Job Description -- Pastor's Wife

Cheryl immediately gravitated to an article in this week's Time entitled: "What God Joined Together." It's about Pastors Wives (PW hereafter). This isn't surprising, since this is about her. Being a PW isn't easy! In fact, it can be a thankless job (a non-paying one).
The article begins:

HELP WANTED: Pastor's wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth groups, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minister to other wives, have ability to recite Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.

Like many of today's PWs (70%), that's not her primary job. She's a teacher, mother, wife, human being, and by default a PW. She didn't choose it. In fact it was never on her horizon. When we got married while I was in seminary I thought my future would be in academia not the pastorate (so not to worry). And her first experience (my last parish) wasn't always positive. In my current position, things are much better, of course we live 50 miles from the church!!!
The article describes the advent of online support networks of clergy wives -- most of which appear to be Evangelical in orientation (not sure what that says). In the article by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, we learn that the biggest challenge is loneliness and that about 80% of PWs feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husband's congregation. This makes for a stressful situation -- lonely and unappreciated, it's probably no wonder that ministry places a major strain on marriage (one reason why the divorce rate stands at 50%).
Cheryl mentioned the article to some of her church friends and they were kind of surprised by this. But until you've been one, it's kind of hard to know what its like. Indeed, I really don't know what it feels. I know what Cheryl tells me, but!!! To get an idea, you might check out a PW blog or two. Among those mentioned by Time are Not Your Typical Pastor's Wife and The Rebellious Pastor's Wife. I think that my wife definitely fits this latter definition -- she's her own person!!!

Comments

kwenk said…
I read both those links, & both of them left me feeling pretty bad about PWs and the lives they lead. The second one was especially hard to read--that lady is mad! And it was hard to tell exactly how being a PW fed into that anger. Grisly message for a Sunday afternoon. I hope Cheryl isn't really like #2, for both your sakes.
Cheryl is her own person -- I just liked the title "rebellious pastor's wife" because it says what all pastor's wives need to say --I'm my own person and not the person that a church or a pastor defines me to be.

The truth is, being a Pastor's wife is difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Being a PK is difficult. And no one really understands.

I think what these two blogs do, whether you agree or disagree with them is give an outlet for saying what you want to say, something that most clergy spouses find difficult.
Jim said…
Being a PK isn't all that much fun a lot of the time either. In reading those 2 blogs, I see a lot that my mother could have written, too. As a PK, though, here were times when I didn't feel like I was allowed to have questions about my own faith, but as they say, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Thanx for pointing the blogs out and I'll go look for the TIME article. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Jim for sharing.

My son is loved by the people of the congregation, but you're right, there are expectations of what you're to believe or not. Though I think behavior is the biggest issue. PK's are expected to be examples and that's really not fair.
Kwenk,

I'm curious to know what struck you as being angry? Most people don't really see that in my blog, and it is not the intention that I try to portray.

I am not rebellious in that I am angry about being a pastor's wife. It is simply a forum to discuss things that matter to me.
I, too, wonder about the "anger" attributed to The Rebellious Pastor's Wife. She is theologically hard-nosed and an excellent critical thinker; perhaps her bluntness is mistaken for ire by those unaccustomed to straight talk.
Orycertopus and Rebellious Pastor's Wife I agree, I think KWenk misread the intent of Rebellious Pastor's posts. We all come at these things from different directions. What I see in RPW posts is a directly stated set of views and her blog gives her a forum to share her views. In the past many pastors wives didn't have an outlet, now they do. That's a great thing about blogs!

So, thanks, both of you, for sharing!
Drea said…
being a pastors wife myself i am faced with that push all t he time. When interviewing for churches they always ask "well what will you do?"
My husband thankfully responds that my 1st and most important duty is our family... and that i will help where I feel led.. but that I should not be pushed or made to do anything just because of who I am.

I am thankful for this! because Ive seen so many pastors wives forced into serving where they dont feel called... yet do it because the church demands it.
Drea,

Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. But, when I interviewed for my previous congregation, the chair of the search committee said to the congregation that they were hiring me not Cheryl and that she would find her place.

What we discovered later was that not everyone was on the same page and that pastor's wives had been harrassed from some quarters for years! But, you have to state it up front and then hope for the best!!!
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Anonymous said…
THESE ARE VERY GREAT BLOGS SINCE I'M ENGAGED TO A SEMINARY STUDENT AND WANTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE CHALLENGES I MAY FACE
Megan Jenkins said…
I am thankful for someone that can understand, even coming from a lay minister's wifes point of view. Because a lot of the things that were voiced here referencing frustration, "fish bowl" mentality apply to the lay ministers family as well. I can't look too nice, have my hair too plain or too loud, neither can I be too friendly (flirt!!) nor unfriendly (snob!!). My children must be perfect in manner and dress and I must be perfectly agreeable in all of my husbands endeavors. Enthusiastic even!! Even when he gets called on 3 hours before to go preach 30 mins away and I had an evening planned for us. I must be happy!! Sometimes I feel so exhausted from measuring up to the role of a perfect ministers wife that I want to just stand in the middle of the aisle and scream for about 5 mins. Then politely sit down lol. People don't understand the load you must carry, neither do they really care. Whew. I feel better, LOL :-)

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