It’s a familiar story. A church calls a new pastor to serve, and his wife and children make the move with him. Church members eagerly welcome the new family and have high hopes God will use them mightily in the life of the church and community.
Expectations of the pastor are generally common knowledge. He probably reviewed a job description provided by the church and agreed upon it before accepting the call to serve there. But for his wife, things are a little different.
She received no written document of formal expectations like her husband, yet those expectations exist nonetheless. Assumptions about her role vary from church to church, depending on the history of the church, the role of former pastors’ wives and the individual preferences of church members. She may even have expectations of herself of how her role should look.
Some church members will undoubtedly presume she teach and lead the women’s ministry. Others may believe she should help with children, where the need is always great. There may be a small minority content to let her serve in less visible ways, perhaps in prayer or supporting her husband behind the scenes.
It may be tempting to please church members and serve in the ministry of their choosing, but we as pastor’s wives would do well to seek the Lord and inquire where He would have us serve instead. Following Him will yield more joy and fruit than striving to please everyone else.
There are four ways pastors’ wives can discern the Holy Spirit’s lead instead of following the expectations of others as it relates to areas of service.
First Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13 explain God’s design for the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit graciously bestows supernatural gifts on every believer for the edification of the church. No gift is more important than the next and is necessary for the church to function as God intends.
As pastors’ wives, we must recognize how He has gifted us. If God has made us with a passion for organization and administration, we’ll probably dread opportunities to teach or speak. If He has wired us with a heart of mercy, we’ll thrive in dispensing that love on those who need it most. Perhaps we have the gift of hospitality. We will come alive as we serve people in our homes or make people feel welcome at church.
For her own joy and building up of the body of Christ, the pastor’s wife must serve in an area she was designed for by God instead of bending to her own unrealistic expectations or those of church members.
Season of Life
Besides spiritual giftedness, practicality also necessitates the role in which a pastor’s wife can serve in the church.
A mother of three preschoolers will have much less time to minister outside the home than a retired school teacher. A healthy mom of school age kids may be able to serve during the day more often than a woman who is suffering with a chronic illness. A pastor’s wife at home with no children yet can contribute more than one employed full time as a nurse.
Wisdom calls us to take a look at the season in which we find ourselves. Pastors’ wives who push themselves too often outside of this seasonal perspective of life will soon burn out and be of little service to her husband or the church.
Needs of the Church
Apart from only looking at inward realities, pastors’ wives should also look outward to see the needs of the church. It may be that the role my giftedness serves best is already filled, with little necessity for further help. In that case, what area needs more attention?
Love may require us to step outside our gifts for a short season to truly fill a need. Perhaps the youth girls need a facilitator for their 6-week Bible study on Wednesday nights, but leading isn’t our primary gift. Six weeks of serving may be a sacrifice, but love for the girls is greater than feeling comfortable for that short time.
Pastors’ wives can love and sacrifice for the needs of the church.
Her Husband’s Guidance
Our husbands know us best, ladies. They know our strengths and weaknesses. They can see areas of service where we would excel, but perhaps lack confidence. Our husbands can sometimes discern better than ourselves how much energy and time a ministry may require and if we have the stamina and time to see it through.
Our pastor husbands also know well the needs of the church. They usually have insight into the demands a certain place of service might require and if it equals what we can give. Let’s look to our husbands for input and trust that guidance as we discern where we can most effectively serve.
Saying “yes” to opportunities of service solely to please others is not what God would have for pastors’ wives. Let’s turn our hearts to the Lord, ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and serve the church with joy!