Oh, you ministers’ wives, you’re all the same,” my young church friend remarked to me. “You all go around smiling, being friendly, shaking hands, and cuddling babies.” Sarah then went on to list all the pastors’ wives who filled her job description. Listening to her, I felt like we sounded more like politicians than pastors’ wives!
What is a pastor’s wife? One who fulfills the expectations of church members, the conference, and even her husband? Or is a pastor’s wife one who simply works alongside her husband and enhances his ministry?
Be happy and confident with the individual you are. Remember your self-worth is not based on the tasks you may or may not perform as a pastor’s wife. God loves you for what you are and not what you do.
Look at yourself, the things that are important to you, your time commitments, and energy level. Then take the role of the pastor’s wife and mold it to your individuality. One of the hardest things we struggle with as pastors’ wives is the expectations of what we should be doing. We feel like failures if we cannot play the piano perfectly, sing a solo sweetly, lead out in children’s classes creatively, bake wholesome bread wonderfully, and be a source of comfort continually. We feel the pressure to be like the pastor’s wife who agreed to play the piano in divine service every week, as the church members expected her to do, even though she could play with only one finger!
However, the reality is that we do not have to be like other pastors’ wives. We just need to be the kind of ministers’ wives God asks us to be, whether that be extrovert or introvert, involved or not so involved, career woman or homemaker. We need to ask God to give us the courage to take the role of the pastor’s wife and make it our own.
A few years ago, we went to the United States for a holiday. My husband Jonathan discovered a wall plaque that he was desperate to buy—so desperate, in fact, that when the sales assistant told him the plaque was reserved for another customer, he persuaded her to phone and ask the customer to let him buy it. Jonathan left the store with a heart-shaped plaque under his arm which was inscribed with the phrase, “IF MAMA AIN’T HAPPY, AIN’T NOBODY HAPPY.” I figured Jonathan would place the plaque above his desk and I would never need to moan again as he would do everything he could possibly do to make me happy. The problem is he has placed it above my desk—reminding me that I have a part to play in ensuring my happiness!
Loneliness and isolation can, at times, make it difficult for pastors’ wives to be happy. A recent survey of 228 pastors’ wives revealed that 45 percent have no close friends in the church.1 Obviously we need to nurture friendships with our neighbors, church members, and coworkers, but we also need to nurture friendships among our peers, other pastors’ wives.
Linda Riley, who has established a support service for pastors’ wives, says, “One of the best things a pastor’s wife can do is join or form a pastors’ wives’ support group where wives get together, anywhere from every other week to every other month. The program can vary—sometimes it can be topic-oriented, sometimes simply a sharing of prayer requests, or sometimes just a time to get to know each other. The important thing is to have a setting where they can feel free to voice frustrations about ministry.”2 She continues, “Find a support person who cherishes your uniqueness and understands ministry—a soul friend to keep you focused on the meaning of ministry and to remind you of its possible fulfillments. . . . Try to find someone of your gender with spiritual stamina and emotional resilience. She also needs a healthy relationship with God, a stable self-regard, a willingness to listen, and the ability to question self-imposed myths you have about ministry. The goals for this connection are dialogue, hope, prayer, and accountability.”3
Do all you can to nurture friendships that support you in the ministry.
Nurture Your Relationship With God
At times, ministry can be the most rewarding, satisfying, fulfilling job there is. On other occasions, it can be the most soul-destroying, energy-zapping, emotionally crushing, heart-wrenching vocation possible.
What keeps us going at those times? Our relationship with God.
As ministers’ wives, we need to be dependent upon God. We need to know how to draw on God’s vision and vitality. Take whatever opportunity you can to develop your relationship with God. Read, listen to tapes, find a prayer partner, attend weekend retreats, set aside times when you can spend large chunks of time alone with God. Learn how to let God minister to you as you spend time with Him. Ministry is constant giving. Couple that with all the nurturing that we do, and we are liable to feel too depleted to meet the demands of ministry. Give God your time regularly so He can replenish you. Your relationship with God will help to make ministry a positive and fresh experience.
Nurture Your Marriage
For me, the end of the day is the perfect time to share with Jonathan all the things that have happened to me and my daughters since breakfast—in detail! The problem is that after a day of ministering to the needs of our congregation, Jonathan thinks the end of the day is a perfect time to sleep!
Being married to the minister means there are times when we need to put our needs on hold, to be understanding of what our spouses are going through. However, we need balance. At times we need to remind our husbands of the importance of marriage and children. Ministry demands so much that it is easy to neglect relationships at home. We have our children living with us for such a short time compared to the lifetime we give in the ministry, so let’s not make the mistake of neglecting them. As wives, we need to ensure that regular time is given to our marriages and family life, even if we have to hide our husbands’ diaries to do so!
Serve God With Your Gifts
God calls our husbands to serve Him in a unique way. As ministers’ wives, I believe that God calls us to serve Him by adding dimension to our husbands’ ministry. Use the spiritual gifts God has given you. Do you have the spiritual gift of encouragement, hospitality, or kindness? Do you pray with members? Think of the gifts God has given you and discuss with your husband how best you can use those gifts to enhance his ministry. When we are comfortable with our role in our husbands’ ministry, our effectiveness is multiplied.
So the next time someone tells you, “You ministers’ wives are all the same,” remind that person that even though we share the same role, we are unique in the way we carry it out!
1 H. B. London and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors at Risk (Illinois: Victor Books, 1993), p. 141.
2 Ibid., p. 142.
3 Ibid., p. 149.