“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)
And, may we add, the minister who finds a woman called by God as a pastor’s wife has found a very good thing indeed.
The role of a pastor’s wife is a unique ministry. Nothing else like it.
My friend Iris, the widow of a beloved pastor, sent me a note this week that went something like this:
“This pastor’s wife had some interesting conversations with God when my college-age daughter burst into the house saying God had called her to be a pastor’s wife. Later, when she began dating Chris, who was majoring in criminal justice and hoping to work with the border patrol, I asked her if she planned to tell him he was going to become a pastor. She smiled, ‘No. I’m going to let God do that.’ And lo and behold, He did. Chris is going to become a pastor.”
Iris has more than an inkling of what her daughter has in store. And so, she prays.
My pastor’s wife is Terri and, as I write this, she’s out of the country on a mission trip and can’t stop me from doing this. (smiley-face goes here)
Terri and Pastor Mike have been married perhaps a quarter of a century (I haven’t asked) and they are a strong team. They just marked their fifth anniversary at our church and our people are as unanimous as I’ve ever seen a church in loving and supporting their preacher. One reason is this terrific lady he’s married to.
I cannot tell you all Terri does for Pastor Mike. That should go without saying.
What I do see however is worth commenting on. And–and this is the point–what Terri does for her pastor/husband is what every pastor’s wife should do for her man.
1. The pastor’s wife is solidly Christian herself.
She does not depend on her husband for her salvation or her spiritual nourishment. She does expect God’s will for her life to be filtered down through her preacher/husband. She is a disciple of Jesus, reads her Bible, prays her own prayers, and does what she does out of obedience to the Lord. From that commitment, such a wife looks to her husband as the head of their home, but make no mistake–she’s no one’s weakling. This is a strong lady and no doormat.
God has made her strong.
2. The pastor’s wife has her own ministry in the church.
At the moment, I see our Terri teaching a group of young women. For several years, she oversaw the vacation Bible school and the sports/arts camp that followed in the afternoons. And she’s active in the women’s ministry of the church.
Terri is a solist and occasionally will present a duet with their daughter Bailey who recently graduated from college.
My wife, also a pastor’s wife, taught classes and led drama groups and sometimes ran a television camera.
What the pastor’s wife does in ministry is up to her and the Lord.
God has given her a ministry.
3. One of the best things a pastor’s wife does is sit down front and support the preacher by her presence, her prayers, and her full participation.
She is fully engaged in his preaching, following his train of thought, reacting to points he makes.
Our Terri laughs at Mike’s jokes as much as anyone in the building. (Okay, I need to explain. Mike does not tell jokes. But in our church as in yours, funny things happen. Sometimes, Pastor Mike says something humorous and we all laugh.)
I need to tell you why this strikes me as important.
Very early in my ministry, before heading to seminary, I served for six months in a part-time situation as the assistant pastor to a wonderful man of God. (During the week, I worked in a cast iron pipe plant a few blocks from the church.) The pastor was seminary educated and had a great heart, but he had one major failing as far as I could tell. He wasn’t a very effective preacher.
That would have been bad enough, but what made it worse is that his wife sat out in the congregation with her arms folded and a scowl on her face. Not just once in a while, but permanently while he was preaching. I know this because I sat in the choir and faced the congregation.
It will not surprise you to learn that sometime later, they divorced.
So, when I see a pastor’s wife working with her husband, supporting and encouraging him–believing in him!–I give thanks. That minister is going to make it.
God uses her support to bless her man.
4. The pastor’s wife protects his personal time.
Our Terri insists that Friday is their family time, and Pastor Mike keeps to that routine as faithfully as he shows up at services on Sunday. It pays incredible dividends, too, as far as I can tell. The church respects this family for their devotion to each other and the health of their relationship.
An observation here: The pastor’s wife may need to insist early on–for the good of her husband and the health of their home–that the off day is sacred and will be kept. By “early on,” I mean when their marriage is new. From personal experience, I can tell you the pastor will have a hundred distractions crying for just a few minutes of that family day, and if he is not firm and his wife is not insistent, it gets gobbled up by life’s little urgencies.
Saying the wife should be insistent, I do not mean to imply she nags anyone. Her energies in this regard are directed toward one man: her husband. He is the one who will tell their new church that “Fridays I spend with my family,” and arranges for the staff to cover for him and make sure the day is protected.
5. The pastor’s wife prays for him better than anyone.
She knows his heart and the struggles that drive sleep from his nighttime hours. She has known him in all his pastorates, seen him through his education years, put up with his self-doubt and heard all his sermons. She knows this man. And still loves him? You bet. (See point 1. She’s solidly saved!)
I love my pastor and pray for him. I will defend him if he needs defending, and will be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in my own church membership (which is what he wants more than anything) and will look for ways to encourage him. But when it comes to doing these things best of all, no one holds a candle to the lady he lives with. She is a God-called encourager of her man.
I am aware that some spouses of ministers are perfectionists. They need to get over that, because perfectionism is a trap she is setting for those nearest and dearest to her. Since no one is perfect and no one can meet such standards, she will always be disappointed and forever withholding love and approval from family members.
The fact that the wife knows the pastor in all his humanity–and if she doesn’t, no one does–should drive her to her knees in loving prayer for this man from whom everyone else expects so much. Give him unconditional love, PW. The same kind the Heavenly Father pours out on you.
If we had to be perfect before anyone loved us and affirmed us, no one on earth would ever receive encouragement.
(I feel an article on perfectionism coming on. Stay tuned! 🙂 )