It was probably 20 or so years ago I had a conversation with a church leader who was telling me about the new preacher their church had hired. One comment was very revealing in regards to his expectations of a preacher’s wife, “Our new preacher’s wife is really something. We got a two-for-the-price-of-one when we hired him. Our former preacher’s wife wasn’t much. She kept to herself. It seemed like she was more interested in her kids that she was in helping her husband in the ministry.”
I’ve counseled many preachers’ wives from numerous religious beliefs. What I have learned is that the expectations of a preacher’s wife seem to be as varied as the colors in a 64-box of Crayola crayons.
Some churches expect the wife to be at the forefront of every activity, while others allow the wife to find her own niche in the life of the church.
Problems will surface when the expectation of a church in regards to the preacher’s wife does not fit the personality of the woman. In that atmosphere, members often give subtle, covert messages to the woman that she is not measuring up. If she is not secure in herself, she will personalize those messages. Chronic feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction with self are sure to follow. And if help is not sought, depression will not be far behind.
To live life based on the expectations of others, is to live the life of a chameleon; constantly trying to read situations and become whatever they are expected to be. The problem with the life of a chameleon is they never develop a true sense of self.
Not only do the expectations of a church play an important role in the life of a preacher’s wife, equally important are the expectations a preacher has of his wife. A minister can be guilty of “brow beating” his own wife with his comments of derision regarding her lack of participation in ways he believes she should be participating. When a preacher accuses his wife of not being supportive of him simply because she doesn’t attend every function that he chooses to attend, he’s indicating that his emphasis in his ministry is more about him than it is about being a Christ-like leader in his home.
Perhaps the most difficult area for preachers’ wives is when their expectations of themselves are unrealistic. I remember a preacher’s wife speaking tearfully of all the ways she was failing as a minister’s wife. She had a long list of things she itemized as works she was not doing. As we looked at the list together it became clear that the things she wasn’t participating in were often due to: 1. Her involvement in the activities of her children; 2. Fatigue from spending every day in her own job/career; 3. They were activities that she had no talent for or interest in.
It took quite some time to help this woman reframe her view of herself. As she began seeing all the wonderful things that she was doing, her spirit began to lift. When she developed a mindset of finding her role based on God’s expectations of her, rather than hers or others expectations of her, she once again found joy in her Christian walk.
It is critically important to the health of a church that they work to help maintain the “healthiness” of their preacher and his family. If church leaders have certain expectations of a preacher’s wife, they need to meet with her and make those expectations apparent before they agree to hire her husband. This is a much healthier approach than hiring her husband first and then later being disgruntled with her because she is not meeting their expectations.
Godly women of character, with empathetic hearts, who know how to protect confidentiality, need to befriend the preacher’s wife. Help her to be transparent with them. Develop an intimate relationship with her. Love her for who she is.
I offer this advice to preacher’s wives: find your place in God’s heart first. Allow Him to help you find your place in serving Him. Live your life desiring to please Him first.