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3 Appropriate Expectations on the Pastor’s Wife

When my husband and I first entered ministry, I knew the role came with assumptions. My husband would be expected to be and do many things. However, I was unprepared for the expectations placed on me. I spent a lot of years (and energy!) pushing against the confines of a mold I’d felt shoved into. We’ll talk about those sorts of struggles in part two of this article set. But first, let’s highlight the appropriate kinds of expectations a church can have on their pastor’s wife.

Your church should expect you to be present.

We all know there is a way to show up without ever really showing up. There is a way to be physically present without investing emotionally. It’s when we circle the wagons and look inward. It’s when we wear a mask instead of being authentic. It’s when we resist letting others in and “fake peace instead of make peace” (Christine Hoover). It’s a dangerous place. I’ve known ministry wives suffering from such deep wounds that pulling back behind the safety of a veil wasn’t far enough. They not only withdrew emotionally, but also withdrew physically and stopped attending church altogether. Fight the temptation to walk away, be it literal or metaphorical. Commit to being present. Work through the hard issues. Have the difficult conversations. Obey the Word of God. Love others as Christ has loved you. It is a reasonable expectation.

Your church should expect you to use your gifts and abilities to serve the Lord.

I had to learn to be flexible, and so did our church. However, it was reasonable for them to carry an expectation that I’d find some place to serve. The church expects every person—including you—to seize the opportunity to serve the Lord.

My husband and I have served the Lord in four different church settings over our married life. His role was always neatly defined, but I floundered each time we moved. He preached, taught, and led no matter where we landed. My role fluctuated. Many moving parts impacted by involvement, including whether or not a volunteer was already serving in what I considered my sweet spot of ministry. The age and stage of our children, responsibilities at home, and the needs of our extended family impacted my availability. As a result, where and how I served frequently changed. The years I worked outside the home meant my Saturdays were often scheduled work days. When we started home schooling our children, I was no longer available during the week days. I had to learn to be flexible, and so did our church. However, it was reasonable for them to carry an expectation that I’d find some place to serve. The church expects every person—including you—to seize the opportunity to serve the Lord.

Your church should expect you to be authentic.

But allowing trusted friends to see that their leaders are real, flawed, and just as much in need of God’s sustaining grace blesses far more people than it offends.

A while back, I confessed to some friends a deeply personal struggle my husband and I were facing. I went into that conversation guarded unsure if they would be able to handle knowing we weren’t perfect. News of our struggle saddened them, but also strangely encouraged them as well. If their leaders can walk through the Valley of the Shadow, then so could they. If it was acceptable—even normal—for a us to grapple with these issues, then perhaps they weren’t as far gone as they feared? Perhaps God hadn’t abandoned them? Of course, wisdom is needed regarding where and when to share such information. It will not always be appropriate to share. But allowing trusted friends to see that their leaders are real, flawed, and just as much in need of God’s sustaining grace blesses far more people than it offends. Be authentic.

In some ways, the expectations placed on ministry wives should be no different from any other woman present in the church. We are to love God and love others, considering them better than ourselves, using our gifts and abilities to further the Kingdom. However, our marital status makes us women of influence whether we asked for that influence or not. And as such, we carry responsibility. We are to be present and invested, actively serving, and authentically genuine. It is reasonable for your church to desire this of you. Lest you feel boxed in by these expectations, know there is great freedom in how you can live these expectations out. Your church cannot and should not dictate to you how this must look. There’ll be more on that in part two, 3 Unreasonable Expectations on the Pastor’s Wife. Until then, press on.

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