Lessons from my pastor's wife

I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many women who are married to pastors. Some didn't seem to want the role; others loved the challenge. Most were special women whom God had placed where He knew they would glorify Him.

Joan Martin has served as an active layperson in many different churches.

Because I have moved frequently, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many women who are married to pastors. Some didn't seem to want the role; others loved the challenge. Most were special women whom God had placed where He knew they would glorify Him.

I've learned not to expect the pastor's wife to be a copy of her husband. I do, however, want her to be a Christian who wants to grow, to serve, and to help others to grow.

Jean was one of the first pastors' wives I grew to love. She told me when we first joined the church, "Remember, the Lord comes first, your family second, and the church third." Those words helped me to keep my priorities straight. One of our first Bible studies together dealt with Romans 1:11, 12 as it reads in the Good News Bible: ' 'For I want very much to see you, in order to share a spiritual blessing with you and to make you strong. What I mean is that both you and I will be helped at the same time, you by my faith and I by yours."

Marsha was another special pastor's wife. She was supportive of her husband in all he did. She accepted positions like the rest of us, one of which was teaching young children. She never interfered in church matters or insisted upon her own way. In fact, she seemed to enjoy following someone else's lead. She considered it a ministry to sit in a different place each week for the worship service, becoming acquainted with those who sat in that area. She often discovered lonely people—and the means by which they could be drawn into greater involvement in the church. "You should have heard the great tenor voice in my pew this morning," she would say. "Maybe some one should ask that man if he's interested in choir work." Having suffered through a life-threatening illness herself, she understood others' needs, and often would weep with the sufferer.

In another church we met Tina, a young pastor's wife. She had been asked to lead a group of the ladies, but she was afraid of public speaking. Fortunately, most of the ladies were willing to accept her "as is." Because she sensed this acceptance, the day finally came when she felt comfortable leading out.

Margaret, a born leader, enjoyed her role, and people enjoyed following her lead. She lived what she taught. She liked to train others for leadership, and she never worried about being upstaged. If someone had a gift, she would say, "I believe you can do this better than I can. Why don't you give it a try?"

There were several pastors' wives who never seemed to fit the role. I do not remember them for their influence and love, but for their obvious faults. Nina was a gossip. She was always in the know about hurts and sins. "I'll tell you what really happened so you can pray properly," she would say. Since we feared her tongue, most of us stayed away from her. Her husband later left the ministry. I of ten wondered if he did so because of a tongue that could not be tamed.

It was obvious that Maryanne did not want her husband in the ministry. She let the church know how she felt, complaining about his many meetings. She did not attend prayer meeting, nor did she pray with the women. She seemed totally uninterested. She never looked happy, and gradually people stopped asking her to serve in any way.

Today many pastors' wives feel they must work outside the home. I can accept that, because each person must follow God's leading. My current pastor's wife likes to be introduced by her name, not as "this is my pastor's wife." She has the right to be treated as an individual. She is a talented woman and needs to be recognized for her contribution to her church and community.

Yes, whether she wishes to or not, the pastor's wife does stand in a special place. The important thing is that she walk close beside her husband and encourage him to serve God. She can do that only if Jesus lives in her heart and she is nourishing her own spiritual life through prayer and study of God's Word.


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Joan Martin has served as an active layperson in many different churches.

May 1990

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