Throwing Off Expectations of a Pastor’s Wife
When my husband and I started dating, he was a youth pastor with a bachelor’s degree in religion and a plan to go to seminary to get a Master’s of Theology.
He’d surrendered to ministry at the age of twelve.
I knew when we got engaged that I was going to be a pastor’s wife.
But what about when your husband is called to ministry after you’re married?
When you’re just living your life as regular church members and then, your husband is led to vocational ministry?
When your entire life is changed – work schedules, income, your own role in the church?
When you suddenly become a pastor’s wife and you feel all the pressure of the expectations of a pastor’s wife?
That’s exactly what happened to our guest writer, Claire Musters.
In today’s post, Claire is going to tell us how she learned to throw off the expectations of a pastor’s wife and find her role in the church.
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Without further ado, here’s Claire –
We were stood in front of the congregation, me with a child in my arms and my husband poised, expectant, excited, full of the honor and responsibility.
I was alarmed, scared and angry.
He was becoming a full-time elder in our local church which, to me, simply did not fit with my expectations for our future.
We had married young, as we had known each other since church youth group days.
And we had struggled; he worked in the music industry as a recording engineer and then producer, which meant working round the clock.
While artists came and went from sessions, he was the constant, which meant I never saw him. But, while we had survived an enormous storm (that’s the subject for another post!), and those around us could see that God had been preparing him for what would eventually be the senior pastor role, I had had my head in the sand. I hadn’t expected this – and certainly didn’t want it.
I remember looking out over the sea of faces and saying to God in my head, still standing up the front, while people were praying over us, “Why have you done this? I feel nothing for these people. Nothing I tell you.”
Now there were many reasons for where I was at (I am not simply a grumpy woman with no compassion for people – that actually really isn’t me).
I was scared (the practicalities of things like finance simply didn’t add up, but I seemed to be the only person concerned about that).
I was also battling postnatal depression, which had completely enveloped me with both pregnancies and for a good while afterward.
And I was struggling with some sin.
So, you see, suddenly being thrust up onto that pedestal really didn’t suit my current state.
Related Post: How to Come Down From the Pedestal as a Pastor’s Wife
Feeling The Weight
I felt the full weight of what was happening – and I fought against it big time.
It also felt to me that my status and role seemed to change overnight; there were things I was now expected to do and be.
And yet, over time, I came to understand that a lot of what I was worried about was due to the expectations I thought people were going to lay on me – not what the actual truth was.
Our senior pastor at the time took me aside and said, “Claire, there is no such role as a pastor’s wife in the Bible.”
Through what he said to me I felt God’s message: Just do what you do, and be who you are.
As pastor’s wives, we can feel like rabbits caught in headlights – frozen and unsure of which way to turn and what to do.
We can also feel isolated and alone, drowning under the weight of pressure and expectations of a pastor’s wife.
At the same time, we can feel like we are constantly being watched, which causes us and our families to feel hemmed in, unable to be free simply to live our lives without scrutiny.
There Are No Rules: Just Be You
The reality is that yes, people do look up to their leaders.
And, like it or not, as the wife of an elder/pastor/minister, some of that does land on us.
But, actually, the way we work that out is as unique as we are.
There are no rules except the rules that Jesus lays out for all believers in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… [and] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And, let me say this clearly – your church doesn’t get two for the price of one.
Just because your husband is a leader does not mean that you suddenly have to take on roles and lead in areas of the church that you’ve never done before (and that you don’t feel called or gifted to do).
Over the years, God has taken my husband and me on a huge journey.
One of the things he’s done in my life is expanding my writing opportunities, and he said very clearly that I would be talking about our story, our struggles, but that I was going to write it down first. That was when the idea for my book Taking Off the Mask came about.
Now my husband is very private, and the idea of me writing about our marriage problems was something he really had to wrestle with – and the thought of other leaders he interacts with knowing filled him with horror!
And yet, in the end, we both knew that God was calling me to do this and so he gave me his blessing – and what has followed has been an ever-growing, fruitful writing and speaking ministry.
What has happened in our lives and my calling has specifically impacted the way we lead the church too.
I am passionate about authenticity and vulnerability – I don’t want leaders put up on pedestals.
I strive to be as real as possible (even when it is hugely painful) and my husband sees the value in that. So the way the church is led, even on a Sunday morning, has changed because of what I now do.
Related Post: The Pastor’s Wife and Vulnerability as a Ministry
But even if I’d never felt that calling or if I didn’t feel like I should be involved in any upfront ministry on a Sunday, I would still be the pastor’s wife.
I just wouldn’t be as visible.
And that’s okay!
Be yourself. You don’t have to pretend. God has made you, you.
You have a unique skill set and he wants you to flourish in that.
What is it that you feel stirred by?
Get involved in those things; run hard after them.
And don’t worry about being involved in other things – they are for other people.
Look realistically at the expectations of a pastor’s wife that you feel burdened by.
Are they actually being put on you by others?
If so, break them down, talk and pray them through with your husband and a trusted friend. Do you need to address them specifically by talking to the people who are placing them on you?
If you discover that you are sitting under expectations you think people are putting on you, but actually it’s your mind (and/or the devil) putting them on you, then refuse to accept them and speak truth to yourself.
You don’t need to take on anything that God hasn’t asked you to.
Life is busy enough – you really don’t have time to rush around trying to do what you think you ought to when actually God doesn’t want you to!
And a Few Other Things
Hold things lightly.
My kids mostly love being the pastor’s kids – when they were younger they thought that we are in charge of the church, but I had to remind them that God is in charge!
Related Post: Preacher’s Kids: Bad Rap or Earned Rep?
With a pastoral position comes a lot of responsibility – and yes there are privileges, but we should never take advantage of those. We shouldn’t expect to keep hold of our roles forever either.
God often asks us to lay things down just when we feel we are getting into our stride, in order to give someone else a chance – and to stretch us in other areas.
Are we willing to heed his promptings?
Love your family.
Sometimes we simply have to ignore the fact that some people could be looking at the way our family works and judging us.
As long as we know we are doing the best we can before God, simply focus on loving your family as you feel led, without thinking about what others might think.
Sometimes that love will involve modeling sacrifice and asking your children to come on board with the mission you have to your church and community by sacrificially serving too.
But, remember, your kids will be your kids forever, but God may move you on from vocational ministry.
So don’t prioritize church work over your children; they will come to resent it.
Include them in what you are doing, and show them how you are living out your own personal calling.
Guard your heart.
I was given a piece of advice from our old pastor’s wife about making sure I checked my heart regularly.
She told me that I would probably feel things much more deeply than my husband – when people expect too much of him or said thoughtless comments or got annoyed with him.
And she was so right!
Often such things fall right off my husband’s back (or he doesn’t even notice), whereas I can feel so pained. I have to take that pain to God – as he’s called each of us (whatever ‘position’ we might have in church) to love one another – I’m not exempt because someone has hurt me (or because I’m the pastor’s wife!).
Ultimately, God has called us together with our husbands in marriage, and together on mission in the church, whatever our roles may be.
We need to ensure that we put God, our husbands, and our family first, not the (real or imagined) expectations of a pastor’s wife.
Then, by listening closely to what is on God’s heart for us personally, we can serve him wholeheartedly in this phase of life.
It certainly isn’t always easy to be a pastor’s wife but, actually, having started out resenting it, I have now come to view it as a real privilege.
How do you feel about the expectations of a pastor’s wife? Tell us in the comments!
Claire Musters is an author, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous children, pastor’s wife and worship leader. Claire’s passion is to help others to draw closer to God and be all that they can be in him. Her books include Taking off the mask: daring to be the person God created you to be and she also writes Bible study notes regularly as well as magazine articles. She is currently writing a devotional on loss and disappointment as well as a book on grace-filled marriage with her husband. On her blog, Claire writes about marriage, parenting, authenticity, leadership and other discipleship issues. To find out more about her, you can follow her at @CMusters on Twitter and https://www.facebook.com/ClaireMustersWriter or visit www.clairemusters.com
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