PMS: the reluctant pastor's wife

>> October 12, 2009

This is Erika, a driven and successful career-woman, married to a pastor. She's the embodiment of the reluctant pastor's wife. She loves her husband, but can't stand his job. She's stopped going to church with him because she can't stand all the ridicule from the members. Even the older minister's wives on staff chastise her (like a child) for the way she dresses and the things she's unwilling volunteer for at church. She's fed up.

Erika is your friend. What advice do you give to her? How do you encourage her?

*These scenarios are fictitious. Any resemblance to real-life events is coincidental.


Carrie October 12, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

Hmmm, a toughy.

Marriage is a partnership and both spouses commit to encourage one another. A preacher without his wife will not be encouraged. It is her duty to be there for him.

What does her husband need from her? Once she finds that out, she should do it with her whole heart. She didn't marry the church or the naysayers----but she did marry him and he needs her.

Pattie October 12, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

One thing my husband always asked the church is if they had expectations about me. Because his expectation was that I would serve where the Lord led me, not where they told me. That helps.

I agree that she needs to support her husband the best way she can, and that she needs real true friends to come alongside her and pray with her.

Tanya October 12, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

I've typed a couple of responses, and they keep coming off as bitter. This is a real problem, and it doesn't seem to change in some churches.

If this PW is hurt so badly she has stopped going to church, then her DH needs to step in and do something. He should be protecting her.

Anonymous,  October 12, 2009 at 12:52 PM  

I understand the difficulty with negative opposition from the congregation and/or staff but where's the focus? How's her relationship with the Lord? Does she understand who she is and who she is not? I would encourage her to remember who God has called her to be and to focus on being just that. Rest in that knowledge that regardless of what others say, you are being and doing what God has asked. Primarily that means feeding your relationship with Christ and supporting your husband. Start there; the ministry part will follow. The only way to way to stop naysayers is to give up and quit - not an option. It's not about them. It's about you and God.

Kate October 12, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

I agree with all of the comments. I believe she needs to stop thinking it's all about her and start putting the focus on her husband, other people in the church, and in her community. A person feeling this way needs to step back and see where her spiritual train got off the tracks. No matter where you go, you will always be told you could do something better, help out more, etc. Get over that. Get right with God first, and then with your husband. A lot of ministries fail because of the wife! Read Ephesians, and Titus. Also, get a mentor, find someone to keep you accountable and pray with you.

SKA October 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM  

I'd have to agree with Kate and Jodie. Being in ministry isn't about us, it's about living for the purpose of meeting others' needs.

As a driven career woman myself, I've battled the jugglefest too. But it all comes back to the fact that our marriage has got to be our primary focus. And if God has called our husbands to ministry, then by default he has called the wife to stand beside the minister. So coming to grips with sharing a life of ministry is imperative for the health of a pastoral marriage.

On the other hand, if a church congregation is being unduly critical or has unreasonable expectations of the PW - I believe that it is the husband's obligation and duty to protect and shelter his wife. Again - putting the health of the marriage first.

Ellen October 12, 2009 at 4:49 PM  

First I would encourage her to talk to her husband about the struggles that she's facing then I would tell her that she needs to suck it up. I, too, struggle with unrealistic expectations from the ladies at our church. They make of me and say hurtful things but I make a point to be nice to them. Not because of me, because quite frankly, it's really difficult to love them, but because it's something my husband has asked me to do and because it's something that God has called all PWs to do. When God calls the husband into ministry, He calls the wife too. I know that doesn't sound very nice, but she and her husband are there to serve not be served.

Karen,  October 13, 2009 at 10:34 AM  

While the scenario tries to make a clear distinction of career vs. church, it is probably more like Erika finds acceptance and success in her career vs. non-acceptance and failure to meet expectations at church. Where would you want to spend your time?

I would encourage Erika to seek outside professional help. She has experienced hurt that has caused her to take extreme action to withdraw from her church community. Until she has found healing from her hurt and refilled with God’s love, she will not be able to find the strength to give love and care for her church community. Duty, expectations and responsibility never move a person forward in elegance and grace.

StrawberryParfait October 13, 2009 at 3:59 PM  

To me, I'm the kind of pastor's wife to get in there with my husband and do ministry together. Fight in the trenches so to speak. I also have a fairly successful career. I'm younger and not always seen as an equal by the older women in the church.

Other pastor's wives I've known...some successfully encourage their husbands without being involved in their husband's ministry. Though they do go to their husband's church...that's part of encouragement.

She needs to figure who she is and how she fits into her calling as a pastor's wife and his calling as a pastor.

That said:

She does need to evaluate: Does her husband come first or her career. I believe she can have both, but if it's canceling dinner with husband or a late night at work the husband better win.

She does need to evaluate why she isn't in church: She needs to be in his church at least for the Sunday morning worship. I'm not saying Sunday School or anything else. Just start with stepping through the door, sitting in the back, and existing. He needs you there. No excuses or arguements can win on this one- He needs you there.

But her problems with the church are causing a spiritual problem in her life. I'd suggest a return (if she has left) to daily devotions by herself. Maybe even walk 30min a day and pray during that time. And I have known of pastor couples to find a Sunday evening service at a church in a nearby (but not too close) town so that they can worship freely together.

That's my advice:
Daily devotions, prayer, walk it off, spiritual time with your husband

Encouragement: The church is filled with people aka sinners. His job and the people involved are imperfect. That doesn't mean you're called to be a perfect person to minister to them but rather to introduce them to a perfect God. The dark doesn't like the light so don't be surprised by ridicule. Above all, you're your husband's wife before you're a pastor's wife. Focus on that and you'll be ok.

Anonymous,  August 13, 2010 at 3:27 AM  

I’m on the verge of becoming Erika except I’m a stay-at-home, (yeah right) mom. I am still going to all church activities. I still make about 3 trips to pick up people for every service, I still go witnessing, I still teach children’s church, I am still the backup teacher for the other classes, I am still cleaning after church, I still get stuck watching other people’s children during music practice, (the only thing I am not involved in).

When someone wants something we’re there to serve. Need a ride- call us. Need groceries- call us. Need bus fare-call us. Need someone to dump problems on-call us. Going through drama-call us. Call just to say hi-no way. Invite the pastor’s family to dinner-no way. Ask if we need anything-no way. Pay gas money- no way.

I am mentally and physically exhausted. I don’t have much more to give. Yet nobody gives to us.

Erika gave and gave, but received nothing in return. Duty became drudgery. She eventually stopped caring then she stopped giving.

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