Many churches (and pastors for that matter) do not know what to do with pastor’s wives, how to treat them, what role they play or how important they are. It is a hard role to live in and stay in. Everyone has a lot of their own expectations of what the wife of a pastor should be like, yet, they are all different.
While Revolution (and myself) has struggled just like every other church to figure this out, I believe Katie and I have figured some things out that we have put into place which will prove to be invaluable in the future. While this is not exclusive to pastors, any leader in a church and for that matter, any husband can do better in understanding their wives and how to engage them.
Over the next month, I’ll be sharing some of the things we’ve learned that I hope will be beneficial for you.
If you missed them, you can read Pastor Your Wife as Much as You Pastor Your Church, Without Her, You Fall Apart, What Role a Pastors Wife Plays in the Church and Spiritual Warfare in the Home.
I talk to many wives and Katie and I have had this conversation as well. In our culture, it is seen as a step down to be a wife and a mom (in some Christian circles it is seen as a step down if a wife works, but that’s another post for another day). I have watched people ask Katie what she does and for awhile she felt embarrassed to say she was a wife and a mom. As if someone who is a wife and a mom is incapable of doing anything else with their lives.
Or, as someone asked me, “Why would Katie give up her dreams to be a wife and a mom?” I think that question is the crux of it all. To be a wife and a mom requires a sacrifice, a sacrifice that I do not fully understand, but do my best to fully appreciate and hold up.
A woman who pours into her husband and kids does make an enormous sacrifice. They are women who don’t simply buy into “doing whatever they want” but seeing how their gifts can be used for an eternal perspective.
How do I know that? If Katie had stayed in school and finished her math/engineering degree (another misnomer is that if you stay home you must be stupid, think again), we either don’t get married or we get married and live in Missouri while she finishes school, which means I don’t get my master’s or go on staff at the church I worked at in Maryland. This changes the complete trajectory of our lives.
There have been several times in my marriage (maybe not enough) that I’ve looked at Katie and said, “Thank you for sacrificing your dreams to be part of a dream of raising our kids for them to make in impact. Thank you for supporting me and sticking by me to get Revolution off the ground.” I always joke with Katie that her house will be bigger in heaven but I am now convinced that she will also get to live in the gated community while I live in the slums. Still in heaven but she will have to invite me over for a visit. 🙂
So, the next time you see a woman who is “just” a wife and a mom know that she is holding onto a bigger, eternal dream. That is what is driving her. Husbands, do not let anyone say your wife is “just” a wife and a mom.
And, always, always tell your wife thanks for the work she does. Without Katie, what I enjoy and love about life does not exist. That’s a perspective I don’t want to forget.
Does every pastor’s wife do this? To be a successful pastor’s wife, should you not work?
The answer is that it depends. For many, they won’t. I also don’t want it to sound like the only role a wife and mom can play is staying at home. Many, many women make a big impact while working outside the home.
One thing that makes pastoral ministry unique is that many churches want the pastor’s wife involved in ministry. For our church, we have always said a pastor’s wife should be like any other Christian woman. She should be encouraged to use her gifts, talents, be plugged into an MC and serve as she can (based on the stage of life she is in). That changes as life changes. Because ministry can be an all consuming job, it can be difficult for a pastor’s wife to work outside the home. Not impossible, but difficult.
For many pastor’s families, the need for money and security is high. Most churches think it is important keep their pastor’s poor (which is a sin on the church’s part), or a pastor has school debt and the need for extra income is there. If this is the reason for a pastor’s wife working, I think a pastor needs to educate his elders and his church about his needs, how much a pastor should get paid and move towards that. Many elders struggle with this because it is hard to gauge what to pay a pastor. One year as we were discussing raises at Revolution, an elder said we shouldn’t give anyone a raise because no one in our economy was getting raises. I pointed out, that may be true, but our church was growing, giving was going up and we were asking more and more of our staff. Elders board sometimes have to separate their situation to be a good elder and this can be hard.
In the end, finances and church staffs are a sticky situation. But one a healthy church must navigate and one a healthy pastor’s family must walk through.
The Other Side of the Coin
There is another side of this struggle that I think is true for all married women, but in particular for a pastor’s wife. Many pastor’s wives have poured their entire adult life into their husbands ministry. Helped him get through seminary, maybe helped him plant a church and possibly followed him to countless churches (since the average pastor stays at a church for 18 months). Because of this, many of her dreams, desires and talents are put on hold for the good of his ministry and what the church needs. Because of moving around, a feeling of loneliness and disconnectedness sets in, which we’ll look at in a future post.
Husbands and pastors have a responsibility to help their wife find their talents, gifts, what fires them up and help them do that. It doesn’t mean a business or work, although according to Proverbs 31 that can be a good thing. It does mean setting aside some of his passions and desires for her so that he can serve her. Many men at this point will talk about their calling and how that super cedes everything. True on one hand, debatable on the other. Your first calling is your wife and kids, and then your ministry. Many men because of being a Type A leader get this backwards and their wife feels the pain of this.
My goal with this post and all the posts in this series is to educate a church about the unique struggles that a pastors wife has. There might even be some education to a pastor about what his wife is going through as some can be oblivious to this. I also hope to create some good conversations among couples about what it looks like to have a healthy marriage and be in ministry.