The most inconspicuous person in the church has to be the pastor's wife. Everybody knows the pastor—he's in front of the congregation at least on a weekly basis and is in the center of everything that goes on in that congregation.
But nobody really knows his wife. I first realized this about 10 years ago after we had just moved to a new church. I went with my wife to the grocery store to help with the shopping when I overheard some women talking. "Who's that woman with our pastor?"
As you might imagine, it put me in a tight spot. I did not know if the women thought I was having an affair or what. I knew then that I had to set them straight. If there is one thing a pastor does not need or want, it is for some women in the church to get the wrong impression. That kind of innuendo has been the ruin of many a fine pastor.
Not wanting to take any chances, my wife and I maneuvered around the store so we would go right past the women. When we got within earshot, I went into action.
"Hello, ladies. My wife and I are out shopping. I always go shopping with my wife and help with the groceries. My wife and I shop here quite often. My wife thinks this is the best store in town. My wife and I always shop here." I saw the women look at each other with knowing smiles.
Whew! I knew we had gotten through that one all right. It was clear to me that before our groceries arrived at our house, everyone in the congregation would know that my wife and I were out shopping.
As a pastor, it is important to keep ahead of rumors. Unfortunately, this can be a full-time job. Why is it that people will believe any and every rumor they hear? They only have to hear it once and that's enough. Yet the pastor can make weekly announcements from the pulpit, publish them months in advance in the weekly bulletin and newsletters, and people never hear.
"Oh, the concert was last Sunday night?" they say. "If we had known it, we would have come. We're very sorry we missed it. Are they coming back again?" It makes me wonder what people do during the announcement time.
When it comes to innuendo, rumor, and criticism, the pastor's wife is in a category all her own. Pastors have a national "Pastor's Appreciation Day" in October, but pastors' wives have nothing. Churches do not give them rules, yet people in the church expect much from the pastor's wife.
People expect the pastor's wife to greet everyone she meets with a beautiful smile, even though she sometimes does not feel like smiling. "What's wrong with the pastor's wife?" they ask each other. "She didn't smile at me when I saw her across the street this morning. I wonder if she's fighting with our pastor?"
Among the many talents expected of the pastor's wife is the ability to play the piano and organ, preferably at the same time. "What do you mean you can't play the piano? You're the pastor's wife, aren't you?" Another crucial part of being a pastor's wife is the ability to locate the pastor at all times. People expect the pastor's wife to know her husband's whereabouts no matter what time of the day. Someone may call the parsonage at anytime asking for the pastor. If his wife does not know where he is at that moment, they may accuse her of not being interested in her husband's ministry. "I called the parsonage this week and the pastor's wife did not know where her husband was. She doesn't take much interest in the church, does she?"
Then there is the case of the parsonage. The parsonage is the place where the pastor ages. The pastor's wife must keep the parsonage spotless at all times, no matter how many children she has and no matter what other duties she has. At any moment people from the church may drop in, and woe be to the pastor's wife if there is the least little thing out of place.
She must also run that parsonage completely on faith, as cash is not available for such things. There's plenty of money for the church choir, but nothing for the parsonage.
The good minister's wife must harbor a complete disdain for anything brand new. All her clothes, as well as her children's, must come from the Salvation Army store. If she happens to wear a new dress to church, she is in trouble. "We must be paying our pastor too much money. Isn't that a new dress his wife is wearing?"
In reality, the Bible does not place the pastor's wife above any other woman in the church. Unlike us, God does not play favorites, nor does He require one thing from one person and something else from another. In God's sight, we are all important and all deserve the same respect and consideration—even the pastor's wife.