Over the years I have had a unique opportunity to see inside the ministry of the church. From pretty much every perspective, I have noticed that there always seems to be an unsung servant in the church. This individual may be up front in ministry or may be one who sits back and quietly lives, to the best of their ability, as an example of what it means to be an authentic Christian. Sometimes, they do a great job. At other times mistakes and missteps happen. It seems that this individual pays the price, more than almost anyone else, for the mistakes, but at the same time is seldom recognized for the steady effort and example they try to exhibit. It is also true that many of the "mistakes" are nothing more than misunderstandings and mischaracterizations leveled by people who are seldom aware of what's really happening. Since confidentiality is often important in church ministry, this individual must often take hits for things that are not true, but for the sake of helping and protecting others, the truth remains confidential. Criticisms are abundant, encouragements are few and the fish bowl is small. Who is this individual? Stay tuned!
Growing up, my parents were both very involved in multiple aspects of the church. My dad was a Sunday school superintendent, board member, guitar player and all around utility guy. When things needed to get done, he always tried to help if he was able. My mom taught me in Sunday school, children's church and also in what you might call the hand to backside discipleship program. If I wasn't being a good disciple her hand would guide me from the backside. If church was happening, we were there. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night Bible study, work day, chicken dinner cooking day, church janitorial duty, you get the point. My parents were and continue to be amazing examples of what it means to have a servant’s heart.
My best friend in the world, at that time, was the pastor's son, Brian. The truth is we were more like brothers than friends. I remember one particular summer, that we hung out nearly every day. Either he was staying at our house, or I was staying at the pastor's house. It was great. It was also revealing.
Later, I felt my own call into the ministry. Through the years, I've had the opportunity to be youth pastor, board member, assistant pastor, and in the last few years, the "senior" pastor. All of these positions have also given me the opportunity to see ministry from every angle.
I share these things with you to give you some perspective that I feel like I know of the things which I'm about to speak. I've seen the church from the Sunday morning side when everything appears to be perfect, and I've witnessed it from behind the scenes when it quickly becomes apparent that the church, from the pastor, his family, and the members of the church are all imperfect people trying to serve a perfect God.
And yet, there is one individual who is often expected to be perfect at all times. Some of you think I'm about to talk about your pastor, right? Although it's true that a typical pastor is also under a lot of scrutiny as well, it's not your pastor I'm talking about. I'm talking about your pastor's wife. No, I'm not being sexist either. I realize that there are female pastors as well, but for the sake of today's blog, I'm speaking about the faithful pastor's wives that serve God, their husbands, their families and churches, oftentimes, with very little recognition and under the magnifying glass of incredible scrutiny. I can't speak for all pastor's wives, but I do want to say a few things that may very well be true of your pastor's wife no matter what church you attend.
1. The calling of a Pastor's wife is very unique.
I struggled with how to word this one without being misunderstood. I started to write that the pastor's wife isn't necessarily a Biblical calling. I know how that sounds and I don't mean it the way it sounds. What I mean to say is that there are very few wives (I'm not sure if there are any) who get called to be a pastor's wife and so the husband drops everything and becomes a pastor in order for his wife to fulfill her call. Typically, it's the other way around. Usually the husband is called into the ministry. This may or may not be something that was known before the couple was married, but the point is, sometimes your pastor's wife is just your pastor's wife. They weren't necessarily "called" into what many expect the pastor’s wife to be. Usually it sounds something like, “Well, God put the pastor and his wife together so she must have been born to be a “pastor’s wife.” Often, they just happened to be the wife of someone who was called into the ministry. (This applies to your pastor's kids as well. They aren't your pastors, they are kids. Let them be kids.)This is a unique and beautiful calling in and of itself. The problem is that a pastor's wife is almost universally expected to be someone she may not be. This is not fair.
The pastor's wife is often expected to be the piano or keyboard player, the worship leader, the children's church leader, woman's ministry director, the secretary, the janitor, etc. etc. etc.....If she doesn't live up to all of those expectations then she is somehow less than.
Add to these things that the pastor's wife is also expected to keep the perfect home so any church member can drop by anytime they feel like it. When they knock on the door, the house must be perfect, the coffee should be on and the snacks should be ready. After all, it's her duty to be "hospitable." The Bible even says so, right?
Oh, and lest I forget, the pastor's wife must always be in a perfectly happy mood. No room for bad days. Church members are allowed to be grumpy, but not Mrs. Pastor. Nope! No Way! It isn't relevant whether she got no sleep because she was at the hospital with a member all night. It doesn't matter if some loving saint has been gossiping about her husband, her kids or maybe herself. It doesn't even matter if she's not feeling well, but shows up anyway. What really doesn't matter is that she may just be struggling and feeling alone and no one seems to notice. The happy face must be on. June Cleaver where are you when we need you??
Speaking of feeling alone.
2. Chances are your pastor's wife struggles with friendship.
I may be saying something here that your pastor's wife wouldn't necessarily want me to say, but here goes. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the truth is your pastor's wife may very well feel alone and isolated. How is that possible? How can you be alone and isolated when you are surrounded by people all the time? Turns out it's pretty easy. It happens when the pastor's wife puts herself out there to "friends" in the church. There are those people who say things like, "We are here for you." "We've got your back." "You can trust me." So she opens up and shares her true heart, feelings and struggles with someone she trusts only to find out that her heart was shaped into a knife and placed directly in her back. Over the course of time, it becomes easier to shove feelings down inside and walk alone rather than risk getting hurt again. I know what some may be thinking, "That's not the Christian thing to do. She shouldn't feel that way." "She should just know that you have to be a friend to make a friend." Easy to say. Difficult to do when history shows you differently.
3. Your pastor's wife could probably use a thank you
Most pastor's wives are doing the best they can. Sometimes they are walking a path that they aren't quite sure how to walk. Sometimes they are sure, but the path isn't necessarily popular. It's not easy. I'll bet your pastor's wife could use a thank you. I'd like to encourage you to take time and let her know you appreciate her. You probably don't know how much it would mean to her.
And so I would like to take my own advice and send out a huge thank you to the pastor's wives who have been important in my life. Some have gone on to their reward, some are retired and some are still going strong. Thank you for your example. Thank you for remaining faithful, Thank you for staying the course when it would have been easier to throw in the towel. Thank you for loving and protecting your flock along with your husband despite the personal sacrifice to you and your family.
Thank You, Beulah Pooler, Glenna Odam, Velda Walker, Sister Westcott, Debbie Moore, Marilyn Scanlon, and Elizabeth Comer. Also, thank you to Peggy Olds. Although you were never my local pastor's wife, you have been an amazing example of grace, love and staying the course. You are amazing and I am thankful for the place you have had in my life and in the life of my family. Thank you to anyone who I may have left out. It wasn't intentional. You deserve the honor.
Last, but in no way least, thank you to my amazing wife, Ann Osborne. You have stood by me through every up and down of ministry and you are still going strong. Thank you for being there for me, our kids and for our church. I Love You.
Be Blessed, Tom