The Shepherdess at Home and in the Church

HOWEVER efficient, devoted, and eloquent the minister may be, he needs the cooperation of a consecrated wife, for there are some things that it is impossible for him to do. The success or failure of any man's pastorate depends to a great degree on the demeanor, example, influence, and consecration of his wife. . .

-a retired missionary and General Conference secretary. She is the wife of Pastor R. Leo Odom.

HOWEVER efficient, devoted, and eloquent the minister may be, he needs the cooperation of a consecrated wife, for there are some things that it is impossible for him to do. The success or failure of any man's pastorate depends to a great degree on the demeanor, example, influence, and consecration of his wife. He may ably present the principles of Christian dress, but if his wife does not demonstrate these in her modest, becoming, and healthful attire, his instruction from the pulpit falls on deaf ears.

The pastor may present dynamic and convincing sermons on healthful living. But if his wife does not apply those principles in the preparation and serving of his family's food and in the dishes she contributes to church picnics and potluck dinners, he has accomplished little. If she succeeds in training her children not to eat between meals, and to have regular hours for meals, rest, and work, other parents in the church see that this is possible, not only because the minister said so in his sermon but because it works in his home.

By being a friendly and gracious hostess, the wife of the pastor can exert a powerful and telling influence on visitors and church members. She may not have had time to prepare fancy dishes and rich desserts, but her table will be set with wholesome, nourishing, and appetizing food. And she will be glad to share a recipe with any who may express a desire to have it. She entertains as her time and circumstances permit, not to reciprocate a dinner invitation or to "keep up with the Joneses" but with a desire to share the blessings and fellowship of their Christian home with such as need friendship—especially with the youth and the lonely or discouraged who would treasure such an experience, whether they are Adventists or not. Visitors should always feel welcome in the minister's home.

A true shepherdess will share her husband's burden for the spiritual welfare of their flock. She will be willing to accompany him in visiting the members and others who are interested in the truth.

Especially should she accompany her husband in calling on a single woman, a widow, a divorcee, or a married lady whose husband is not at home at that particular hour. This protects the reputation of the woman they visit and that of the minister himself. Unless his wife accompanies him, the minister should be careful not to make calls alone when the unbelieving man of the house is not at home. Otherwise the jealousy of the husband may be aroused, and the minister be falsely accused of wrong motives in calling on the wife in her husband's absence. Often it is better for the shepherdess herself to give the Bible studies to a single woman, rather than for her husband to do so alone.

Complications in the visitation program have arisen in recent years because so many ministers' wives are employed outside the home. Sometimes the pastor, in such cases, spends much of his time at home, possibly looking after young children or doing housekeeping chores (while he is supposedly studying) until his wife returns from her job. Then he tries to do some visiting in the evenings, but she is often too tired or busy to accompany him. This is really a serious problem in too many pastors' homes today.

In cases where a woman wishes to get counsel from her pastor on marital problems, he should be on his guard and have his wife present. Problems that call for discretion may involve, in the case of a married woman, a matter of health, of home finances, her children, or her relations with her husband. In the case of some delicate matters it would probably be best for the minister to ask his wife, if she is a woman of experience and good judgment, to give the needed counsel. It would be well for her to find out what the problem is and, if need be, seek her husband's counsel concerning it, before giving the advice re quested. If the minister and his wife are young and inexperienced, he would do well to suggest that advice be sought from a mature Christian woman among the church members, even recommending such a person by name. In all such cases calling for discretion, none of the parties involved should betray the confidence placed in them by revealing the problem to others. This is in harmony with the following counsel:

"If a woman comes to a Christian brother with a tale of her woes, her disappointments and trials, he should ever advise her, if she must confide her troubles to someone, to select sisters for her confidants, and then there will be no appearance of evil whereby the cause of God may suffer reproach." — Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 306.

"When a woman is in trouble, let her take her trouble to women. If this woman who has come to you [the minister] has cause of complaint against her husband, she should take her trouble to some other woman who can, if necessary, talk with you in regard to it, without any appearance of evil."— Evangelism, pp. 460, 461.

One important part of the role of the shepherdess is to be a person to whom the sisters in the church can turn for counsel and encouragement. She can pray with those in trouble and point them to Jesus, who has promised to give wisdom and to bear our burdens.

The shepherdess must be very careful never to betray the confidence placed in her. She should be very careful that in her conversation with others and in her letter writing she does not reveal matters that have been told her in confidence. Church members and youth who confide in her should be assured that secrets entrusted to her are safe, and will not be passed on to others.

The minister's wife is glad to do her part in Ingathering, in Sabbath school and other church work, to help with the music as she is needed, and to fit in wherever it seems best. She should always be careful to uphold her husband's hands and authority, but never to assume his role herself. She should not give instructions to church officers or attempt to correct church members. She may call her husband's attention to the need for such action, then leave it to him to handle as he sees fit. She is the pastor's wife, but she is not the pastor. She can counsel and encourage him privately, but she should never assume the roll of being second in the leadership of the church. Members resent this. Some ministers have been moved from one post to another because the wife was too dominant or too meddlesome.

As we consider the high standard set before us as Christians, we realize that it is impossible for us to reach God's standard in our own strength. Only as the shepherdess seeks the Lord constantly for His enabling power to live a life wholly consecrated to Him is it possible to fill the place of high honor to which He has called her. What a blessed privilege it is to share with Him in the work of winning souls, and of encouraging those already in the fold! She need not attempt this work alone, for He has promised: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

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-a retired missionary and General Conference secretary. She is the wife of Pastor R. Leo Odom.

March 1974

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