The shy minister's wife

I was a nominator at our church for the past 12 months, which meant that if our minister left I'd be involved in the selection process for finding a new minister.

Occasionally through the year I would consider how the minister's wife fitted in with making a decision about a new minister (especially as I'm married to a 'potential' so this is an interesting issue to ponder when I could be on the other side of the nominating process).  Should I even be considering the minister's wife in this selection process?

I know that many churches quietly want a minister's wife who is dynamic and outgoing and willing to run every women's/children's/hospitality event for the church.  The unspoken hope is that she will be basically able to do everything her husband does, but for women/children/catering.  It's quiet and unspoken (in theory) but I know it's there - I've experienced it first hand ("you should be more friendly Jenny" or "But the minister's wife has always done _______").

So how does this work for the lovely godly Christian women who are married to ministers but are quiet or shy or introverted or not very gifted for women's/children's/hospitality ministry or like their paid employment or want to cope with managing their young family or are struggling with depression/grief/life in general?  Should we still expect, that these women who just fell in love with a bloke who happens to be good at ministry, will be able to do all these things? Does it mean that we don't consider a potential minister who would do great things for our church because his wife doesn't fit the profile we have in our heads?

I don't think so.  If I ever end up having to 'nominate', I'd like to know that the woman married to the potential minister loves Jesus, loves her husband and family, loves God's people, her community and is willing to serve where she can.

Frankly, if we want more from our minister's wife and she's not skilled in those roles then the church needs to fill those roles in other ways.  Just as my church doesn't have any young people who can teach Sunday School - we find other ways to do those jobs.  God gives us who he gives us and as a community we need to work with the unique group of people we find ourselves in.  Including loving and accepting the woman who is married to our minister -  just as she is - God made her and he has a plan for her days.  It just might be a bit different to our plans for her!


Anonymous said…
Hi Jenny

Have you seen this?

It's culturally American and a bit over the top but in it Driscoll argues that the Bible has no role of office of 'pastor's wife'. He says all that's required of a pastor's wife should be the same that's required of any other woman - being a good wife, mother, etc and serving where she can/wants to.

Not sure I agree with it but I thought you might find it interesting! :)
Jenny said…
Hi - that's a really helpful (and pretty blunt!) little article. I like the idea of a car parking spot - must be a big church issue which I've never encountered in my experience! I agree with his thoughts on there not being a job description for the wife of a pastor - I think we're freed up to be ourselves - but churches need to cope with that freedom being embraced.
Rodney Olsen said…
Fantastic post.

I think that the issue is one that needs to be raised during the selection process. Those seeking a pastor need to be clear on what they require of a pastor and of his wife. The pastor being considered needs to let the church know what his wife's involvement is likely to be.

Too many churches expect an extra, unpaid staffer when they employ a pastor.

Some wives want to be very involved in church ministry and some don't. I've heard of churches that have blocked a pastor's wife from fulfilling her own calling to ministry and others who simply expect service from a wife who is not gifted, skilled or called.
Sandra said…
wow- I love the blog post from Driscoll.
Like you Jenny, I know far too many pastors and pastors wives and have heard too many sad stories.
Can I add some of my advice to Driscoll's blog- one of the things than always makes me cringe is the number of ministers and their families who are living in poorly maintained or sub-standard housing- it is a bit rich to have an expectation that your ministers family will extend hospitality , often to large numbers of people, when they have a stove that doesn't work properly, a dishwasher that broke down 3 months ago, kitchen cupboards that should have been condemned 10 years ago, a roof that has leaked for months, old and stinky carpet, no curtains, inadequate heating in cold rural areas.....and the list goes on. All things that could be fixed by a working bee, a small donation from every parishoner etc - there is no way a lot of them would neglect or tolerate not maintaining their own home in this way. Some friends have moved into houses with small children that are unsafe for the children in really obvious ways.

As you have said - what is the important characteristic of the wife of a pastor? Godliness every time. Nominators should be considering the pastor's wife, not as a potential employee, but as a support and prayerful confidant of her husband in his role. And we should be keeping our ministers accountable by ensuring they are a godly leader of their family. But we should also give them the tools to do this - adequate time off, decent housing and prayerful friendship and support.
Sarah said…
Brilliant post!

I have a few friends who are pastors' wives or wives of men in paid ministry of some description, and they really struggle with the stereotypical role expected of them when God has not wired them that way or they are in a difficult season of life.

I remember when I was a uni student, I swore I'd never marry a pastor for that reason...I'd suck as the stereotypical pastors' wife. I ended up marrying a farmhand instead and the whole farmers'/farmhands' wife stereotype is a bit full on as well.
Jenny said…
I said that too Sarah and here I am! Funny how things work out.
simone r said…
Yeah. Expectations suck.

The worst ones, though, are those that I put on myself.
Richard said…
Hi Jenny, What you say is so true, having been through a few changes of senior pastor, and one more recently. I think congregations often unreasonably expect the new pastors wife to do the same things / be the same sort of person.

On totally different subject, where do you get your photos from? They always fit your blog subject
Beck said…
oh you go go girl!!!
I have been out of your geographical context for 10 yrs now... and I can't believe what I hear some of my friends expectations even of themselves are!Yet I know its only because I can see a different way of doing things that this makes sense to me now. Keep speaking this truth in love jenny - because I think it can be hard to see clearly when you are in the thick of it and there is so much guilt associated with going against the grain.
Pastors wives need encouragement and support - because thats what they are in the business of doing themselves... no matter what "official" ministry they do in their church... everyday they choose to give hubby the freedom to get out there and run the parish/ministry - a huge task which involves giving so much - often at the cost of the family.
At the moment I am being PAID to work in my church..such a great blessing and confirmation of my gifts - and yes hubby works there also.
Rin said…
This is really helpful.
As a PW about to start our adventure into full time ministry I really have no idea what it's going to be like.
I think I agree about the freedom that is up to the wife. I like to see my role as firstly in my family to love my husband and kids and to be in a sense the pastors pastor and then secondly as a woman in the church who has a unique position as someone close to a pastor and therefore with a particular status but not as someone expected to run things just because of who I am.

It could all change in a few months...

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