Category Archives: Pastor’s Wife

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas

grinch-clip-art1Well, Parson Brown, Christmas time is here, that busy season when you feel like you just got run over by a reindeer. Before you get lost in the busyness, stop and consider: many people accuse clergy of sexual improprieties, even during the holidays. Sadly, those claims are often true. But sometimes the accusations are false, forcing innocent ministers and their families to endure wagging tongues at best and lawsuits at worst.

Take these steps to a merry—and allegation-free—Christmas.

  • Don’t stick your head in the snow. False accusations can happen to you. Do what you can to protect yourself.
  • Circle your evergreens. Surround yourself with those you trust—your wife, your staff, your deacons and elders. Maintain your devotional life. God is the biggest hedge of all.
  • Make a list. Keep with you the names and phone numbers of people who can help you when needed: a mature deacon’s wife to counsel a distraught lady. An elder to stick around after cantata practice so you aren’t left alone with the female choir director. A fellow minister to step in when you sense a counselee becoming too dependent.
  • And check it twice. Make clear notes in a journal or daily planner of any incidents that may raise concerns in future.
  • Take down the mistletoe. Maintain appropriate physical boundaries. Don’t kiss, hug, touch, or horseplay in a way that might seem even a little suggestive.
  • Keep the ho-ho-ho’s clean.  Avoid telling jokes or making comments that could be misinterpreted.
  • Share the sleigh ride. When driving ladies, children, or youth home after the Christmas party, find another adult to ride along.
  • Brighten a blue Christmas. The holidays often mean an increase in hurting people who need comfort, but proceed with caution. Women should minister to women whenever possible. If you must go meet with a lady or a minor, bring along a third person. If no one can go with you, do your counseling via telephone.
  • Walk in a winter wonderland. Hold personal sessions out in the open. If it’s too cold to go outside, leave office doors open and/or use a meeting room with windows. Insist that sessions occur during regular hours when others are near.
  • Wrap it up. Keep counseling sessions to 45 minutes or less, and don’t counsel one person more than five times in a year. Too much time together could lead the counselee to a false understanding of your relationship.
  • Jingle those (telephone) bells. Know when to call others for help and when to refer your counselee to an outside professional.
  • God rest ye, merry gentleman. When you’ve taken precautions to prevent unjust finger-pointing, simply watch over your flock as God has called you to do. Trust Him to safeguard you and your family.

Tip #9: Be the Mom

As pastors’ wives, we’re unlike most other women in the congregation attending church with their families. When the church gathers for any reason—Worship, Vacation Bible School, AWANA, Business Meeting, even a simple fellowship meal—our husbands are working. Just like any other dad at work isn’t available to take care of his kids, so our husbands at work aren’t available to take care of our kids.

In other words, when the church gathers, the kids are our responsibility.

This fact has cause me to grumble more than once over the years, especially when my children were small. But I’ve discovered some ways to make “being the mom” at church a little less overwhelming:

  1. See the value. When I recognize that me doing my job as Mom enables my husband to minister to God’s people, I see the Kingdom value in the hours I spend giving time-outs and wiping runny noses.
  2. Check the pace. Remember my first tip: “Be clear on your priorities”? If I overbook myself with church commitments, I may well jeopardize one of my most critical priorities–mothering my children so my husband can do his job. If I’ve agreed to teach Children’s Church and my kids get the stomach flu, it’s not like my husband can skip out on preaching and take care of them. It’s probably easier, especially with young children, not to take on weekly responsibilities. If I really want to take on such a role, I need to make sure I have a sub on call for when I need to miss.
  3. Talk to the kids. It helps when I explain to the children that Daddy has a special job as pastor. He loves them and will play with them at home later, but it’s his job to take care of the people when at church. It also helps when I explain the guidelines for church: Mom will be the one who drops them off/picks them up from any activity/teaching time; they’ll sit with Mom in the service; they should come to Mom for anything they need while at church.
  4. Establish consequences. Being the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean I become a single mother whenever another church member enters the building. Certainly, in some circumstances, my husband can and should help with the kids. But those circumstances can’t be the norm. My kids, sinful as they are, sometimes test me at church simply because “Daddy’s working” and they think they might get away with it. To preempt those times, my husband and I long ago established a rule for our kids: “If you misbehave so Mom has to discipline you at church, Dad will discipline you at home as well.” In other words, our kids get twice the punishment for any infraction at church. It’s unbelievable how much easier that one rule has made my job!
  5. Set a schedule. Being the mom every time the church gathers can be exhausting. Just as my husband needs a regular day off, I need regular time off as well. So I work with my husband to schedule my own much-deserved breaks and/or get a sitter so we can take a break together.

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Tip #8: Safeguard your children

As pastors’ wives, one of our first priorities, second only to our relationships with God and our husbands, is safeguarding our children. While some people believe the church should hold a higher place on our priorities’ list than our kids, I’m not of that camp. I believe that if we sacrifice our children on the altar of the church, we’ve wasted the most important opportunities for Kingdom advancement that God has given us.images

Here are some areas where pastors’ wives need to take special care of our children:

1. Shield them from our tongue. As I mentioned in Tip #7, our children live in a fishbowl in which everything they say and do is up for scrutiny by church members. We need to be careful not to violate what little privacy they do have by posting embarrassing things on Facebook or telling everyone the awful way they treated their brother yesterday.

2. Insulate them from church information. When our husbands need to talk with us about frustrations at church or problems church folks are having, we must take care to have those talks out of the hearing of the children. We can’t simply assume that our two-year-old is too young to understand or that the television has our ten-year-old too occupied to hear. I don’t mean we should never tell our kids what’s going on at church; I do mean we must be intentional about what we say and when we say it.

3. Shelter them from heartbreak. Even among professing Christians, there are those who will use our kids as a means of “getting in good with the pastor.” While we don’t want to be overly suspicious, we’re responsible for protecting our children’s hearts from hurtful manipulation by those who will use their affections to gain power in the church. At times, people who have befriended our children will leave the church, sometimes with bad feelings toward our husbands. In those cases, we need to explain to our kids that those folks got upset with Daddy, not them. It’s our job to alleviate the hurt such breaks have on our children’s spirits.

4. Protect them from abuse. Since pastors’ families spend so much time at church, it’s easy for us to view the building as our home away from home. We need to be careful, though, of our children’s physical safety. Because they’re often allowed to roam the building unsupervised, pastors’ kids are especially susceptible to sexual abuse. We must remember that someone’s membership or regular attendance (whether that person is an adult or teen) does not mean they pose no threat to our kids. We need to talk to our children about what contact is and isn’t okay, and we need to encourage them to come to us with any concerns, reminding them that we won’t be angry with them if someone hurt them but that we will do our best to prevent them from ever being harmed again.

5. Guard them from themselves. Sometimes PKs get the idea they can boss other children or staff members at church. Other times they think church property is theirs for the taking. Still other times they believe their dad’s role as pastor necessitates their acceptance into Heaven. We must watch for these dangers to their souls and weed them out of our kids’ mindsets.

As pastors’ wives, we are to train up our children in righteousness, safeguard them when we can, and trust God to take care of them when we can’t.

Tip #7: Train your tongue

Like everybody else, pastors’ wives struggle to control our tongues. Unlike everybody else, our position sometimes gives our words more power for good or ill in the church. James 3:8 makes it clear, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” Yet if we want to help rather than hinder our husbands’ ministries, we have to work at training that tiny part that can do so much damage or so much good. We have to learn what to say and what not to say, when to speak and when not to speak, to whom we should speak and to whom we should not. It’s not easy, but we must try. canstock19039885

Here are some ideas on how we can better use our tongues for God’s glory and the building up of His church:

What not to say:

  1. Gossip. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of sharing that tasty tidbit we heard at the last women’s meeting, but we can’t do it. Gossip wreaks havoc in the church. It kills our husbands’ ministries, especially when we feed it, and it destroys our ability to minister to other women. We must not gossip.
  2. Confidences. Often church members share information with our husbands that aren’t meant for any other ears. In such cases, we should never press our husbands to tell us what they know. In those times when our husbands are able to share something with us, we must keep it to ourselves.
  3. Lies. We need to determine from the start that we’ll speak the truth, no matter the consequences to ourselves. Sometimes we might be tempted to hedge the truth to save face. It’s better just to be honest. Or, when asked a question about a matter we’re not free to discuss, it’s better to simply tell our questioner that we can’t talk about that topic.
  4. Empty words. Sometimes as pastors’ wives, we feel that we have to fill silence in women’s meetings or Bible studies. We don’t. Our empty chatter often wearies others and prevents meaningful conversation. If we don’t have anything worthwhile to say, we should remain silent.
  5. Unwanted advice. Just because we see something we think needs to be changed, that doesn’t mean we should say anything. If we establish ourselves as quiet, respectable women with opinions worth hearing, others will seek our advice.
  6. Too much information. We need to be careful not to say things about our husbands or children that they wouldn’t want shared with others. Being the pastor’s family leads to enough “fishbowl” time without us adding to that particular stress. 

What to say:

  1. Encouragement. We need to watch for ways to encourage other women in their walk of faith, being careful not to flatter, but to speak the truth.
  2. Good words. We should speak words to our husband that build him up and encourage him in his ministry. We should watch for opportunities to give positive feedback and constructive criticism about sermons and studies.
  3. Correction. It’s our job to train our children in righteousness. We must teach them the truth with our words and actions. When we tell our children that particular consequences will follow an action, we must make sure those consequences do follow that action.
  4. Admonishment. If we find that words of correction are necessary for a fellow Christian, we must proceed carefully. Only through prayerful, gentle words should we reprimand another.
  5. Praise. When we consciously use our mouths to sing and speak worship to God, we bring Him pleasure, build up the church, and encourage others in righteousness.

Tip #6: Exercise Your Influence

As pastors’ wives*, we usually don’t get our own desks, but we fill an important church position nonetheless. Not just as a sounding board for our husbands, but as an influencing factor to the church women. How we use (or misuse) that influence can help or hinder our husbands’ ministries and can build up or tear down Christ’s church.15g-gather-us-in-2011-prayer-7

See. The first step in properly exercising our authority is seeing that we have it. For some of us, the mere thought of such responsibility makes us want to hide under the bed. For others, that authority prompts us to list all the things and people we plan to “fix” in the church. Our true role lies somewhere in the middle. We’re not called to change everybody and everything into our image of perfection; we are called to recognize that our speech, attitude, and attendance are on display before the church as a model of Christian womanhood, for good or for ill.

Embrace. How our authority plays out depends on our talents and seasons of life. God has gifted some of us as singers, speakers, writers, teachers, organizers, musicians, hostesses, etc. We’re to use our gifts for His glory. When we have babies or young children, we probably shouldn’t take on major, time-consuming roles; however, we should be conscious of other women watching the way we mother. As older women, we should watch for opportunities to guide (gently!) other women to greater faithfulness.

Speak. The influence of our position gives us a platform from which to speak. For the shy ones among us, being “the pastor’s wife” can give us courage to greet visitors or invite neighbors to church. In cases where a woman needs to be reproved for sin, our position gives us the authority to talk to her about it, sometimes with a frankness that our husbands can’t. In such situations of reprimand, we must check our heart attitudes carefully. We only want to speak with humility, gentleness, and wisdom.

Grow. In order to exercise our influence the way God wants, we need to maintain a proper relationship with Him. That means we need to be in Worship, praying and singing with the church and hearing God’s Word preached. We need to maintain personal Bible study and prayer times. Without tending to our own spiritual growth, we’re apt to fall into a wrong use of our authority. After all, we want to be a wise woman like Abigail, not a vicious she-devil like Jezebel!

*NOTE: This tip also applies to elders’ wives and, depending on your church’s ecclesiology, deacons’ wives and other women’s ministry leaders.

Tip #5: Be Longsuffering…But Not Too Long

As pastors’ wives, we have a special set of stressors that don’t affect most women in the church. Our husbands often have stretches of preaching one funeral after another or visiting folks in the hospital day after day for weeks on end. Or happy occasions fill his (and our) time, like six graduation parties on the same Saturday or a wedding a weekend for the next month.

No matter the reason, our husbands’ busy seasons mean we wives are left with most, if not all, of the responsibilities for home and family care. We have to mow the lawn, clean the house, shop for groceries (and all those graduation, wedding, sympathy, and get well cards/gifts), work our own jobs, take care of the kids, and handle anything else that might come up…all by ourselves. How can we possibly do it all with a godly attitude? images

  • Suffer long. If we step back and put things in perspective, we realize that these seasons of extreme busyness are typically short (though they may feel long at the time). Usually, I can better tolerate cleaning up after three kids with the stomach flu if I remind myself that my husband only has two more three-hour meetings this weekend before he comes home to help.
  • But not too long. When we feel our nerves stretch to the breaking point, we have to tell our husbands how we feel. Self-sacrifice for the good of the church can only go so far before that very sacrifice damages the church and our family. If we allow our marriages to break, all those hours as the martyr pastor’s wife are wasted. In other words, when I feel myself on the verge of snatching the hair from the heads of those women slandering my husband in the ladies’ room or when I’m ready to pack my bags and move home to Momma, leaving husband, children, and church behind, I’ve waited too long to speak up.
  • Ask for help from church leaders. If the too-busy seasons have stretched into too-busy months or too-busy years, we and our husbands have to talk to the church elders or deacons about getting him some help, either by restructuring the ministry roles of others or by hiring an associate pastor to share the load. If things reach the point where my kids no longer set a place for Daddy at the table because it’s been so long since he’s been home for supper, it’s definitely time to make changes in his schedule.
  • Seek God. In stressful seasons, it’s easy to let our responsibilities pull us away from personal times of Bible study and prayer, yet neglecting God is the worst thing we can do. God promised to be our rock and fortress through all the storms of life. We must seek Him in the crazy times as well as the calm.

Tip #4: Respect Church Property

chrchaAs pastors’ wives, our families are in a unique position in relation to the church’s property. After all, our husbands work in the church building, we spend hours volunteering there, and our children spend more time there than any other kids in the congregation. We may even live in a church parsonage. That makes it difficult at times to maintain a proper perspective on the church’s belongings. However, it’s essential that we recognize the implications of how we treat church property. Here’s what I mean:

  1. How we treat church property reveals our attitudes toward God. The church belongs to the Lord. When I pick up trash from the parking lot or scrape mud from my shoes before entering the building, I’m humbly submitting to God’s authority over me. But when I shop for toilet paper in the janitor’s closet or use the church phone to call my cousin in Germany, I am, in essence, stealing from God.
  2. How we treat church property affects our husbands’ ministries. My husband’s sermon on good stewardship is not as likely to be heeded when the parsonage grass is thigh high, and everyone knows it’s my family’s responsibility to cut it. Yet when the nursery worker hears me tell my daughter she can’t take a doll home because it belongs to the church, that worker has just seen a living illustration of my husband’s Bible study about not coveting what belongs to others.
  3. How we treat church property impacts our kids’ futures. When my son pockets a package of crayons from the church craft room, I may be tempted to excuse it as no big deal. But what about in a couple of years when he wants money for a concert ticket. Will he think it’s okay to pocket money from the offering plate to get what he wants? On the other hand, when I tell my kids not to run in the sanctuary because that room is set apart for worship, they learn respect for God and His church.crayola

Sometimes all these property-related issues can feel overwhelming, but it helps when we remember the blessings that go along with being pastors’ families…for some of us, it’s living rent-free/mortgage-free in a parsonage; for others of us, it’s taking home the leftover cake or pizza from a church fellowship; for still others, it’s our kids’ free access to the church gym on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Let’s express our appreciation for these blessings in how we care for church property.

Tip #3: Know When to Take on New Roles

download (1)Last month’s tip was all about the importance of moving slowly as we settle into our new church. As pastors’ wives, we want to take the time to build relationships, learn the church, and join the ladies in what they’re already doing, but we don’t want to go so slow we stagnate. We want to embrace our role as pastors’ wives and help lead the women of the church in the proper areas at the proper times. But how will we know when the right times and roles come along?

Here are some questions to ask ourselves as we try to decide about taking on new church responsibilities:

  • Does my current season of life allow for this job? If I’m a mom with babies/toddlers/preschoolers, it’s probably not the right time to take on church responsibilities beyond caring for my children so my husband can pastor the people. For instance, if my becoming a greeter means that my husband has to pick up our children from Sunday School and get them to the sanctuary for Worship, I probably shouldn’t take the job.
  • Do I know and love the people of the church? And do they know and love me? If I haven’t built solid relationships first, it’s probably not the time to take on the job of Women’s Ministry Leader. Instead, I could volunteer to serve meals alongside the other ladies at the local homeless shelter. That way, I’m helping while also strengthening my relationships with other ladies.
  • Am I gifted/equipped to fill this role? Am I considering a job just because nobody else will do it? Or am I gifted for the job but don’t have the equipment or time to do it properly? If I’m tone-deaf, I probably shouldn’t volunteer to lead music. However, if I’d make a wonderful Women’s Bible Study teacher but don’t have time to prepare my own studies, I should think about whether I could do the job if the church purchased ready-made lessons for me to lead. On the other hand, if I’m a computer nerd with a laptop, internet access, and sufficient time, maybe I should consider tackling the job of Website Coordinator.
  • What does my husband think? It’s always wise to consult with my husband before taking on any new responsibilities, especially in the church. After all, as the head of our home and the shepherd of our church, he’s in the best position to help me determine which roles I should pursue. He may also want to ask the elders and/or deacons what they think of me taking on a particular job.

If, after prayerful consideration, I decide to take on a new responsibility, I should embrace my role with diligence, punctuality, and joy as service to the King of kings.

Tip #2 for the Rookie Pastor’s Wife: TAKE IT SLOW

4cbaekkcgAs pastors’ wives, we’re apt to jump into our first church with all kinds of grand ideas for change. It’s great for us to be excited and normal for us to see things we’d like to improve, but we must proceed with care. What we do in those early months can do much good or much harm to our husband’s ministry and to our future relationships with (especially) the women of the church. Instead of running headlong into changes, we must take it slow. Here’s what I mean:

  •  Participate. For approximately the first year, we should join the women in their regular events—without sharing our big plans for improvement. For example, if I spend my time at the Annual Ladies’ Tea spouting off to my tablemates about how I’m going to make it an Annual Ladies’ Coffee next year, I’ll probably hurt some feelings and raise barriers I never intended to raise. Instead, I should simply sip my Earl Grey and chat about finger sandwiches and china teacups with my new friends.images (3)
  • Learn. Finding out the church’s history can help us better understand the congregation. For instance, let’s pretend I’m an accountant (for those of you who know me, I’m asking you to suspend your disbelief). Anyway, if I’m an accountant, it’s reasonable for me to think I’d be the perfect chair for next year’s Finance Committee. (I can hear you laughing! Remember…suspend your disbelief!) But what if one of my new friends at the Annual Ladies’ Tea tells me about the pastor’s wife from 1923 that stole an entire year’s worth of mission offerings? Hmmm, maybe it’s best if I stay far, far away from church finances after all (not just because I stink at math).
  • Love. As pastor’s wives, we need to build relationships with people and learn to love them as Christ loves them. If I let myself view the women in my church as “projects” or people I can manipulate with sweet words, they’ll want absolutely nothing to do with me (and rightfully so!). Instead, I need to build genuine friendships with people. I need to love and appreciate them for who they are. They’ll benefit, and so will I.x19395039
  • Trust. We must recognize that God is in charge of His church, not us, and He has His own timetable. As long as I push my own agenda for the church, I’m sure to fail. Instead, I have to trust God to work His perfect will. I have to trust that as my husband faithfully proclaims God’s Word, God is conforming His people into His image. And He’s also conforming me.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to Tip #1.

Advice for the Rookie Pastor’s Wife: Tip #1

Helpful tips and advice on a yellow office noteOver the past 19 years as a pastor’s wife, I’ve learned some things…and made quite a few mistakes. Though I’m far from an expert, I plan to give a new tip each month for the rookie pastor’s wife, advice I hope will help her make fewer mistakes than I’ve made.

Tip #1:

BE CLEAR ON YOUR PRIORITIES.

One of the questions you’re sure to get when your husband interviews for a ministry position is, “Mrs. Potential Pastor’s Wife, if we hire your husband, what would your role be in the church?”

Gulp. If you’re a people-pleaser and/or if you really want your husband to get the job, you’ll be tempted to say, “I’ll do whatever the church needs—play piano, keep nursery, teach Sunday School, direct VBS, clean toilets, answer phones, AND do any other job nobody else wants.”

DON’T SAY IT!

Remember, the church is potentially hiring your husband, not you. You are not the freebie in a BOGO sale.

To prepare for this question, you and your husband should clarify your gifts and priorities (preferably on paper) before the interview. Then take the written list to the interview, just to make sure you don’t misspeak when answering those dozen strangers you hope will call your husband as their pastor.

Your list should look something like this:

  1. My role is to be a helpmeet to my husband.
  2. My role is to mother my children, thereby freeing my husband to do his job.
  3. My role is to do my work well (whether employed outside the home or not).
  4. God has gifted me in the area of ___________ (YOU fill in the blank).
  5. After 6 months or so to get settled, I will prayerfully consider which church tasks best fit my time and abilities.

Trust me, if the church does call your husband, being clear on your priorities will make the transition into your new role as pastor’s wife so much easier!