The life of a man in the ministry can be taxing to say the least, but at least he signed up for it. What about life for his wife? In some cases all she did was marry the guy she thought hung the moon.
About 300 ministers’ wives from across the United States and as far away as Japan met at the Between Us Ministers’ Wives equipping event March 12-13 in Nashville, Tenn. The women’s events area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention organized the event, which preceded a Beth Moore Living Proof Live event for ministers’ wives.
One of the best reasons to be there, according to one wife*, was to see she was not alone.
By and large, the ministers’ wives attending the event said they were happy to be married to men on church staffs.
“I felt like I knew what I was getting into because he was already in the ministry when we got married,” one wife said. “I married the man, but got the ministry along with him.”
Chris Adams, LifeWay’s senior lead women’s ministry specialist, said, “LifeWay has wanted to host this equipping event for ministers’ wives for some time. We thought having it in conjunction with the Living Proof Live event for ministers’ wives was ideal. I think the women agreed.
“Ministers’ wives are such special women,” she continued. “They deal with all the issues that being married involves, but in a fishbowl. Then, if they have children, they may feel like the church is looking at her, expecting her to be a perfect mother of perfect kids. That’s a lot of pressure for anyone.”
Panel of wives
A panel of ministers’ wives, past and present, opened the event. Becky Badry, director of women’s missions and ministry for the Colorado Baptist General Convention and a chaplain’s wife from Centennial, Colo.; Pam Case, director of LifeWay’s women’s ministry area and a pastor’s wife from Nashville, Tenn.; Karen Alexander-Doyel, a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier, author and pastor’s widow from Lenoir City, Tenn.; Jennifer Landrith, a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier, conference leader and pastor’s wife from Hendersonville, Tenn.; Rachel Lovingood, a writer, teacher and student pastor’s wife from Hendersonville, Tenn.; and Leighann McCoy, author, coordinator of prayer and women’s ministries and pastor’s wife from Thompson’s Station, Tenn., sat on the panel.
They talked about some of the issues they face:
“I’m really lonely.”
“Who can I trust?”
“How do I raise my kids in ministry?”
“What do I do about all these other women who love and adore my husband?”
“There’s so much criticism.”
“Church members always want me to be a messenger from them to my husband.”
They offered advice based on their own experiences and wisdom:
“Be real. Be who God designed you to be,” said Landrith.
“Never forget that you are the absolute best, perfect minister’s wife for your church because God specifically placed you there. It’s no accident you are where you are,” said Alexander-Doyel.
“Your first call is to walk with God. Your second is to take care of your husband and your family. Your third is to the ministry,” said Badry.
“Every day when something hard comes up remember that there will be something awesome on the other side,” said Case.
“Remember that you are only responsible for you. I can’t control anyone else’s spiritual growth, passion or anything. Seek God first every day,” said Lovingood.
“Wear only waterproof mascara,” said McCoy, getting a hearty “amen” from the crowd.
A number of small break-out sessions were offered to the women, running the gamut from laughing at yourself to balancing life to dealing with difficult people.
Alexander-Doyel led a session on making Sunday the best day of the week.
“You have to get ready for Sunday,” she said. “Start on Monday thinking about getting clothes ready, getting your house clean, (and) getting an after-church lunch plan. If you are ready for Sunday on Saturday afternoon, you can have your day of rest and worship.”
Laughing at situations that come up in church can help ministers’ wives keep their sanity, according to McCoy. She led a session on laughing a little.
“You have to be willing to laugh at yourself and at all the truly bizarre situations that will come up in your life with your church,” she said. “And you need to have a friend who will laugh with you!”
Badry reminded the wives attending her small group that ministers rely on their wives for comfort and support.
“You know him as a man, a husband and a father,” she said, “but do you know him as a minister? Ministry is not an occupation — it’s a calling. He probably feels like he’s always running for office.”
Jealousy of his time
During the closing panel time, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions. One young wife asked, “How do you handle being jealous of your husband’s time?”
Lovingood said, “We have to have some parameters, of course, but we also have to remember that ministry is a 24/7 job. You need to develop some cues to let him know that you need him. Never forget, though, that you are his wife and you have a relationship with him that nobody else has.”
(*EDITOR’S NOTE — Because of privacy concerns, no wives, other than the platform/small group speakers, were identified by name or church.)