Married to a pastor—now what?

The journey of ministerial spouses

Aurora Canals is the editor of Stronger Together and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

When I married my husband, he was not a pastor. He worked as a machinist and refrigeration and air conditioner technician. However, a few years into our marriage, he received a call to become a minister. Suddenly, I found myself in the role of a pastor’s wife without any prior knowledge, formal education, or training to prepare me for it. How alarming to read, “Being a pastor’s wife is the most hazardous and dangerous occupation a woman can have.”1

My experience is one of the many that led Marie Spangler to found Shepherdess International in 1984. Spangler identified a critical need among ministerial spouses—more than 50 percent felt personally inadequate and professionally ill-equipped to be partners in ministry. Indeed, ministerial spouse Ruthe White stated, “The pastor’s wife is the only woman I know who is asked to work full time without pay on her husband’s job, in a role no one has yet defined.”2

Addressing current needs

In 2019, the name was changed to the Ministerial Spouses Association to better represent both ministerial spouse genders. Today, the Ministerial Spouses Association carries on Marie Spangler’s legacy and provides resources and opportunities for ministerial spouses:

  • Promotes spiritual growth through chapter meetings, workers’ meetings, and retreats
  • Raises awareness for the need to establish local support organizations for ministerial spouses
  • Assists ministerial spouses in understanding their roles and identifying their spiritual gifts, encouraging them to serve the church comfortably
  • Trains pastoral spouses as paraprofessionals in ministry, helping them address feelings of unpreparedness
  • Offers fellowship and support to facilitate relationship building and continuity
  • Encourages quality time within the ministerial family, emphasizing the importance of strong Christian homes

The General Conference Ministerial Spouses Association addresses the needs of pastoral spouses and families through various activities and resources:

  • Stronger Together, a quarterly publication designed to enrich and encourage pastoral spouses
  • Prayer resources to grow one’s personal prayer life3
  • Training opportunities organized by division and union ministerial spouse leaders for ministerial spouses and coordinators
  • Guidelines and a model constitution for establishing ministerial spouse chapters
  • Advocacy for issues affecting pastoral spouses, such as team ministry, family needs, financial stability, expectations, affirmation, continuing education, and paraprofessional development
  • Training sessions for spouses of delegates and administrators at Annual Councils and General Conference Sessions.4

Empowering ministerial spouses

The Ministerial Spouses Association continues in the footsteps of Maria Spangler, providing resources and opportunities for ministerial spouses as they strive to fulfill their roles in supporting their spouses in ministry. The association endeavors to empower ministerial spouses and strengthen pastoral families (including pastoral children) through ongoing education, resources, fellowship, and advocacy.

By staying true to its founding principles, the association aims to create a supportive network that fosters spiritual growth, personal development, and strong relationships within the ministerial community. Through these collective efforts, ministerial spouses can successfully navigate the challenges and joys of their roles while providing essential support to their partners in ministry.

Thrilling journey

Although I had experience as an elder’s wife, being a pastor’s wife was an entirely new journey. I embarked on a thrilling learning process, embracing the joys and challenges of ministry and seeking guidance from others in similar situations. I came to understand why Miriam Wood, author and spouse of long-time Adventist Review editor Kenneth Wood, testified, “I have an overwhelming thankfulness for my life as the wife of a Seventh-day Adventist minister. I am firmly convinced that for me no other life could have been so meaningful, so rewarding, and so worthwhile. The doctrines of my church, the principles for which it stands, the hope that it holds for the future—all of these are more important to me each day I live . . . I would like to go back to the beginning and live it all again.”5

As the Ministerial Spouses Association continues to grow and evolve, it remains committed to its mission of empowering and uplifting ministerial spouses and children in their journey.

  1. Marion Nelson, Why Christians Crack Up: Emotional Disturbances—Their Roots and Remedies (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1972), 68.
  2. Ruthe White, What Every Pastor’s Wife Should Know (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 33.
  3. See https://www.ministerialassociation.org/prayer.
  4. For a wealth of information and resources, visit https://www.ministerialassociation.org/spouses.
  5. Miriam Wood, Two Hands, No Wings (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1968), 192.

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Aurora Canals is the editor of Stronger Together and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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