3 Unreasonable Expectations of the Pastor’s Wife
At some point in the hiring process, a church’s search committee wants to meet the wife. To reach this point, the husband has likely made the shortlist, and now the church is checking out the spouse to see what kind of help or hindrance she’ll be to the ministry. This is normal and helpful to the church and the couple trying to discern God’s will for them and their family. Going into this meeting with an understanding of appropriate and inappropriate expectations can be very helpful. In part one of this short series, we looked at three reasonable expectations a church should have of their pastor's wife. This time, we’ll dig into three unreasonable expectations.
There might be occasions when your submission to God and your husband means you disappoint a member of the congregation.
In our years of interviewing at various churches, we’ve learned that some congregations are upfront about expectations, and others, not so much. Some search committees struggled to contain their disappointment when they learned that not every ministry wife plays the piano or that some women are employed outside the church. Others assume their pastor’s wife will organize children’s and women’s ministries. A few rarities have zero expectations, giving the wife barely more than a head nod. Whatever position your church takes regarding your role, some lines are important to draw and protect.
The church cannot arrange your priorities for you.
You are first a disciple of Jesus, wife of one husband, mother of your children (if you have children) and then the pastor’s wife. The church cannot rearrange those priorities for you. There might be occasions when your submission to God and your husband means you disappoint a member of the congregation. Listen to their concerns. Affirm that you’ve heard them, but know you are not required to obey them. You are not expected to function, parent, or run your household according to their liking. Maintaining this line might require frank conversations, but they are needed conversations that must be spoken firmly but in love.
Your church cannot dictate who your friends should be.
You cannot be available all the time to every person. You are not required to be a best friend to every woman who desires your time. Such open availability might even be unwise. Friendships that invite confidence are not automatic after your husband is hired. Deep friendships are built over time, trust is earned, and wisdom is necessary to discern who can hold the weighty issues that strike ministry families. Be kind to everyone. But it is okay to be selective in whom you confide.
Your church cannot make you the conduit between them and your husband.
You are not the congregation’s link to your husband’s ear. Telling you something is not the same as telling your husband. Some people will assume you are the easier approach, that you will pass along their expectations and concerns and see that your husband gets in line. Don’t. They need to go directly to your husband. Furthermore, your husband is his own person with his own opinions, which are not yours to express. Respect this. Listen well and express sympathy for shared concerns, assure them of your prayers for a quick resolution, and remind them you do not pass these messages along.
Ministry wives might not have much authority in the church, but we do have influence.
Ministry wives might not have much authority in the church, but we do have influence. It is part of our job to disciple the people entrusted to us and do this “without grumbling or complaining” (Phil 2:14). We have the privilege of teaching people what it means to love others when it is hard. The answer to unacceptable expectations is not passivity any more than it is aggressive demands. The answer is honest and humble communication that does nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counts others as more significant than ourselves.
Sometimes, these inappropriate expectations come from someone who doesn’t know any better. This person needs to be taught with gentleness. Whatever the context, you are not to be quarrelsome. Be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting with gentleness. Through this, God may perhaps grant repentance.