I’ve been in ministry with Mike, my pastor/husband, for 37 years. I’ve come a long way from the naive young women I was in 1979. Along the way I decided to not only survive, but enjoy the life God brought to me. In learning to enjoy who I was and where I was, I had to leave behind misconceptions I had picked up along the way and embrace new ways of thinking. Here are some of the things I now know:
1. There is no such thing as a call to be a pastor’s wife.
The term “pastor’s wife” isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. The desire to join your husband in ministry is more probably your own call to pastoring or a gift of hospitality, mentoring, teaching or evangelism.
2. Just because a program in the church is in place, doesn’t mean it needs to remain.
Pastor’s-wife friend, Melisa, from Washington State says she and her husband spent the first four years of ministry in their little mountain town “turning off the lights.” They stopped programs people weren’t supporting, and ones not meeting the current needs in their congregation, in order to get down to the basics of what their congregation needed and could support. Just because your organization offers a program is not a mandate your church needs to be doing it. Seek God’s direction.
3. In God’s kingdom you don’t get kuddos for being married to the pastor of the largest church in town or condemnation for being married to the pastor of the smallest church either.
The size of your church isn’t indicative of your spirituality. The Bible says “some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.” Don’t waste valuable energy on numbers, concentrate on ministry.
4. You need a best friend, or two, in your church.
I’m on firm ground here since Jesus’ best friends were Peter, James and John. So feel free to seek like-minded women to encourage you and enjoy the blessing they will give you. There are those who say you shouldn’t because of the chance of hurt feelings but if you don’t flaunt your friendship, it won’t cause any more problems than the myriad of other things that people can complain about.
5. Your call is as important as your husband’s call.
This is a frightening statement even to write, but despite its truth, when wrapped in years of assumption that a call to ministry is the spiritual kingpin, you, like me, may find it hard to grasp. All gifts are bestowed by God and are equal in the Body. And using your gift is as important for you as it is for your husband to use his. For some it will be easy because your gift will mesh with pastoring, for others it will seem at times to be in opposition to his. Maybe you’re offered a promotion in another state, an opportunity somewhere else in which to use your gift. Don’t immediately subjugate your gift for his, because God who gave them to each of you and knows where He wants you to go will direct your dance if you will allow him.
6. You, by virtue, of being married to the pastor, are not equipped or obligated to perform tasks that the previous pastor’s wife filled or ones in which members assume you are equipped to do.
If you’re not trained, you do not, nor should, be offering counseling. That is not to say you can’t lend a sympathetic ear and pray with them, but don’t step beyond what you are equipped. The same goes for leading the choir, or heading up a multitude of programs. Your position in this particular body should be directed by God and carry the support of yourself and your husband.
7. Avoid the pedestal.
Everyone likes to be admired, however, the only allowable vertical relationship is between us and God. Don’t allow people to see you as perfect or above them, or better than they. It doesn’t help them and is deadly for you.
8. There will always be expectations for you from others.
This is true and you cannot stop others from having them, you can only stop yourself from trying to fulfill them. I don’t know what ones you’ll encounter because it varies from denomination and culture, but because someone assumes you will act or perform in a certain way should not be a sentence for you. Neither does this mean that you don’t owe your church respect, that you get to simply be me. Some expectations will not hurt us: certain appropriate dress for services, etc. Learn to discern which you should give into with good grace and which to graciously not follow.
9. If you are blessed with children, concentrate on them, not the church.
Your husband, by virtue of his job, will be at the beck-and-call of the church, so don’t make your children emotional orphans by doing the same. No, they do not need to be the sole focus, but don’t assume that serving the church is more godly than being a mom. It isn’t. A better compromise is to invite them into ministry with you and your husband, let them learn the joy of serving others. It will produce benefits for later life.
10. Enjoy yourself
I never wanted to marry a pastor because I’d never met a happy pastor’s wife. Sad? Yes indeed. But if this is the life God gave you, take the role in your hands and mold it into a life that you can enjoy and in which you can flourish. Like I said, if pastor’s wife isn’t in the Bible, then the possibilities are wide open.