A century ago the role of the minister's wife was pretty well defined. Hints for a Clergyman's Wife, a book published in 1832, advised, "A minister's wife should be a co-pastor, social worker, visiting nurse and educator, an evangelist dedicated to saving souls, and, if possible, Sunday school superintendent and the leader of neighborhood study groups."
But what about today? What if she's busy raising children, or employed out side the home and church? Must the pastor's spouse do church work?
Roy Oswald asked the question of 20 ministers' wives. Nineteen said "Yes." But why must the pastor's wife be come involved in church work?
First, because she is a church member, and all members should exercise their spiritual gifts in some ministry. She is the first lady of the congregation, a role she has whether or not she chooses it. If she won't work in the church, why should the other women?
Second, she must do church work because if the members believe she doesn't care about them, her husband's work will suffer. She must do church work to support his calling. No career can compensate for the dissatisfaction she will feel if she thinks she's botching her role as wife.
Write your own job description
Confronted by the role her husband, the congregation, or church leaders thrust upon her, the pastor's wife generally reacts in one of three ways. She becomes angry and rebels. She resigns herself to it and becomes more tool than person. Or, she redefines the role to fit the unique gifts God has given her, writing a job description for herself.
The pastor's wife will do best if she begins by accepting herself, liking what God has given her to work with. Depression starts with self-criticism, then moves on to blaming others. If I think I'm too fat, I'll expect others to think so too, and blame them for thinking it. If I think I've no gift, I'll expect others to think so too, and blame them for believing it. On the other hand, if I think a good God must have given me gifts worth having, I'll thank Him--and set about using them for Him.
Very likely the minister's wife who is feeling frustrated hasn't defined her role for herself. Trying to live up to the expectations of others without having decided what she wants to give, she feels taken. She should counsel with her spouse, with leading women in the church, with other ministers' wives, and especially with her Lord. Then, with only the Holy Spirit at her side, she should sit down and write her own job description.
Find the niche only you can fill
There are roles more important to the job description of the pastor's wife than church offices such as Sabbath school superintendent, Pathfinder leader, or church organist.
She can be the pastor's encourager. Many pastors say they chose the minis try because they want to serve people. That may be a thinly veiled way of saying they chose the ministry because they need to be appreciated. But serving people doesn't always lead to being appreciated. Every pastor needs an encourager--hopefully at home.
She can be the pastor's compensator. I knew a pastor who was a strong administrator: efficient, progressive and blunt. He was forever hurting people's feelings. His wife, on the other hand, was sensitive and diplomatic. She was forever applying balm or smoothing ruffled feathers. If she had been doing it because she had to, she would have been miserable. She found their team ministry fulfilling because she knew the man who loved her deeply needed her desperately.
Saying no is especially difficult for those who grew up feeling loved only if they did what they were told. But many people love the minister's wife more when they learn there are some things she can't do. The congregation is caught in a dilemma between wanting her to be perfect so they can admire her and wanting her to be flawed so they can feel comfortable with her.
Perhaps the following story best sums up the role we have been considering. A pastor's wife was rushing through the house, finishing last-minute chores be fore dashing off to an appointment. Her little girl asked why she was hurrying so. "Because I have a Bible study in 20 minutes," she answered breathlessly.
"But why are you going to a Bible study?"
Mother started to reply "Because your daddy's the"--Stopping herself short, she reversed the question, "Why do you think I'm doing it?"
Back came the perfect reply, "Because you love Jesus."
If you serve the church because you love Christ, not just because the church expects it or because your husband expects it, serving is less frustrating.