MINISTERS’ WIVES SPEAK OUT
BY ROBERT TRAPANI
Dear Brother Trapani:
Does a woman have to be “called” to be a preacher’s wife? I have learned to adjust to so many things in our marriage and ministry, but there are some things I still need from my husband. Can you help me communicate with him, that I am willing to sacrifice and share his time with those in need, but I still need a special relationship with him?
Pastor’s Wife in Wisconsin
Dear Pastor’s Wife:
A few years ago at a ministers’ marriage retreat in Ohio, the question was asked of the ministers’ wives, “What do you need from your husband?” I think you will find that your needs are not out of line. Women of all ages and stages of life and ministry gave the responses. Most of these were direct quotes. Share this with him.
The overwhelming chief response was, “I need to feel loved.” Then other areas were cited as major wants and needs.
1. Be My Friend
One lady declared, “It is extremely difficult for me to have a friend.” The loneliness of leadership makes close relationships
difficult. The nature of our ministry usually makes it impossible to share personal things with those over whom we have spiritual oversight. It is also difficult for them to separate the leadership role and that of just another friend. “To whom can I trust my inner thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams and problems?” “Who will listen to me and accept me for who I am?” Please be my friend.
I realize that there are many expectations, which my husband and I live with as part of our calling, but I long to be able to open up
emotionally and verbally with him. “I am not just the minister’s wife, I am your partner,” another declared. “Treat me with the kindness, courtesy, and caring that you would with a friend. Just as you would want a friend to hear you out, let me open up. Laugh with me, not at me. Let me know that I can tell you of my mistakes and failings and you will care and not be my judge or jury.”
2. Be My Spiritual Leader
“So often it seems he has time to minister to everyone else but such little time for me. Realize that at times I too need spiritual
guidance and direction.” “I need for him to set the spiritual agenda for our home.” “I need to hear him pray.”
“My children and I need to see his leadership in spiritual things. Pray with us, individually and as a family.” “Set rules and
then live by them, so we can follow.” “Don’t demand a lifestyle from us and then operate by your own rules.” We can learn more by how you act at home than what we hear you speak to us at church.
“When we have conflict, teach us how to resolve the conflict as Christians.” Show me how to react when others attack me by how you respond to criticism. “Don’t be two different people, the loving gentle pastor in front of others, and the raging, roaring bear at home.”
3. Be My Perpetual Boyfriend
Little things mean a lot. “Little cards and notes and expressions that tell me I am special are so important.” “Remember those special days; they are so important to me, but seem so difficult for a man to remember.” Treat me like I am an attractive, interesting person that you want to be around and that you want to know better. Notice the little things that I do, and accept me as I am. Don’t compare me with anyone else. Let me be who I am, and love me for who I am.”
Just because we are married does not mean that I don’t need romance in my life. Sometimes just plan to have time with me alone. The family vacation is great, but sometimes just us two getting alone can give me strength to handle months of turmoil and pressure. When we get alone, don’t make me compete with your books, your computer or the phone.
Hold my hand sometimes, just because you want to. Walk with me and talk to me and share with me your dreams, and let me tell you things I dream about. Don’t make me feel guilty because I share with you some things I would like for our home someday. Perhaps we will never be able to afford them, but just your listening to me makes me content.
When we are alone together, it would be nice to talk about us and not the church problems. Tell me you are still glad you married me. I know we have bad days, but hearing those words can turn them into glad days. Remember how we talked before we were married? Talking brings healing to me.
4. Be My Pastor
I am the only one in the church who cannot go to her husband with problems about her pastor. Furthermore I cannot talk to my pastor about my husband! Teach me, but patiently. You work so hard teaching and ministering to others when they are confused or hurting; do the same with me. I am so impressed with how longsuffering you can be when you are trying to help another one who is not understanding you or cannot seem to get things right. Would you please pastor me the same way?
Sometimes pastors over-drive the sheep. They try to move the flock along faster than the sheep can move. Sometimes there are things in my life that may take years of work. Don’t leave me behind. Lead me. Don’t blame me for all the church problems. And when sometimes I do things wrong or I am the source of a bad situation, be patient with me, instruct me, and occasionally, you may have to bind up my wounds.
Just as the church gets its sense of direction from your leadership, the family and I look to you. Tell us where we are going as
a family, and how you think we can get there. It gives us great security to believe that you know where we are going. Don’t just
sermonize at us, but sometimes just give a pastoral talk.
Sometimes we may have to have “saints meetings,” only they will be family meetings where problems are addressed and changes are made. I am your partner, but the children and I can accept discipline when we see discipline in your life. Don’t give us ultimatums or threats, but just like the church, we need to be sure that you are going to stay with us, and work with us, even when you are frustrated.
5. Be a Father to Our Children
Be actively involved with the children. Make them a high priority in your plans. Spend a day alone with the children regularly. Let them know how important they are in your life. Don’t make them feel guilty for coming to you with their little problems.
Take the children with you in your work when you can. In so many professions and lines of work, the children watch their father on the job. Let them ride with you and talk with you sometimes when you are going on visitation. Let them hear you tell them how much pleasure your work brings you in helping others and in pleasing the Lord.
Turn off the phone at dinnertime. The children love those moments at the table when they can talk about their day at school and play. It is so nice for Daddy to let them know how important that time is to him, that at least for that hour even the phone will not interrupt them.
Brag on their accomplishments. They sometimes may feel that they live in a fish bowl and everyone is watching everything they do and even what they wear. Don’t set impossible standards for their behavior. Let them be children. So often the children feel that you are disappointed in them because they want to be perfect for you. Let them know you are pleased with them.
Though time is very restricted, try to have a few moments alone with each child during the week. Do plan to spend some time with them. Go to the hardware store, work on a birdhouse, or tell them a story. These days pass too quickly, and we cannot come back to retrieve them.
6. Be My Enabler
Help me to become all that I can be. Give me opportunity and room to grow as a person. Don’t make me feel guilty for wanting to continue my education or to develop my talents and skills. Help me to have the time and the resources available for my personal growth.
Realize that there may be some things that are very important to me as a woman that are not as important to you. I am not inferior, nor superior, but I am different. Allow me to be an individual, even if it means I cannot always be there at home waiting to meet your next need.
Though you are first in my life, yet I still have a life. Encourage me to become all that I can be. All my accomplishments will
ultimately be a blessing to you, our family and the church. When I am feeling fulfilled as a person, I have so much more that I can give back to you.
Sometimes help me with my chores and responsibilities at home. When you ease my load, I will look for ways to do even more for you. When sometimes I just need to be away from the pressure, help me get the relief I need without trying to make me feel guilty. I know you are busy, but I am busy also.
Sometimes I need to be by myself, and sometimes I need to be with my friends. I gain strength when I can spend time sharing ideas with other women. Don’t resent my time with them, but help me get those moments of freedom.
Let the church know that you love me. Let them know that I am very important in your life. This way when I need others to work with me and follow my direction you have enabled me to speak with authority. By telling the church how much you trust my judgment, I can be a better leader of those with whom I must work.
Robert D. Trapani is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Akron, Ohio. In addition to ministering in camp meetings, conferences and seminars across North America and internationally, he has been the PCH coordinator for the Youth Division since 1995. He writes a column in each issue of the Preserving Christian Homes magazine.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FORWARD, APRIL-JUNE 1999, PAGES 14-15.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.