Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Inside the Heart of a Pastor's Wife
Last week I had coffee with another pastor's wife. As we sat across from each other in those cool overstuffed leather chairs with our lattes steaming between us, we caught up on life. We discussed the prayer group we had just attended, our families and our kids. Inevitably, our discussion turned to ministry. So I asked Nicolle the question I love to ask other pastor's wives: What's life like for you as a pastor's wife?
Like every pastor's wife I've ever posed that question to, she gave me an earful. I'd love to share her thoughts here today. I'll list her top three issues, which I think are pretty universal.
1. Being misunderstood as a pastor's wife
She began this point by describing the relationship she had years ago with her former pastor's wife. This pastor's wife was very outspoken, and many church members thought her unsubmissive to her pastor-husband.
During her single years, Nicolle offered to serve this pastor's wife and her family. On her first day of service, she entered the lady's home excited to aid her in sorting paperwork, bills and files. She was fully prepared to become a trusty personal assistant. Instead, the lady led her to the bedroom of her two daughters, age 5 and 7. Clothes and girlie stuff was everywhere -- all over the floor, the beds and the dresser tops.
That day was the beginning of my friend's new job as a nanny/housekeeper. Not exactly thrilling volunteer work for a single gal.
Yet a treasure awaited her after all. This new entrance into her pastor's home allowed her to observe this pastor's wife and her interactions with her husband and daughters. Her observations led her to a glorious discovery: there was more to this pastor's wife than met the eye. This woman, often accused of being boisterous and not submitting to her husband, was actually quite submissive. This husband and wife had a great understanding between them, and her husband knew exactly how to communicate and relate with his wife.
Years later, now that Nicolle has became a pastor's wife, she often feels misunderstood like her former pastor's wife. People sometimes interpret her outspokenness and outgoing nature as a lack of submission. Yet she too has a wonderful connection with her husband. Describing why submission comes naturally for an outspoken woman like herself, she says, "My husband knows how to shepherd me well."
2. Living in the infamous ministry "bubble"
She inevitably listed this challenge that perhaps every ministry family has dealt with on some level. She mentioned that when a pastor or pastor's family has a problem in life or marriage, people often lack grace.
According to Nicolle, this can attributed to the "false expectations people place on leadership. [They] deify them and don't let them be humans."
I must assert this question: When this happens, where does a pastor or his wife turn when he proves to be human and imperfect? It's a question that many a ministry family has yet to answer.
3. Church members unable to relate to the PK's (Pastor's Kids)
She expressed her concern with the interactions, or lack thereof, between her children and church members. Either people's expectations are too high for them or they're seen as in the way. Oftentimes, church folks will attempt to push the children out of the way (figuratively) so they can get to the pastor or his wife. The children feel like nobody really wants them.
Nicolle is vigilant to guard her family and their time together. She said that after ministering long and hard, her husband has often been "sucked dry, and then we don't get anything."
I agree with my pastor's wife-girlfriend on all counts. Sometimes well-meaning people can literally suck the life out of their poor pastors. And often we pastor's wives and our children feel like we receive little more than the leftovers.
I hope that by sharing my feelings and the feelings of other pastor's wives, I haven't put a complete damper on ministry. Certainly there are many positives that come with the territory of being in the ministry. One being continual spiritual blessing from the Father.
But please take a moment and say a prayer for your pastor(s). This life is not an easy one, and they (and their families) could really use the encouragement and prayer support.
And if you're a pastor or pastor's wife, be encouraged. If you weren't being effective for the Kingdom, the enemy would have left you alone a long time ago!
Speaking the Truth in Love,
Note: Nicolle Fletcher's husband, Phil, pastors The Church at Oakwood in Conway, Arkansas. Together they lead City of Hope Outreach (COHO), a ministry that seeks to advocate for and share the Gospel among persons in low income situations.