Dorothy Patterson is a professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. She received a bachelor of arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University, a master of theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a doctorate in ministry from Luther Rice Seminary and a doctorate in theology from the University of South Africa. She is married to SWBTS President Paige Patterson and she is the mother of Armour and Carmen.
Patterson will be speaking at the upcoming ministers’ wives conference, titled “Woman 2 Woman: The Importance of Spiritual Mentoring.” She recently took time to answer some questions that provide a preview of what she’ll be sharing at the conference on Nov. 14 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
How can ministers’ wives today be “Titus 2” women?
Pastors’ wives are already in a position of recognition in the church – most people know who the wife of the pastor is or who the wife of the worship leader is, so they have a visibility at the church that gives them some influence. The second thing is that they know better than most of the women in the pew the goal or the mission of the church. Because they are close to their husbands, they hear their husbands talking and receiving information about the heartbeat of the church. So I love to see ministers’ wives take advantage of that influence and determine that they will do everything they can to inspire women in the church – to first of all, come to Christ if they haven’t made that commitment. They can use the natural opening God gives them to influence the women who cross their path.
What role should spiritual mentoring play in the lives of ministers’ wives?
I really do feel that ministry wives are in the primary position to not only mentor, but also to model being a mentor. If a ministry wife is so saturated in Scripture and so prayed up in her own life, she can respond in a Christ-like way to the many questions that come to her or to the many women who cross her path.
For example, in a church of any size, there is going to be death related to people in the congregation, there are going to be weddings, children going to school – there will be things that come into people’s lives, and they will just need an encouraging word. At the seminary, my husband likes to treat his role as president as a pastor’s role, and so I send birthday cards out every month to all of our key friends, faculty, board members and people who help the seminary. During these happy occasions, and also during darker times, making a visit in person or sending a card or email will go a long way in letting our parishioners know that we love them and are praying for them.
Why is it important for ministers’ wives to be in fellowship with other ministers’ wives?
Because of the nature and responsibility of a pastor and his family within the local church, I think ministers’ wives have to be very careful about forming personal friendships on a deep level with the congregation. The reason for this is confidentiality, first of all. When you have a really close friend who you want to share with, as a minister’s wife, you can’t just share some confidential things involving your family or other families. In my experience, a fellow minister’s wife can be a special friend with whom you can share some of your deepest concerns and someone who you know is confidential. That’s the sort of friend you can keep for a lifetime.
I also think that meetings such as this upcoming conference can provide the opportunity for women to meet each other at least once a year and connect with each other.
What do you hope fellow ministers’ wives take away from this conference?
I hope they will come away from this event with a spirit of joy about what they are doing, even if they are going through a dark season themselves. I hope that being in a group like this and sharing will allow them to see that there are valleys and mountains in this world; there are times of celebration, and there are times of heartache.
I also hope that this will be a time of fellowship. I hope that it will be a time of fellowship that will be fun and rewarding for the sake of woman-to-woman connections. Then, I also hope and pray that God will give me a message from Him, from His Word, and that He’ll use me as a vessel to deliver a message that will be encouraging to these women. I want these women to have a renewed understanding of how much God loves them, of the importance of what they’re doing and of the opportunities that we have to grow.