By: Betty Jane Grams

A recent survey indicates that approximately 70 percent of pastors’ wives are working outside the home. How does a minister’s wife manage to juggle her home, her children, her mate, her ministry and her job and still maintain her sanity?

In this day of the two-salary home, the divisive spirit of the age, the staggered schedules of jobs, women must be flexible in their time, their attitudes and emotions to be able to roll with the punches.

As missionaries to Latin America for 32 years we have the opportunity during our furlough time to be guests in the homes of nearly 150 pastors during the course of a year. I am amazed as I visit in these homes to find the adjusting of schedules and the give-and-take to which pastors’ wives are adapting.

I have memories of juggling schedules and making it all fit together as I finished my undergraduate work plus teaching missions and Spanish six hours at a Bible college on one of our furloughs. I left home at 6:25 every morning with a friend. The lunches for each of us were fixed at night and standing in a row in the refrigerator. My husband got the children off to school before driving to the university to finish his graduate studies. On weekends he ministered at churches.

The laundromat was nearly empty at midnight so that was a good time to wash clothes while I studied. In the morning we stacked the baskets of wet clothes into the car early to take them into the college laundry to toss into the dryer before the first class. Then between each successive class I would exchange the dried ones for wet, fold and stack, arriving home at 3 p.m., just in time for the
children to come from their schools.

Supper together, study, get ready for classes, and the days whirled into a full year of working, studying, teaching and organizing. Three happy children were proud when their minister mommy graduated valedictorian. All had helped.

Recently I received a letter from a talented, busy pastor’s wife who serves as leader of the women’s department for a large area. She asked, “With six children to clothe and educate, how can I help supplement our finances without hurting our home or minimizing my ministry with my husband?” This is a hard question to answer.

Possibly a reassessing of our priorities would help us see that some of the factors which push women out of the nest into the working world are pressures that could be avoided. The pressure to keep up with the Joneses! The pressure to drive a bigger, better, fancier car. Wanting to upgrade the carpet. Or the contemporary ERA pressure that everybody’s doing it to be fulfilled.

Sometimes there’s more month than money. Women must weigh the pros and cons in making the decision about working outside the home for a salary. Years ago the congregations would bring in a quarter of beef, a side of pork, fresh vegetables, eggs, fresh cow’s milk and baked goods. We now live in a more commercialized society, so it’s each to his own, and often times the finances just don’t stretch. There may be special financial needs such as having college-age children which seem to make it imperative for the woman of the manse to seek supplemental outside employment for the costly tuitions.

Some pastors’ wives are finding employment and fulfillment in the Christian day schools which are being opened in conjunction with their churches. Others serve as secretaries or nurses, or in a wide variety of secular jobs.

New Kind of Commitment

At a recent wedding, I listened as the pastor read the ceremony and the pledges. I heard a new section included on the economic necessity of a two-salary home, asking the bride and groom to be elastic in their demands on each other and also being helpful as well as faithful. It was a new twist for me, to include those thoughts in the “and hereto I plight thee my troth.”

Later the pastor was teaching on the meaning of a good marriage and said he’s learned to help at home since his wife works. He got a good laugh when he said he knows how to empty the dishwasher.

One pastor’s wife, who was a full-time church music director, said one way she kept her sanity was to set aside one day when the whole family helped. She divided the house with sections assigned to each child and parent. They could manage to clean the house in one hour and then go out together for a special meal. This was togetherness time.

Since I have directed music, led choirs, helped with radio broadcasts, taught in Bible schools and been a full-time minister alongside my husband, I have learned through the years to delegate my tasks to others. If someone else can do it, I let them.

The idea of family chore-sharing is not new. In my girlhood home my mother helped attend the office for my daddy. This meant that he was obliged to help at home. He did the dishes. Each of us children learned early that if we all helped out there was time for choir, youth meetings, music, sports, friends and that after-school job.

Children can learn to do many things. This reinforces their sense of worth and lightens the family load.

Delegate to others the tasks they can handle. Keep a notebook with a list and mark it off as each task is concluded. Tasks and time can be juggled to fit.

A good thermometer for a pastor’s wife is Proverbs 31:27, LB: “She watches carefully all that goes on throughout her household, and is never lazy.” So in adjusting to growing children who have staggered schedules, a pastor’s busy commitments, and our own well being and peace we need to learn new skills. We need to learn to streamline the daily tasks, and rearrange and simplify part of our living.


To be able to juggle home, family and work, a woman must rely on the peace of God to undergird her body, soul and psyche. Agnes Sanford writes as a minister and wife of a pastor about the gift of peace in her autobiography Sealed Orders. She says that everything she did with either her mind or body could be done with half the energy and half the time when the Holy Spirit invades both the conscious mind and heart, and the subconscious soul, spirit and inner intelligence of mind and body. She says, “I could write and not be weary, and cook and not faint. I could now serve a dinner in half an hour instead of in an hour and a half.”

A spiritual woman must rely on the peace of God for continual renewal. We are more alert and more efficient as the Holy Spirit invades our being with the gift of peace-“the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Praising the Lord brings the constant presence of the Holy Spirit into our everyday lives and facilitates our ordinary work with precision and speed. My mother used to say that she had learned to overcome problems and needs by living with constant praise in her life to the Lord.

Pastors Can Help

One half of all wives in the general population are employed. This poses new problems for personal spirituality, and for our churches and pastors to make adjustments to include all these women in scheduling and consideration.

Today’s pastor must be conscious of the needs and schedules of the congregation when planning times of services. There has been a decided shift from an agricultural society where we had to wait for the men to come in from the barn, clean up, eat a quick bite and get to church, which meant that in our first parish we were waiting for some of our deacons to amble in at 9 p.m. for an 8 p.m.
meeting. Today everyone lives with distances to drive and staggered schedules. Wise pastors will analyze the way to make church meetings fit the family needs.

Some churches are practical enough to have an early Sunday evening service from 6 until 7:45. This gives the whole family an opportunity to attend church and still have time together at home before starting back to the heavy schedule of school and work on Monday.

We visited a Catholic Charismatic service that started at 9:30 p. m. The church was full of both men and women who had come from their jobs, shops, offices and businesses. Young people had come after their outside school activities. All were worshipping together.

In another church we were scheduled on Sunday for a 4:30 p.m. Bible teaching hour. As we inquired about this arrangement, we were informed that most of the people worked in an early Sunday morning fleamarket. They had recently found the Lord, and the pastor, realizing their need for training, had revised his Sunday school schedule to meet the needs of the people. Choir, evangelism, children’s meetings, teaching classes all were juggled into the afternoon to fit into the schedule of that busy market.

The wise pastor will consider the value of women and be flexible enough to include them in schedules. The Holy Spirit is given to the handmaidens to be part of today’s burgeoning church.

Today’s woman has great potential, preparation and spiritual vitality for the kingdom. Women are growing in the gifts and want to participate in the life of the church.

(The above material originally appeared in Ministries Magazine.)

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