MINISTERS WIFE AS A CO-LABOURER IN HER HUSBANDS MINISTRY AND A HOME BUILDER
The Rev’d Oluwatosin B Adekeye (PhD)
DELIVERED ON BEHALF of
The Rt Rev (Dr) Timothy Yahaya Bishop Diocese of Kaduna Anglican Communion
ABSTRACT—This article seeks to find out the roles that Ministers wives play in their husbands’ ministry that have made them seem indispensable in the ministry. The Minister wife is viewed as a woman and as a helper. Three types of pastors’ wives are identified; the detached, the supportive, and the incorporated. Each of these has ways in which it affects the Minister’s ministry. The paper postulates that roles of Minister wives can be divided into domestic roles (roles at home), spiritual roles (roles at church), social roles (roles in the community), and occupational roles (roles at work). The paper concludes that Minister’s wives are great helpers in the ministry of their husbands.
To explore the effectiveness of a minister’s wife as co-laborer, we must go to the beginning of time so as to understand the origin.
In Genesis 2:18, the Bible says “and the Lord God said, ‘it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (New King James Version). Man is revealed here “as a social being, made for fellowship, not power: … so the woman is presented wholly as his partner and counterpart;”. From the creation of the woman, we realize, as Francis Nichol puts it, that “the woman was formed for inseparable unity and fellowship of life with the man, and the mode of her creation was to lay the actual foundation for the moral ordinance of marriage. She was to ‘stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him’” (Nichol, 1978, p. 226). It is evident that every married woman is supposed to be a helper to her husband and that the two ought to work together as a unit.
Women, from the beginning, have been the backbone of their husbands’ success or failure. No wonder, God says, “It is not good that man should be alone.” The success or failure of men may depend on the duties performed by their wives. The failure of King Ahab and the idolatry of King Solomon were powered by their wives. A woman, therefore, may help her husband to succeed in his work. Every man, including the pastor, may need the companionship and support of his wife in the discharge of his duties.
From these, we realize that wives of pastors could play very important roles in the ministry of their husbands. They could affect the success or failure of the ministry. They are frequently pointed out in society: “This is our pastor’s wife!” Anywhere the pastor is being introduced his wife is given an equal recognition. She surely has roles. to play at home, in church, in the community, and in all aspects of human life. It appears the roles that pastors’ wives play in ministry are very important. This is the reason they are presented as an indispensable part of the pastor’s ministry: The roles they play at home, in church, in the society, and at work impact the ministry of the pastor. Much literature has gone into the roles of Pastors’ wives. However, the main objective of this paper is to examine the roles that pastors’ wives play in the ministry of their husbands.
Who is the Pastor’s Wife?
The Pastor’s Wife as a Woman: The pastor’s wife is simply the wife of a pastor. That is, a woman who is married to a pastor. The wives of pastors seem to have additional roles other than their normal roles as women. As women, they can be identified with all other women in society. Christine Oppong and Katherine Abu identified roles of women in classifications as workers, status of employed women, wives, mothers, housekeepers, kin roles, and community roles and individualism (Oppong and Abu, 1987, pp 25-41).
The pastor’s wife, being a woman, must also have such roles to perform. In addition to these, she has additional roles to perform as the wife of a pastor. According to Oppong and Abu (1987), “The bulk of women’s labor is in agriculture, with sales in the second place. Fewer than three percent are in professional, clerical and related types of occupation. Among all types of workers, the majority are employers and self-employed. Very few women are actually employed by others as salary and wage earners” (Oppong and Abu, 1987, p 26). They continue to point out that the majority of the educated and employed are mainly nurses, elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, and typists. Most of them also work with government establishments. Statistics reveal that, except for a few isolated cases, women are mostly engaged in small scale, less productive and low income earning activities.
The number of women in high offices is relatively small. They are mainly in junior positions. This justifies the conclusion that “employment practices favor males rather than females.”(Oppong and Abu, 1987, p 27). Over twenty years down the line, these statistics have definitely changed.
The figures are not likely the same since there has been much improvement in employment practices. Similarly, Ruth Tucker states, “Pastors’ wives have changed considerably in the past decades, as have women in every vocation in life” (Tucker, 1988, p. 9). She seems to subscribe to the idea that the pastors’ wives can fully identify themselves with women so long as their vocation is concerned. As wives and mothers, they have certain roles they play.
Most of these mothers manage their families, breastfeed their babies, are preoccupied with child-care and child– maintenance. There are strains and conflicts in their mother-worker roles. For example, women who are mothers and nurses at the same time cannot take their children with them to work. They would have to go through constant worry because of inadequate child-care. (Oppong and Abu, 1987, p 36). The roles of women as wives and mothers are basically the same everywhere and at any time. The same applies to the pastor’s wife. Though the above were found out to be basic for all women, Ruth Tucker adds that “the pastor’s wife is viewed as a woman who has a unique role to fill and faces frustrations that are unique to her relationship and vocation”(Tucker, 1988, p. 9). This assertion creates the idea that, though they are all women, pastors’ wives face unique frustrations and perform unique roles. Their uniqueness and difference is attributed to their vocation and relationship (that is, the fact that they are married to pastors). Women are also housekeepers. They manage residential patterns and domestic activities.
Work in the house such as cleaning, washing and cooking are mostly delegated to younger household members. (Oppong and Abu, 1987, pp. 39, 40). All the activities and roles of women in their various areas can be said of the pastor’s wife since she is also a woman. She has the status of a woman at work, in her roles as wife, mother, housekeeper and others.
The Pastor’s Wife as a Helper: A popular slogan of feminists and women’s rights activists is “beside every successful man is a woman.” This supports the point raised in Genesis 2:18; “and the Lord God said, ‘it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him”. The woman is therefore supposed to be a helper for her husband. The woman being “a helper comparable to him” means that she is appropriate to his needs. She is supposed to complement him. Before the creation of woman, man was a solitary individual. Loneliness was detrimental to his wellbeing and so God made for him a suitable companion (Nichol, 1978).
Every woman should be a helper to her husband. Just as she can help him to be successful, she can also be the cause of his failure. The same thing is true about the pastor’s wife. She can help her husband to succeed in his ministry or be the cause of his failure. From the Bible, it can be pointed out that every woman is supposed to help her husband in his work. In the same way, the pastor’s wife is also supposed to be her husband’s helper. However, she needs to be circumspect in administering her duties because she is being watched.
This agrees with the earlier assertion that the sense of being watched, analyzed and critiqued on the pastor is carried over to his wife. In helping their husbands, pastors’ wives have varying attitudes. Annie Machamire, a pastor’s wife in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, writes, “though the job of a pastor’s wife can be exciting and challenging, not all women relate to it in the same way. Personality, social background, and a host of other factors influence how she plays this crucial role” (Machamire, 1999, p. 22). Machamire quoted Marilyn Brown Oden as broadly dividing pastors’ wives into three basic groups: The Detached, the Supportive, and the Incorporated.
- The Detached Pastor’s Wife: The Detached pastor’s wife is the type who “does not perceive herself as a particularly important part of her husband’s ministry. She is married to the man, not his job” (Machamire, 1999, p. 22).
This means that she is mostly not concerned with her husband’s work. She simply sees herself as any other married woman. She is not concerned about the expectations of her husband’s congregation. Her main preoccupation will be on her domestic and occupational roles. She concentrates more on her career goals. She has more time to take care of her children and attend to her duties at work. She does not want to be associated with her husband’s work in any way. She does not see herself as an exceptional woman. She wants her individuality to be maintained.
This can bring about a feeling of loneliness on the part of the minister and he senses a lack of support from his wife. This may affect his ministry negatively.
- The Supportive Pastor’s Wife: The supportive pastor’s wife can be more appropriately called the “background supporter.” She “feels she is part of the ministry but prefers to work in the background.” (Machamire, 1999, p. 23). She knows she is attached to her husband’s ministry but does not want to play a leading role. She is the type of wife who works hand in hand with her husband at home but not in public. She gives advice to her husband and takes decisions with him. A pastor’s wife who will be described as a background supporter is affected by ministerial stress. Frequent moves on the part of the pastor may lead to an experience of loneliness and isolation. They may also face other stresses such as not having enough time for the family, financial problems, feeling of personal inadequacy, criticism by church members, and worry about conference approval. They face such stresses because of the way they work (Ministerial Association, 1997, p. 47). A background supporter may not handle any office in the church but will be useful to her husband. She may report observations that she has made about the congregation to her husband. These observations may help him in his preaching, teaching, or counseling. The supportive pastor’s wife will not be willing to preach, teach or counsel in church, but her suggestions can help her husband to do them better. The only aspect in which she directly works with her husband may be planning and decision –making which is mostly done at home. She basically supports her husband emotionally and spiritually. In essence, she tailors all her duties, including domestic duties, toward the support of her husband.
- The Incorporated Participant The last category of pastors’ wives is the “Incorporated Participant.” She “is actively involved in the ministry. Such a wife has in fact found her particular niche – a ministry of her own that complements that of her husband” (Machamire, 1999, p. 23). The incorporated participant plays a leading role in her husband’s ministry. She finds her husband’s job very comfortable and suitable for her. This is the wife who basically does everything that her husband does. This is done mostly when he is absent. She may preach, teach, visit, or counsel when her husband is not readily available. “This kind of wife is almost an ‘assistant pastor’, always in the forefront” (Machamire, 1999, p. 23).
Her involvement can sometimes create problems. For example, members may be tempted to do comparison and there may be competition between the pastor and his wife. In addition, she may face the stress of feeling guilty for neglect of family and sometimes members’ criticism (Ministerial Association, 1997, p. 47). If they, however, define their roles well, they could develop a powerful team ministry that will eventually benefit the church. Inasmuch as her support is needed, the pastor’s wife needs to take some level of caution in administering her roles. “Although this wife may effectively fill in where her talents lie, some cautionary limits should be in place. The wife should not be seen as superseding the pastor, who is the designated leader of the congregation. Talented as she may be – she is not the pastor, but rather his support person” (Machamire, 1999, p. 23).
Once caution is taken, the incorporated participant tends to help her husband better and helps in church growth. It is realized that pastor’s wives relate differently to their husbands’ ministry. Some of these roles sometimes overlap, depending on the situation, time and place. Some wives may play the role of background supporter in one setting and incorporated participant in another setting. Whatever attitude they cultivate, the ministry of the pastor is affected either negatively of positively. Whatever roles they play, they are to take the counsel of Ellen White “The wives of ministers should help their husbands in their labors and be exact and careful what influence they exert, for they are watched, and more is expected of them than of others” (White, 1952, p. 355).
THE ROLE OF MINISTERS WIVES
ROLES AT HOME: The pastor’s wife plays very important roles at home. These involve supporting her husband, child raising, providing for the family and other domestic roles. One of the main duties of the pastor’s wife at home, as in any other home, is to support her husband. Tucker wrote that the wife serving in a supporting role to her husband is not a notion that is popular. She states that even pastors’ wives are challenging the concept, even though they are expected “to be the perfect embodiment of a supportive spouse” (Tucker, 1988, p. 39). Supporting him will mainly involve being part of his personal prayer and devotional life. She should also serve as a source of encouragement for her husband in his ministry.
This will also involve the fact that she provides companionship. Providing such companionship kills the boredom that may occur in the ministry and in his personal life. Another important way in which the pastor’s wife supports her husband’s ministry is with her constant prayer and spiritual support for him. Ellen White says that Satan is at work to dishearten pastors and lead them astray; constant prayer will make their call effectual (White, 1952, 355).
The good pastor’s wife is one who constantly prays for her husband’s ministry and helps him with other spiritual issues. Such a wife is of great help to him. For example, when the pastor needs to pray on very serious issues for the church, church members and the family, he needs his wife to support him while he is on his knees. Another major duty of the pastor’s wife at home is to provide basic needs for the family. On the life of Idelette Calvin, Tucker records that most of her time was spent at home.
She was caring for the needs of her husband and children as well as the extended family which sometimes included her brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. She put meals on the table through a garden she tended in the backyard and through the salary of her husband (Tucker, 1988, p. 43). She totally supported her husband fully in all things, especially in taking care of the family. The work of the pastor’s wife as a mother has been appointed for her by God.
He has given her the work to bring up her children in the nurture and administration of the Lord. “The humble round of duties which women have come to regard as a wearisome task should be looked upon as a grand and noble work” (White, 1952, p. 234). Basic work at home such as cooking, washing, cleaning, and other daily routines in every home is also the duty of the pastor’s wife in her home. Apart from these duties, she also has to play the role of child training. These roles can, however, be done under her supervision so that she can still perform home roles as well as support her husband in ministry.
Bringing up Pastor’s Kids (PK’s) is very important in the pastor’s ministry. Ellen white says that “the minister’s duties lie around him, nigh and afar off; but his first duty is to his children” (White, 1952, p. 353). The bringing up of PK’s is sometimes the most neglected aspect of the pastor’s ministry. It therefore rests on the wife to complement her husband in performing the task of training the children in the Christian way and make them “Great PK’s” who learn to love and serve their Lord. (Donaldson, 2004, p. 26). She should support her husband to provide the children with the right level of satisfaction, training and discipline. When the children of pastors go wayward, many are misled. Ellen White’s counsel is that “until you can be united in the work of properly disciplining your child, let the wife remain with her child away from the scene of her husband’s labors; for no example of lax, loose discipline should be given to the church of God” (White, 1952, p. 356).
The training of children constitutes an important part of God’s plan for the demonstration of the power of Christianity. At home, the pastor’s wife receives all the visitors of her husband. When the pastor’s wife is hospitable, she helps so much in her husband’s ministry. As it has been mentioned earlier, an important quality that a pastor’s wife should exhibit should be hospitality. Any stranger who comes to visit the pastor gets his first impression about the pastor from the reception he receives. An unwelcoming, gloomy wife at home will give a negative impression about the pastor to any stranger that comes. It is therefore important for a hospitable, cheerful wife to be at home to make the pastor’s work successful.
ROLES AT CHURCH: The roles that a pastor’s wife performs in church will depend on the type of church, expectations of members, and her personality. There are no clear-cut roles for the pastor’s wife in the church. The flock is the church, where the pastor takes care of God’s people. In nomadic terms, the pastor is the Shepherd taking care of God’s flock (Fowler, 1990, p. 9).
The pastor’s wife therefore, is the “Shepherdess” who helps her husband to take care of God’s flock. In the church, the pastor’s wife is seen as the head of all the women. She serves as their counselor, their role model and their leader. Issues concerning women which they can’t fully tell the pastor are more comfortably discussed with the pastor’s wife. She is a woman and can identify herself with their problems.
This is a great service that she does to the church and it serves as a help in her husband’s ministry. The pastor’s wife is also a role model for most church members. The life of the pastor’s wife should preach an effective sermon on practical godliness. The members of the pastor’s family should exert a far-reaching influence for good. (White, 1948, p. 139). All members have their eyes on the pastor’s family. The men take, as their role model, their pastor, the children take the pastor’s children, and the women tend to take the pastor’s wife.
She should therefore be conscious of the important role she plays in the church and act accordingly. In all aspects of the church’s activities and programs, the women have the pastor’s wife as their leader beside the Women’s Ministries leader. Because of her role as a model, she automatically becomes their leader. In view of this, her dress, life, and conversation should be an example for other women and church members.
ROLES IN THE COMMUNITY: The social roles of the pastor’s wife will be the same as the roles that she plays in church. As stated earlier, she is not being watched by only the members of her husband’s congregation, but the entire community. She can therefore serve as a counselor, leader, and role model for the society. It is not strange to hear people mentioning the title “pastor’s wife” in the market place. The people who mention it may not be members of her husband’s congregation, but they know her to be a pastor’s wife. The people in the society will expect to see her display certain qualities and roles, whether she is their pastor’s wife or not. These will depend on the community’s expectations of who a pastor’s wife should be and what she should do.
ROLES AT WORK: Occupational roles of pastors’ wives are just as different as the women differ. The occupational roles of a pastor’s wife who works in a bank differ from those of one who works with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The roles of pastors’ wives working in two different Banks or two different NGOs differ from each other. In their various workplaces, the wives of pastors function like any other person. However, in administering their roles, others often expect more from them. No matter where they work, people expect them to work better and to exhibit the qualities of pastors’ wives even in the workplace. When the pastor’s wife performs all her roles diligently, with commitment and dedication, she becomes a great helper for her husband. If, on the other hand, she neglects them, her husband’s success and happiness is not achieved. It is on this point that Ellen White wrote: “An unsanctified wife is the greatest curse that a minister can have” (White, 1948, p. 139). Pastors who are not yet married need to choose their wives carefully, making sure that the woman they marry will help them to function according to their calling. Choosing an unsanctified wife will spell doom on the pastor’s ministry. Research indicates that “more ministers leave the ministry because of unhappy spouses than for any other reason” (Ministerial Association, 1997, p. 88).
HINDRANCES TO EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
Lack of understanding: where the minister’s wife does not understand fully her role as a minister’s wife
Lack of a clear vision: where the minister’s wife either does not have a clear vision of the minister who is her husband does not provide a clear vision.
REBELLION: where the minister’s wife is clearly rebelling against her role and authority of her husband.
CONFLICTING INTEREST: where the minister’s wife has a different interest from that of her husband
CONFLICT IN THE HOME: where the minister’s wife is in constant conflict with her husband
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: where there is influence from significant members of the family/society and this influence conflicts with the clearly stated role of the minister’s wife.
Conclusion The article reviews the role of the pastor’s wife in ministry. The pastor’s wife is a woman who is married to a pastor. She performs all the duties and roles that all other women play and add to these her unique role. As a woman, she has roles to perform as a wife and as a mother. All other activities and roles that women perform can also be said of the pastor’s wife. As the wife of the pastor, she is also a helper to her husband as it is in Genesis 2:18. Pastors’ wives can be divided into the detached, the supportive, and the incorporated participant
The detached pastors’ wife is mostly not concerned with her husband’s work; the supportive is normally the background supporter who feels that she is part of the ministry but prefers not to play a leading role; and the incorporated supporter is actively involved in the ministry and plays a leading role. The roles that pastors’ wives play are mostly determined by the congregation, church, church board, and the pastoral family. These roles can be divided into domestic roles (roles at home), spiritual roles (roles at church), social roles (roles in the community), and occupational roles (roles at work). At home, they support their husbands, take care of children, receive visitors, and perform other household chores. In church, they act as head of the women, engage in counseling, and act as role models for church members.
In the entire community, they are counselors, women’s leaders, and role models for the society. The roles that they play at work differ from person to person, but expectations are generally higher of them than of others. The pastor’s wife who performs her roles efficiently becomes a great helper to her husband. In performing these roles, pastors’ wives support their husbands most of the time in their work, especially in planning. Hence, the pastor’s wife can be said to be a great helper in her husband’s ministry, but “an unsanctified wife is the greatest curse that a minister can have” (White, 1948, p. 139).
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May God help minister’s wives find their place alongside their husbands and the strength to uphold him in prayers and with her everything. May ministers understand the need to value publicly and privately their wives so as to encourage them and mirror how husbands should value their wives in the same vein. Nurture her to full maturity…
Hmm I like your last comment Nurture her to full maturity in Christ Jesus.
Men of God would do well to choose well so as to reap the full benefits of the nurturing they give their wives. Some make a mess of a nurturing that would have yielded increase and misbehave. God help wives be support systems that do not threaten the spotlight of their husbands or feel the need to compete with them…