A Note from Kelly King: I’ve had the privilege of serving with some incredible pastors’ wives over the years and each one has been unique in their own way. Even though they were very different, they each encouraged me in my ministry calling, and I’m grateful for their friendship. They have a unique role and a unique calling, and women’s leaders would be wise to read today’s article by Cynthia Hopkins and learn how to involve ministry wives. It’s worth the effort.
When my husband was in seminary and serving as student minister at our first church, the pastor’s wife there told me she would never get close to any woman in a church where her husband was serving. She had done that before and had gotten burned. I was 23 at the time, and thought her “Don’t get close to people” mantra was discouraging. It was terrible advice for a young minster’s wife to hear, possibly second only to, “Try to win the lost through political discussions on Facebook.”
I vowed to never become that cynical. I hope and trust God has done some healing in her heart since then and that she’s changed her mind somewhere along the way. At the same time, I’ve experienced enough in the 25 years since then to better understand what she was feeling.
I heard about another pastor’s wife who moved to a town to join her husband at their new church where he’d already been pastoring for several weeks. A woman greeted her and told her she had a gift to give her. It was a wrapped present. When the young pastor’s wife opened it, she found inside a note with the heading, “25 Things Your Husband Is Doing Wrong.”
I’m certainly not suggesting this type of thing is the experience of every pastor’s wife, but it does give some important context. If you’re having trouble bridging the gap with a pastor’s wife, it’s helpful to know they often feel like they can’t get close to other women in the churches where their husbands serve. At the very least, they are cautious. Many feel alone in their struggles.
Granted, not all pastor’s wives are sweet souls whose hang-ups came at the hands of unfriendly church members. But the bottom line is, if your pastor’s wife isn’t involved in the women’s ministry you lead, she’s not better off and neither are you.
Here are five reasons you should involve ministry wives and how to do it:
1. They’re women. Sure, I’m stating the obvious. But sometimes ministry wives feel like a separate people group altogether—one very few outside that group understand or attempt to reach. As such, it will go a long way if you treat your ministers’ wives like you would any other woman in your church.
2. They want friends. It’s a common misconception that because pastors’ wives are who they are, they are well connected with a host of friends. On top of that, many church members think pastors’ wives know everyone’s “stuff.” Contrary to popular opinion, ministers don’t tell their wives everything about everyone. Avoid making assumptions about your pastor’s wife. Offer to take her to lunch, not to ask for advice or a ministry favor, but just because you’d like to know her better. A pastor’s wife who has friends in the church is more likely to be involved in women’s ministry than one who does not.
3. They need to be ministered to. Many pastors’ wives are hurting. It’s also true that people who are busy ministering to others often neglect their own needs. Without asking them to serve in any particular role, keep the ministers’ wives at your church in the loop about women’s ministry groups, studies, and events and extend a personal invitation for them to join.
4. They have unique insight on what works and what doesn’t. The nature of vocational ministry means your ministers’ wives are likely a valuable resource for women’s ministry. Run ideas by her and ask her opinions. Ask her what she has seen work well and what hasn’t worked well. Invite her to share her insight on the general needs of the women in your particular church.
5. They want to use their gifts in service to the church. However, they don’t want other people telling them what that area of service should be. Every ministry wife is a unique individual, with gifts and passions God plans to use for His glory and for the good of the women in your church. Give your pastor’s wife freedom to be herself, and extend to her opportunities to serve God in the particular ways He has gifted her.
Cynthia Hopkins is a writer, speaker, and the founder of Platform 320, a nonprofit ministry for women. Cynthia has been writing articles, Bible studies, and devotions for LifeWay for almost 20 years. She is the author of “What Now?” a 30-day book of devotions to help teenagers own their faith after the spiritual high of a camp or retreat experience. Through Platform 320, she leads multi-church women’s retreats, ministry wives retreats, and women’s mission endeavors. Her husband, Clay, is the associate pastor at their church, FBC College Station, TX. They have two children, Brandon (21) and Abby (18).