No other profession places spouses under a greater load in respect to actions, than does the ministry. Many women in the congregations see the pastor's wife as a role and not a person. Often she is valued for what she can give rather than for what she is. Expectations cannot be wished away. The pastor's spouse is expected to play many roles—advisor to her husband, counselor to her children as well as everything else to the church members.
She is to be a comforter of her husband when he bears stressful challenges and sleepless nights because of confrontations. This also affects her but she is expected to cherish a pleasant mood and never share it with anybody. She is not expected to make friends within the congregations and if she does, she may be accused of playing favorite.
She is to greet and welcome the pastor's visitors. She is the receiver and deliverer of messages. In the absence of her husband she is expected to assist. Church members sometimes see her as they see a pastor.
The "pastor's" wife is forced to make a painful decision to either renounce her own uniqueness and identity by conforming to the image of an exemplary minister's wife or to stiffen her back and assert her individuality to free choice that makes her different from all others. She is expected to minister to her children, help them in their school work and in turn the kids are to live an exemplary life, too. She is expected to be a counselor to the church members. A comforter to the bereaved. A listening car to the complaining members. A teacher to all age groups in the church—welfare, youth, Pathfinders, Adventurers, Sabbath School, A.W.M. etc.
Whatever is done in the church she is expected to be a page ahead of the church members. She is expected to conduct Bible Studies and attend every function of the church. Members want her to be ever willing to provide hospitality and food and do this on a very tight budget without complaining—after all this is the Lord's work.
The conference as well as church members want to see her with her spouse doing team ministry. However, let her be involved in a car accident and she is expected to accept the fact that she is not employed and therefore has no benefits. "God Bless Her" will suffice.
The above mentioned expectations are just a drop in an ocean of expectations which are so high and sometimes so unrealistic that seeking to cope is difficult or at times impossible.
The Pastoral Call and Moving
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church pastors do not choose their own congregations and districts. The Conference Executive Committee, which is the employing body, assigns them. The decision to relocate a minister is referred to as a call and is usually considered to be mandatory. On the average every three years, a minister may be moved to a new pastorate. What if the call seems right for the pastor and not for the wife? The church implies that the wife is bound to follow the husband. If she is working, she has to resign. Failing which the pastor will be released to go and look for another job. Sometimes she is at the peak of her career when the husband receives the call to relocate but she has to resign and resigning means forfeiting all her benefits.
The wife forfeited education. She assisted the pastor with his advance education and when it was her turn she was not allowed to leave the pastor alone to finish hers or the pastor is released from his work.
Sometimes, after forfeiting all and staying with her husband as required by the church, the pastor dies leaving her alone.
The church then kindly asks her to return to them (the church) their accommodation (mission house).
Out she goes. She is bound to go and rent the cheapot accommodation she can afford because she is not working and usually the taverns (houses where liquor is sold) and shacks are all that is affordable for one who is not working.
Her name will remain in the church record books as well as the Conference record books but personally she will eventually be forgotten even by the working force. If there is any pension or money which was due her, it can end up somewhere lost in the banking system. She suddenly becomes a stranger, never invited to gatherings, never experiencing again the warmth of her former colleagues.
Pastor's wives are bestowed a mass of potentials, which if faithfully released may set a different picture in the ministry. Releasing of these potentials depends however, on an environment that is conducive to its development and release. Production and production capability is the master key. Effectiveness is the balance of the two.
1. Remuneration to be considered as an abling means. Especially to the pastor's wives who are dedicated and working full-time with their spouses.
2. Training/In-Service training should be conducted for minister's wives to prepare and equip them for the Lord's work.
3. Sense of belonging to the pastor's wife. Shepherdesses belong nowhere in the church. They need a budget for them. They cannot even meet for there is no budget for them. They are only thrown into their spouses' car when the spouses are going to meet. If that particular time is not convenient for them, they are to meet in the vestry. The amount of time spent together will depend on the length of their husbands' meetings.
Let's hope to see a different picture in the future. To be a pastor's wife is a wonderful blessing, with wonderful experiences that bring one nearer to God than ever. I thank God for making me a pastor's spouse.