, she is blamed when the pastor fails.

In some cases there is a need for the pastor to be reprimanded by the administrators. They are both called into the office. Yes, the emphasis is on the pastor but in some cases on both and the very fact that she has been called is unpleasant. Imagine the pastor and his wife sitting at the matron's office or duty-room being reprimanded by the matron or the sister in charge of the ward, because the pastor's wife (who is a nurse) did not record the blood pressure of a certain patient in the ward, or the nursing process charts were not properly charted, etc. I wonder how would the pastor respond? How would he feel?

It does happen in the ministry that the pastor's wife finds herself sitting at the office having no answer to any of the questions. Tears run down her cheeks. This unpleasant situation taps directly on the animal side of a human being, which may result in her hating the administrators, the work and anyone who is involved in the problem.

After accumulating all these types of hatred she moves from the real world and lives in what Caroly Rathburn-Sutton calls, the fantasy-land". A life in fantasyland is not a real life but an imaginary one which manifests itself in various ways. She builds castles in the air, becomes devastated and has low morale.

In such a situation the role and influence becomes very minimal. Manipulative and controlling behavior reduces an individual's capacity to choose for himself/ herself or to function adequately without dictatorial directives. In every work there is a direct need of creativity, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, etc., which comes from within the person. It cannot be dictated. Hence Stephen Covey puts it this way, "You can buy a person's hand, but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is. You can buy his back, but you can't buy his brain. That's where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness." (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 58).

Creativity, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, etc., all go with the understanding of what one is doing so as to be effective.

Some pastor's wives never seem to fit the role. They are not remembered for their influence and love. Why?

Stephen Covey often suggests the importance of maintaining what he calls, P/PC balance (Production and Production Capability must be balanced). He says, "... true effectiveness is a function of two things: What is produced (fulfilling of the expectations) and the capacity to produce (clarity regarding role expectations and equipping the pastor's wife). He goes on to say, "If you adopt the pattern of life that focuses on the production and neglect the capacity to produce or producing asset you will soon be without assets that produce the production" (Ibid.). This means that the ministers' spouses probably won't leave ministry, but will continue to live in the "fantasyland". Stephen Covey continues and says, "On the other hand, if you only take care of the production capability with no aim toward the production, you soon won't have the wherewithal to feed yourself. Effectiveness lies in the balance of the two"

Remuneration of Pastor's Wives

Pastor's wives do a lot of work even if they are employed in other lines of work. They give many hours of volunteer service to God's cause each day no matter how tired they become. They are sometimes pressurized by heavy expectations as well.

Remunerating pastor's wives gives them courage, a sense of belonging ...and a great motivation. Everybody feel secure when they know that they belong somewhere. They may become more committed to the work. It goes without saying that everybody wants to be recognized. If one is recognized, belongs, is committed and secure then they tap into the energies of the mind and heart. It has already been said that resourcefulness and ingenuity come from these two parts of a human body, and that is what brings success.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church demands a pastor's spouse for service, and yet there is no budget for her. Some of the ministers' wives faithfully support their husbands full-time but many receive little recognition and few incentive to continue their work. Remuneration does not only refer to money, there are various ways of remunerating a person.

To Be Continued . . .

Maria Buwa is a pastor's wife. She has been doing full-time team ministry with her husband for 18 years. They have three children—Mbulelo, Nwabisa and Ayanda. Presently they are facing the challenge of opening a new district at Humansdorp near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She is also a coordinator for Women's Ministries in Southern Hope Conference Eastern Region, and a literature evangelist as well. Maria enjoys reading, preaching and teaching.