SARALAND, Ala. (BP)–A ministry wife exists in a rare environment. To live and work alongside one’s husband in Kingdom work is a precious, unique calling. Yet few career tracks in the marketplace have a dynamic quite like that of being a minister’s wife.
In ministry, a man’s wife is closely associated with and personally connected to his work. In corporate culture, the 40-plus hours a man spends in his workplace has little or nothing to do with his wife. We pastors’ wives are partners in our husbands’ vocations like few others. We serve as supportive companions with varying degrees of intentionality, involvement and energy to extend our pastor husbands’ work and calling. We are a key influence in their effectiveness.
And yet while a pastor’s ministry assignment is clear, the wife’s rarely is.
Much is expected of us, spoken or unspoken. Juggling our homes while attempting to balance ministry is demanding. We have valid concerns for our families and our finances. We have jobs we go to, and we serve in our ministries. We have our own health and family crises to live through. While many know the joy of a vibrant church with busy happy demands, others serve in hard places with little fruit.
Ministry life may be a strange culture to our experience. We have uncertainties about our role and our calling. Our behind-the-scenes influence with our husbands is powerful, and we want it to be godly and encouraging. Fostering our own spiritual life with the Word and prayer is a daily struggle. We often feel inadequate, ill-prepared and overwhelmed. While unknown to those around us, we have seasons when we are empty and depleted.
Our pastor husbands grasp the notion that we are key in their effectiveness. They realize the intimate connection their wives share in their calling to advance the Gospel. Our husbands would be the first to testify to the critical role we play in their lives and to the ministry. Their brides share their pilgrimage of ministry day by day. Most important, they know how much love, strength, encouragement, joy, companionship, wisdom, confidence, hope, faith and even fun they draw from us. Most understand the incredible sacrifices and investments of their wives as well as the various demands and expectations placed on them. They recognize how few deposits are made into our lives — with constant withdrawals occurring. When that is the case — as it is far too often — struggle, strain and crisis may occur. It is no secret today that many ministry families are at a breaking point.
Ministry wives represent a great deal of leadership and influence within the local church and the Kingdom of God. These women fulfill this role with far too little support, training or encouragement. Under the leadership of the North American Mission Board, a new ministry for pastors’ wives across North America has emerged, designed to strengthen, support, train and encourage women in this critical role.
How can we strengthen and equip ministry wives?
She needs tools and encouragement to develop her own transformational walk with the Lord. She needs biblical teaching and training to grow and strengthen her marriage and parenting skills. A wife can benefit greatly from biblical, practical training and coaching for ministry life. The experience and coaching of other faithful, seasoned pastors’ wives can be a tremendous investment into her journey.
She longs for encouragement, support and prayer. Since she exists in a rare environment, an understanding friend would refresh her soul. She or her family may need loving care in a sensitive, family or personal crisis. She can receive helpful training in her arena of ministry as well as leadership development to increase her influence and impact. With these kinds of investments, she will be empowered to partner more fruitfully and effectively with her husband to advance the Gospel.
In my new role as director of this ministry, I am engaging ministry wives across the country to hear hearts as we identify issues and needs. We are our own best resources in understanding this unique role. Workgroups are being formed to develop practical strategies to strengthen ministry wives across a broad spectrum of needs. With collaboration and partnerships across Southern Baptist life, I believe we can equip ministry wives more intentionally.
She is key. For far too long she has gone under-supported in her role. By strengthening her, I believe we strengthen our ministry to advance the Gospel.
Kathy Litton is national director of NAMB’s ministry to pastors’ wives. Her husband is Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist North Mobile (Saraland, Ala.).