When Tension Builds in the Pastor's Home

Let's be honest: The pastor's family is not perfect.

Priscilla Swank is a pastoral wife at the Good Hope church in Windham, Maine.

Let's be honest. The pastor's family is not perfect. Where did we ever get the idea that it was or that it had to be?

Let's be honest on another point. The pastor's marriage is not perfect. No marriage on this spiritually fallen planet is perfect. Further, where did we ever get the idea that we had to portray to laity or other clergy that our marriages were perfect?

A quick reading of the first few chapters in Genesis inform us that we are damaged property. The snake and mortals' free wills saw to that from the start, unfortunately.

That damaged property includes marriage—for laypersons and parsonage families alike.

So what does the pastor's wife do when the marriage gets stressed out? Statistics are showing that increasingly the parsonage household needs help in this area. There is plenty of tension to go around, sadly.

I have been married to the same pastor husband for over forty years. We have been in ministry for thirty-seven of those years. So I look back over some of the attempts we have sincerely made to work against stress brought on by being in ministry. May I share some of them with you?

(1) We both regard one another as equals in ministry. That is, we are both open to discussion. We are both called upon to talk things out, speak up, and work through life's situation. In other words, there is no one of the twosome regarded as "boss of the show."

My husband surely does have his share of opinions. And I do, too. We both submit then to one another, just as Paul wrote that husbands and wives were to do (Ephesians 5:21).

(2) We splice matters into small pieces. We have a tendency to analyze situations to the nth degree—this includes people, bureaucracies, programs, doctrine, money, decision-making and the like. There are not many generalities in our lives; there arc myriads of specifics.

Much of our talking-things-out centers on trying to figure out the multi-dimensions of detail. Frequently, we do not agree in the "figuring out." That means that we may charge forth in two different, opposing directions, or pull back and try to reach a middle ground of common sense. The latter of course is the wiser of the two options; therefore, we are at our best when following that approach.

(3) We both believe in the same Christian postulates. That is, we are not at variance concerning the core beliefs. Our marriage was begun on common ground when it came to doctrine; we have maintained that base through the years. In that, we have found our especial strength of soul.