As a pastor and a son of a pastor, I believe the most difficult role in the church is the pastor’s wife. A pastor’s responsibilities usually are defined clearly, although some expectations may be unrealistic.
Expectations for the spouse typically are not so clear. Church members define the role from their own needs and experiences. Some want a pastor’s wife who is silent, supportive, encouraging and behind the scenes. Others desire a First Lady who is out front, assertive and involved in the decisions and activities of the church. Of course, the range of ideas fluctuates between these polar extremes.
A pastor is not always clear about his own expectations for his spouse. Too often, the needs of the church trump family needs. Pastors who never would cancel a meeting with a church member will skip a family outing for a church event. There also is the temptation to allow the pressures of others to define the wife’s role instead of encouraging her to exercise her own gifts and calling.
Those of us who have served or do serve as pastors are tempted to bring the church baggage home without also sharing the encouragement. If 50 folks come by after a worship service, 49 are encouraging and one is negative, which remark does the pastor share with his wife? If the pastor’s wife only hears the criticism and not the support, it is easy for regret and bitterness to take root.
What is true of pastors’ wives also is true for other ministers’ spouses. What can be done about this challenge?
Honor our wives
First, we pastors must honor our wives. Our commitment to them is second only to our commitment to Christ. We must give them the time, support, encouragement and recognition they deserve.
Also, churches should respect the pastor’s wife. Be slow to criticize and quick to praise. Pray for her. Get to know her as a person and not just in her role. Encourage her to be fulfilled in her own ministry. Refrain from comparing her with others. Recognize her contributions, and honor her in this strategic calling.
Fellowship with other ministers’ wives is vital. Spend time with others who face similar challenges. Learn from those who have served longer, and mentor those who are coming after you.
Ministers' Wives Fellowship
Participate in the BGCT Ministers’ Wives Fellowship. Jill Stone, the president, invites you to attend a workshop at our annual meeting and a retreat in February. Sheila, my wife, will speak at the workshop at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 10, at the annual meeting in Fort Worth.
The retreat is Feb. 26-28 at Riverbend Retreat Center. In a description we find: “The vision for the retreat comes from a desire for calm in the midst of life’s busyness and chaos. … We will focus on our great God, the only relationship that can bring order to our crazy lives.” For more information on the Ministers’ Wives Fellowship, visit www.bgct.org/ministerswives. I encourage churches to provide the financial costs for this retreat.
I thank God for the examples of my mom and my wife as they walk with Christ in this kingdom assignment.
Randel Everett is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board.