SBC Life Articles

Help for Ministers’ Wives

Perusing the shelves in a Christian bookstore one quickly finds a wealth of material available to aid, encourage, and challenge the minister in the local church. Rarely, however, does one encounter a book for the minister's wife. Meanwhile, the role of her husband as a minister automatically places her in a position of public scrutiny and it can be difficult for a minister's wife to develop her ministry in the midst of these outside expectations. Many women may enter this role ill equipped and with little preparation for the journey ahead. Dorothy Patterson has done a great service to the future of ministers' wives by taking on the challenge of addressing their roles and responsibilities in her book, A Handbook for Ministers' Wives.

In the first chapter, Patterson addresses the necessity of a minister's wife nourishing her own private spiritual growth before dealing with the public. She gives personal examples of approaches she has used in striving to follow the example of Jesus who sought solitude with the Heavenly Father. Patterson uses this chapter to lay the foundation for her book. Here she stresses that the minister's wife must consistently fill her cup by prayer and Scripture reading before draining the cup to her various ministry demands.

She then speaks to the issue of God's calling on a woman who marries a minister. She acknowledges that while a minister's wife may not receive a vocational ministry calling for herself, she accepts a life's work of ministry when she chooses to marry her husband. This may seem daunting to many, but Patterson also provides various practical ideas for equipping those in this position.

In her section devoted to family, Patterson provides a refreshing reminder that a minister's wife must seek God for direction before considering the expectations of others regarding ministry in the home and church. She continues in saying that the minister's wife is to first answer to God and then attend to the needs of her husband. Patterson also addresses the wife's responsibility to recognize the immense honor and responsibility a woman has as her husband's helpmate and life partner. She encourages the minister's wife to remember to keep her home, especially her husband and children, a priority. Within this chapter, she discusses the importance of nurturing and protecting the marriage through prayer and appropriate communication. She also suggests practical ways to alleviate the pressures a minister's child can experience. Whether it is offering tips in preparation for arriving to church on time or instilling the spiritual truths that train a child to walk a life of godly obedience, Patterson's voice of experience resounds across the pages. She reminds the reader to model a good marriage in front of the children and tenderly admonishes the mother of a prodigal child to love her child unconditionally.

Next, Patterson moves to the issue of relationships outside the family. She graciously admits that these relationships can be difficult for a minister's wife to pursue, let alone maintain. However, while the minister's wife must be careful in choosing her intimate friends, Patterson recognizes the importance of these relationships and shares several glimpses of special women in her own life. She briefly highlights the need for mentoring relationships among women based on the model provided in Titus 2. She also devotes an entire chapter to the "storms" that can darken times of ministry. Laced with dignity, Patterson discloses that loneliness and fatigue, financial pressures and adversities all can be trials and tests for the minister and his wife.

In a section devoted to the secrets of hospitality, Patterson reveals lessons learned over the years regarding large group entertaining as well as being prepared for unexpected visitors. From table etiquette to formal place settings to ideas on menu preparation, she provides valuable hints in becoming a gracious hostess.

Throughout the chapters, Patterson demonstrates how every aspect in the life of a minister's wife can, and should, be lived for the glory of the Father. A necessary addition to the library of every minister's wife, this resource is pleasantly practical and delightfully insightful. Whether it is read in short intervals or long sittings, the pages are packed with excellent nuggets of advice, humorous anecdotes, and Scriptural challenges. Patterson's own words summarize her message well, "as a woman travels the journey of ministry, she must base decisions on the mandates of Scripture. And as she serves, serve unto the Lord and she will find herself blessed to be a blessing."

A Handbook for Ministers' Wives: Sharing the Blessings of Your Marriage, Family, and Home by Dorothy Patterson is published by Broadman & Holman Publishers.

    About the Author

  • Heidi Frye