Women Married to Pastors

Issues confronting women married to pastor's.

Jacquie Randall is a clergy spouse and pastoral counselor. She enjoys poetry, flea markets, friends, and music.


Writing about issues affecting the morale of pastors' wives is as difficult as describing all the fragrances available at Bloomingdale's Perfumerie. A just-completed course in research and statistics, however, gave me courage to try tackling the topic. Our professor persuaded most of us in the class that theory and policy do best when based on valid research. And so, resisting the urge to use mere intuition, I decided to search for some objective facts as well, relating to pastors' wives' morale. (I realize that who I am influences what I found!)

The first thing I did was to phone the research arm of our denomination, the Institute of Human Relations and Office of Church and Ministry located at Andrews University. To my inquiry the researcher replied, "No, we have not done research on morale of pastors' wives (or pastors) since 1980, and I would say that particular research is obsolete today due to the changes in mortgage payments and finances during the past nine years."

"Are you planning any studies touching on Seventh-day Adventist clergy and/or spouse morale, or any related topic in the near future?" I queried, still hopeful.

"No," she answered. "I'm sorry. We work on assignment from conferences, unions, et cetera and they are not requesting research in that area. There are several disser­tations from other seminaries which relate to your topic, however . . .," and she proceeded to point me in the directinn of some helpful resources for which I am grateful . The studies I was able to lay my hands on through inter-library loan are as follows:

1. Methodism's Ministry to the Clergy Family Through Its Housing Polices of the Past, Present, and Future, by J. W. Sellers, Drew University, 1987.

2. Stress in Clergy and Clergy Marriages: Implications for Support Systems in Homestead Presbytery, Presbyterian Church, USA, by Ivan R. Rymes, San Francisco Theological Seminary, 1986.

3. Clergy Couples in Shared-Call Ministry, by Carol Shimmim Nortstrom, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, 1987.

(Facts and statements quoted below from these dissertations will have references according to their above-assigned number—D#1, D#2, or D#3.)

Of course, I cannot say for sure that material in these studies apply across the board to women married to Seventh-day Adventist pastors, but I am assuming there are many similarities between them and wives of other denominations' clergy.

Using the above sources, in addition to a few interviews with wives of Seventh-day Adventist pastors, I have chosen the following list of issues most affecting the morale of women married to pastors. I will list a few relevant quotations under each issue heading:


  • "Most church members give lip service for clergy spouses to be free to make choices for themselves; . . . some still remember 'how it used to be"'—D#2, page 51.

  • "Some sociologists may claim `that the modern husband and wife are so nearly equal in power that marriage today can be termed `democratic,' equalitarian,' or `egalitarian', . . But few of the interviewed couples (clergy) felt liberated from the traditional views of the professional clergy roles. Most of them felt stress from the expectations projected upon them by their congregations" —D#2, page 101.

  • "It would help if the conference would re-educate the church members in regards to the role of the pastor's wife"—a Seventh-day Adventist pastor's wife.

  • "'Successful woman' still carries two levels of meaning, while the phrase 'successful man' rcfefs only to career success. 'Successful woman' describes success in her career, and also 'implies success in being a woman' "—D#3, page 27.

  • "Traditional definitions of `feminine' include being a nurturer and a good housekeeper. Dividing the housekeeping chores or lowering standards call a woman's femininity into question"—D#3, page 38.

Marriage and Family Time

  • "What right has any man to take advantage of the affections of a woman, make her his wife, and by a voluntary absence subvert the whole order and economy of the marriage state by separating those whom neither God, nature, nor the requirements of civil society permit long to be put asunder? It is neither just nor generous"—D#1, page 9, Bishop Ashbury.

  • "One pastor related the following story to demonstrate the results of 'bringing the office home.' 

At dinner one evening our young son asked if he could be a pastor. 'Of course,' was the reply from both startled parents. 'Then 1 could ... talk about important things at supper,' he concluded" —D#3, page 110.

  • "The needs of our marriage and the needs of our children seem to be ignored by the conference leader­ship"—a Seventh-day Adventist pastor's wife.

  • "Because of pastors' over-scheduling, spouses experienced frustration with the seemingly second-rate status of the family. This frustration was leveled not only at the pastor, but at members of the congregation as well"—D#2, page 99.

  • "During long evenings after putting the children to bed, seeds of frustration arise in me. The only time my husband and I have to spend together is on Saturday night when we're too wiped out to be able to enjoy each other" —a Seventh-day Adventist pastor's wife.


  • "A thread ... woven throughout the fabric of one's contacts with ministers' wives is that of loneliness. This loneliness is not apparent to the casual observer, for they appear to be busily going about their duties. On every hand they are involved in people's lives. Could these people be lonely? They not only could be lonely, but are. Their loneliness arises, not out of an absence of people, but out of their lack of deep, meaningful relationships with these people. Loneliness is dispelled when one whole person confronts another whole person in love"—D#2, page 56, Wallace Denton. (No doubt frequent moving contributes to this loneliness.)

  • "It's important to me to have friends I can really trust, someone to whom I can express how I really feel about my role. When we were in another conference, the conference president's wife met with all of us pastors' wives. Someone brought up the issue of loneliness. Immediately the conference president's wife said, `Lonely—who has time to be lonely!' Inside, I felt I must be the only one who was lonely. We need to talk about these things without feeling threatened. Who can we open up to and tell how we really feel