A minister and his family were leaving the city of his first charge, and the minister was engaged in bidding an old lady parishioner good-by. "Well," she said sorrowfully, "you'll soon be packing your things, I guess."
"Oh, yes," he replied; "in fact, we are almost finished."
"There's one thing you won't be able to pack —you'll have to leave that behind," said the old lady.
"Whatever is that ?"
"You can't pack your good influence, pastor," she answered quietly.
Yes, the minister, his wife, and his family have a great influence in their relationships with their fellow workers, their church members, and the neighbors in the community in which they live. How careful they should be that their conduct and influence are always right.
I believe the wife's foremost responsibility, and that which has perhaps the greatest benefit to the conference and church program, is in making a happy home for her husband. In his public work he must share other people's cares and problems. What a blessing for him to have a home where happiness and Christian fellowship are mutually shared, a home where problems are worked out in a quiet, normal manner.
The minister's wife must be unselfish, not complaining because her husband's hours are irregular and oftentimes long. She should be understanding, keeping in mind the important work in which he is engaged, and doing everything possible to encourage him. They two should be able to plan together for the best interests of the church and the family.
There are cases where a minister's usefulness has been marred and even ruined because of his companion. Such things are tragedies. The minister's wife should profit from her knowledge of such experiences. Never should she nag, or say unkind things about her husband, or be impatient if he is at times unable to do something for her because it interferes with his work. She should be affectionate, neat and tidy about the house and her person, a good cook, and able to administer the household finances capably. She should remember that her husband usually knows other women at their best ; he should not know her at her worst.
It is said that more than one minister has been rejected for larger responsibilities because of his wife. That being true, each wife should examine herself to make certain she is an asset and not a liability.
The book Pastoral Work, by Andrew W. Blackwood, is doubtless to be found in many libraries of those who read these pages, for it was in the Ministerial Reading Course not long ago. From the chapter "The Place of the Pastor's Wife" I quote the following :
"At recent conferences of ministers the writer has held a good many interviews with bewildered pastors. Most of them have wished counsel regarding their wives. Doubtless there was another side to each story. Even so, the happiest and the most useful ministers in each assembly were those whose wives made home seem like heaven."
Surely a Seventh-day Adventist minister's wife should desire to make the home a happy, loving, peaceful place, where the angels love to dwell, that God's blessing may truly rest upon it. Mrs. E. G. White has this to say regarding the relation of ministers' wives to their husbands:
"They can cheer them when desponding, comfort them when cast down, and encourage them to look up and trust fully in God when their faith fails. Or they can take an opposite course, look upon the dark side, think they have a hard time, exercise no faith in God, talk their trials and unbelief to their companions, indulge a complaining, murmuring spirit, and be a dead weight, and even a curse to them."—Evangelism, p. 677.
Upon inquiring from a few ministers what they considered the wife's responsibility is in connection with her husband's work, one replied, "Tell her not to baby her husband." Well, I don't believe very many ministers are "babied," but I believe I know what he meant —she should not encourage him in the thought that too much is expected of him, that the conference does not appreciate his talents and capabilities, or that he is being taken advantage of because of youthfulness or lack of experience.
This leads to the wife's relationship to the conference. Her attitude should never be critical of conference decisions or actions. It is well for her always to uphold the conference officers to the church members and fellow associates. Some might come to her with criticism, questions, and insinuations; but she should not encourage them in their statements, but correct their attitude if at all possible.
The minister's wife should be well read. She must keep her mind active. In her reading of church literature and other magazines and newspapers, she should be alert for information useful to her husband, and may even help by keeping a file of such materials.
What should be the relationship between the pastor's wife and the members of the church? First of all, she must love them, not honoring one above another. She should be all things to all people, and be at ease with educated or lowly, rich or poor. She should remember she is not "the grand lady of the church," that she is placed there "to minister, not to be ministered unto." In one sense, the pastor's wife is the hostess of the church, and she should consider her position an honored one to look after the welfare of her church guests. She will need patience, tact, adaptability, hospitality, and again—she must love them.
The minister's wife should become acquainted with the members in their homes ; however, it is not well for her to visit with her husband all the time. She should go as often as possible, and especially where sorrow or illness is in the home, but occasionally the members should be able to have the pastor visit alone.
Good health is a great asset to the minister and his wife, and she should study to guard their health. It is important that she be able physically to perform her home duties, for the minister cannot carry on his work properly if he is burdened with household tasks as well.
A minister's wife should not be guilty of officiousness and interference. Even though she may be qualified to care for certain matters, she will greatly strengthen her husband's hands if she refers such matters to him as should come under his jurisdiction. If her husband is counseling with someone, she should not join them. If a person comes to the home for counsel, she should greet him graciously and be friendly for a few moments, then excuse herself from the room.
The minister's wife may be asked to hold a church office, and it may be well for her to accept under certain conditions. But in many cases it would be better for a layman to hold the office, leaving the wife free to help wherever she is needed most. Thus the church members are trained, and there is no great gap in the church program if the minister's family is transferred.
Should the minister's wife attend church board meetings or committee meetings if she is not a member or is not invited to sit with them by vote ? That can be answered by one word : No. In my limited experience I have known of some who have done this. They may never have known they were criticized for doing so, but such was the case.
The minister's wife is responsible for her talents, and apparently Mrs. E. G. White thinks being a minister's wife is a talent in itself, for she has written : "A responsibility rests upon the minister's wife which she should not and cannot lightly throw .off. God will require the talent lent her, with usury. She should work earnestly, faithfully, and unitedly with her husband to save souls."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 452.
There are many ways in which the minister's wife may strengthen the church program, ways which may be particularly her forte. I shall suggest a few.
I. A visitation program organized whereby the minister's wife visits the entire female membership of the church, not with her husband this time, but with one of the sisters in the church, perhaps a different one each time, someone she thinks will be of strength as a friend to the persons whom they visit that day. These should not be gossipy, frivolous visits, but warm, friendly, Christian visits to draw the women of the church closer together in the bond of fellowship.
If her husband is carrying on active evangelistic work, there will be many other ways in which the minister's wife may assist. She may find that her services are needed in the role of Bible instructor, and some of her happiest hours may be spent in this way.
When the evangelist opens a series in a new city he may have an entirely new corps of workers associated with him, who are not acquainted with his methods. While he is on the platform, his wife may associate with the organization in the background and be of help until the workers and laymen are familiar with the operating routine of the program. Thus his mind may be at rest because someone who has worked with him previously is available to help out in an emergency.
She knows how the ushers and usherettes are to function. Or it may be the literature band needs special instruction as to how to proceed with its work. She may also be of assistance with the book displays. In all this it is desirable to have laymen in charge, the associate workers having the oversight of the various departments, the evangelist's wife merely counseling or filling in a vacancy when needed. She should be careful not to be officious in any way.
A young evangelist, conducting his first campaigns, may have no help at all from associated conference workers. It may be that the wife will play the piano while her husband directs his own music, or she may be qualified to lead in the music direction herself, relieving him of this extra task.
The evangelist's wife may find she must act as her husband's secretary, helping with the correspondence, radio mail requests, and other things. It may be she is qualified to act as treasurer of the campaign thus saving an associate worker many hours of time in the paying of bills, making up of reports and bank deposits.
Should I add that the minister's wife must be a keeper of confidences ? She will, if she has the love and respect of the members, receive many confidences, and have many troubles poured into her heart. Woe be unto her if she breaks their faith by discussing their affairs with others ! Whether or not she has been asked to keep her knowledge to herself does not make any difference. She must have the intuition to sense what is told her in trust. Because of her position she will observe and hear many things which she must have the judgment to ignore and keep to herself.
Now to add something just a little on the personal side, and I say it a little softly : Church members want to be able to respect their pastor, his wife, his family. A church member was overheard introducing the minister and his family to her visiting friend not long ago. After they had turne away and were talking with others, the woman said, rather proudly, "They have such well-behaved children."
I remember, too, a fine Christian woman in a small church in Virginia. She met her new pastor on the street downtown one day and said, "Brother ________________ , I must tell you how glad we are to have a minister of whom we can be proud. We loved dear Brother ______________ but it's so nice to have a pastor I can introduce to my friends. Your appearance is always neat, and you know just what to say." Now I don't . believe it was improper for that woman to desire a representative Christian gentleman as her pastor, do you?
A young wife must proceed slowly until she senses her place and responsibilities. God will guide her and bless her with wisdom, judgment, and -the talents needed as time goes on. There is little in print which she can study. She should read what the Spirit of prophecy has to say, of course. The Shepherdess, by Arthur Wentworth Hewitt, is one of the few books on the subject, for, as the author himself says, he has pioneered in the field. The book I Married a Minister is a compilation by wives of noted ministers giving their experiences and opinions. The articles which appear from time to time in THE MINISTRY are greatly appreciated. But most important of all, the minister's wife may sit at the feet of Jesus each day and learn of Him.