From a pastor’s wife. Thanks for sharing!
These are my thoughts in response to your questions regarding women in the church being a support to the wife of the pastor.
First of all, pray for her. I mentioned this once to a friend who attended a different church and she looked surprised. “I have daily prayer lists and our Pastor is on my Monday list. I always mention his family when praying for him but I never thought to pray specifically for her!” This is ESPECIALLY important during the two “busy” seasons in the church – Advent and leading up Easter. A Pastor’s schedule can get so busy that his family rarely sees him which can infringe on Holiday activities and planning. That can also mean that any extra running around that has to happen – shopping for gifts, getting kids to concerts early for set up, buying groceries for the big meal – falls squarely on the shoulders of the pastor’s wife. If she is involved in the Holiday happenings at the church in any way, things just got busier. I am a stereotypical pastor’s wife in that I play the piano and sing. This has, at times, meant that I have extra rehearsals at church, programs to participate in or plan . . . it makes things crazy! The weirdness of a job that has the pastor on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week is intensified during the holidays, especially at Christmastime. In my own experience and conversations with other pastor’s wives, Christmas is the time of year that we are MOST in danger of resenting hubby’s job and *gulp* even the people in the church!!
Can I vent for a moment about Christmas Eve? I did not grow up going to services. I know others did. Each year, I looked forward to Christmas Eve with my family. We were allowed to open one gift. As we grew older, my sisters and I convinced our parents to let us exchange our gifts on Christmas Eve (that meant we each got to open two!). And then my favorite moment of the whole holiday season! Dad would open the Bible – my sisters and I INSISTED on the KJV for this moment – and by the light of one small table lamp and the lights on the tree, he would read Luke 2. It was, in its own way, a very sacred moment each season for us. Even when he was a pastor himself, my dad did not hold Christmas Eve services. That time was for families. He once told a parishioner who asked about the absence of such a service – “God did not need organized religion to step in and plan the night his son arrived, I’m pretty sure individual families can celebrate the night just fine.” I am now in a church that has a Christmas Eve service. I live 10 or 17 hours away from my extended family. Which leads me to my second suggestion.
Make the pastor’s family a part of your extended family if they are living a long distance from their own. Like I said, we have a Christmas Eve service and one part of my extended family lives 10 hours away in Michigan and the other lives 17 hours away in San Antonio, Texas. We are in Iowa. The distance and reality of a Christmas Eve is a problem for me since I have to choose between (1) telling my family that we will NEVER be with them on Christmas morning unless they are willing to travel to us OR (2) spending Christmas with my extended family minus my hubby since he would not be able to catch a flight to get him there in time for the morning gift opening, traditional brunch, etc. Neither option appeals! As for celebrating some other day of the holiday break, that’s risky with three different school districts involved whose schedules have not yet synced up well in the four years we have been in Iowa!
Is your pastor’s family is far from extended family? Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, July 4th, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . all of those holidays than can find families getting together can be very lonely when your extended family is spread across the country. Doing a cookout for Independence day? Invite the pastor’s family over. I would bet they would even be willing to bring a dish to share. Dinner out on Mother’s Day? If you are old enough, adopt the pastor and his wife as honorary kids for the day. Or honor her role as the mother of his children. You get the idea.
Assume that her husband is a lot like yours. That image you see in church may have been put on seconds after he walked in the door. For all you know, he might have been rude with his wife and kids on the way in to the building that morning. He might leave his socks on the bedroom floor, or forget to rinse the milk out of his cereal bowl, or even hog the covers in bed! He might say mean things to her. He might be insensitive to her needs. He might neglect her, giving the best of himself to those in the church. There was a moment not so long ago when hubby was under some stress and it showed. We had talked so I knew what was going on in his head and it had nothing to do with me. But an older woman in the church joked, “What did you do to upset our pastor?” First of all, don’t assume it was me. His stress was due to an unpleasant conversation that had become necessary based on the behavior of another person. Secondly, he is my husband first, your pastor second. Learning to respect that hierarchy will go SO FAR in helping to support the pastor’s wife.
Most of all protect their relationship by verbally encouraging him to spend time with his wife. Let him know that it’s okay to step away from his desk and take her out on a date. If you see them out at a nice restaurant and it’s rather obvious that they are indeed on a date, wave hello and tell them you hope they have a great time. My husband will gladly turn on pastor mode and start working the room. He thinks it is what he is supposed to do to keep the church family happy. Encourage him to get away with his wife or his family. There is a simple equation that many church people don’t get –
Pastor “dates” wife and makes time for family fun
Which leads to
Content wife who knows she is loved and is her husband’s priority
Which leads to
Wife who fusses less at hubby for time spent in ministry endeavors
Which leads to
Pastor who is feeling fully supported in ministry and knows he has the full support of his spouse!
I have met too many Pastor’s wives who feel as though they are just supposed to take a back seat to the church. Sadly, I have met even more church members who feel the same way. If church members would encourage their Pastor to set healthy limits on office hours, hours spent visiting, etc. AND encourage him to actively plan for time with his wife, they will find that he is more effective in ministry! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not excusing the wife from making Godly personal choices. But I have known many, many clergy wives who felt that they were fighting to save their marriages alone.