I am praying now as I write this. First, for wisdom with my words, and second, for clarity in expressing my thoughts. Before you read anything I post be sure to read Tim Challies’ article he posted today entitled, “The Privilege of the Pastor’s Wife.” If you want a synopsis of Challies’ message. Here it is:
Earlier this month Crossway announced that they are considering March Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month, and this on the occasion of Gloria Furman’s new book The Pastor’s Wife. To mark the month they have offered blog articles and video interviews featuring wives of well-known pastors, and many of these articles have been very helpful. You can find the list right here. To this point, the bulk of the articles have focused on the struggles that can come to the pastor’s wife: the hurt, the expectations, the difficulty in making friends, and so on. Since I am married to a pastor’s wife, I can attest that these are real issues. But Aileen and I put our heads together and would like to offer an article that looks at the pastor’s wife from an alternate angle: the privilege of it. Because despite the difficulties, the pastor’s wife does experience some unique privileges. We have written this little article with the pastor’s wife in mind in the hope that it will encourage her.
Challies lists the 6 privileges of a pastor’s wife as : 1. She is married to a godly man. 2. She is a godly woman. 3. She has a good marriage. 4. Her husband nurtures his children. 5. She is admired. 6. She is married to a respectable man. I want to strongly qualify my thoughts with my thankfulness and appreciation for a godly husband in Travis and for his love for me and for our children. I don’t write this defensively, but openly and honestly. I do consider it a privilege to be his wife and to raise our family together. However, I believe that Challies (and his wife Aileen) are idealizing and overgeneralizing the experience of the pastor’s wife. The Fuller Institute, George Barna, Pastoral Care Inc, and H.B. London’s book Pastors at Greater Risk share the following statistics: • 90 percent of pastors report working between 55 and 75 hours a week • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families • 1 out of 3 state that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family • 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands • 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles • 7 out of 10 pastors report constantly fighting depression • 8 out of 10 spouses feel left out and unappreciated by church members • 70 percent do not have any close friends • 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse • 94 percent feel under great pressure to have a perfect family Read that last statistic again. “94 percent feel under pressure to have a perfect family.” The average pastor’s wife will read Challies’ article and not see his list as privileges, but more like assumptions. We are assuming that she is married to a godly man, is godly herself, is admired, has a husband who nurtures his children, and has a good marriage. Yes, this may be the biblical mandate and ideal, but unfortunately such is not the case with many pastors’ families. The Pastor’s Wife Experience I am a member of Leading and Loving It, a non-profit ministry to pastors’ wives and women in ministry. Often I see requests for prayer on my Facebook feed from pastors’ wives who are struggling. There was one who sought prayer for her husband who was asked to leave his church, one who reached out for prayer for her prodigal child, and many others who had needs regarding their marriages, church start-ups, financial burdens, staff tension, and feelings of loneliness. Pastors wives who are deep in the trenches will not see their position as a privilege. I am not saying that their role (or any God-ordained role for that matter…more on this below) is not a privilege, but that their experience may not align with Challies’ list. Because after all, as in any marriage, it takes two to build a good one. And the pastor’s wife is only responsible for her own pursuit of holiness, not her husband’s. And here is the rub. The Challenge of Ministry The biblical qualifications for a pastor and his wife are not privileges, but challenges. For one to live a life “above reproach,” “manage the household well,” and have children who are “submissive” he is to continually do these things to remain qualified to be a pastor. This is a challenge. So, being a pastor’s wife may be a privilege, but it is a sober calling that requires prayer, diligence, and a continual abiding in Christ. Real Privileges Let me say this. May I only ever boast in the cross of Christ, not in my husband, my marriage, my children, or in my personal holiness. A list like the one Challies gives is a little self-aggrandizing, and idealistic. In a way, his article takes pastors’ wives steps backwards to a day when labels like “The First Lady” or “Pastor’s Wife” were given to define a role that has been loaded with more than Scripture mandates. Even Challies admits, “there is no biblical office of the pastors’ wife, and neither is there a specific list of qualifications for a pastor’s wife.” So, how is the pastor’s wife a privileged woman? Let me share a few succinct thoughts: 1. She is a Christian. She knows Christ, walks with Him, and relies on Him with the unique challenges that she faces. 2. She knows that heaven is her true home. She does not aspire to build her kingdom on this earth with the perfect house, perfect marriage, or squeaky-clean children. She is serving her family and her church to store up treasures in her heavenly address. 3. She has the Holy Spirit inside of her. She is not alone, but has all of the resources she needs through the Spirit. Now let me ask you this: How are these privileges unique for the pastor’s wife? They are not. Each of us has a unique set of circumstances that come with both blessings and challenges, but if we are in Christ, we are all privileged people! All that we have and all that we are in Christ is grace! I am privileged to know Him, be found in Him, and have an inheritance through Him. God has called me to be Travis’ wife, and he happens to be a pastor. God has called me to serve Him using my gifts because I am a Christian, not because I am Travis’ wife. God has blessed us with three beautiful children who are rotten sinners like us. Go figure! The church will see us struggle through parenting, ministry, and such, but hopefully they will not simply watch us as bystanders, but will pray with us and for us as we seek to honor God with our family and His church. It is a privilege to walk together in fellowship with the church and rely on the power of God in community. As they say, it takes a village! I cannot think of a better one than the pastor, his wife, and their church locking arm and arm on their knees growing in grace together as privileged people.