NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The life of a man in the ministry can be taxing to say the least, but what about life for his wife?
About 300 ministers’ wives from across the United States and as far away as Japan met at a “Between Us Ministers’ Wives” conference March 12-13 in Nashville, Tenn. The women’s events area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention organized the gathering, which preceded a Beth Moore Living Proof Live event for ministers’ wives.
One of the best reasons to be there, one wife said, was to see she was not alone.
By and large, the ministers’ wives 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, described ministers’ wives as special women. “They deal with all the issues that being married involves, but in a fishbowl,” Adams said. “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.”
Adams said LifeWay had wanted to host the Between Us conference top help equip 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,” Adams said.
A panel of ministers’ wives, past and present, opened the event, including Becky Badry, director of women’s missions and ministry for the Colorado Baptist General Convention and a chaplain’s wife; 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. Three LifeWay staff members also were on the panel: Pam Case, who also is a pastor’s wife from Nashville; Karen Alexander-Doyel, also an author and pastor’s widow from Lenoir City, Tenn.; and Jennifer Landrith, also a conference leader and pastor’s wife from Hendersonville, Tenn.;
Among the issues they listed that ministers’ wives 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.”
The panel members offered advice based on their own experiences and wisdom:
“Never forget that you are the absolute best, perfect minister’s wife for your church,” Alexander-Doyel said, “because God specifically placed you there. It’s no accident you are where you are.”
“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,” Lovingood said.
“Be real. Be who God designed you to be,” Landrith said.
“Every day when something hard comes up remember that there will be something awesome on the other side,” Case said.
“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,” Badry said.
“Wear only waterproof mascara,” said McCoy, getting a hearty “amen” from the crowd.
Small breakout sessions during the Between Us conference ran the gamut from laughing at yourself to dealing with difficult people.
Alexander-Doyel, in a session on making Sunday the best day of the week, counseled, “You have to get ready for Sunday”: “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.”
McCoy, who led a session on laughing a little, said it can help ministers’ wives keep their sanity in various situations that come up in church. “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,” McCoy said. “And you need to have a friend who will laugh with you!”
Badry reminded the wives at her session that ministers rely on their wives for comfort and support.
“You know him as a man, a husband and a father,” Badry 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.”
During a closing question-and-answer panel time, 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.”
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist and editor of Facts & Trends magazine at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. To find out more about LifeWay’s outreach to ministers’ wives and to sign up for the ministers’ wives community, go to www.lifeway.com/women and click on “ministers’ wives” under “helpful resources.”