What is the hardest job in the world? This question is debated in workrooms, taverns and coffee shops around the world. One position which is usually overlooked but which should be considered as a serious contender for the honor is that of pastor’s wife. Living quietly in this world are a small company of women who are married to men in ministry of one type or another. They receive far too little credit for what they do. By the way, there are some men married to women in ministry who deserve some long-overdue recognition as well.
The pastor’s wife: you can often see her after worship, standing with her husband greeting people or sometimes visiting with scattered groups of folks. At other times these women are not seen because they are working in the nursery, recruiting volunteers or counseling privately with someone.
Wives of ministers come in all shapes and sizes: young and not-so-young; vivacious and reserved; creative and methodical, punctual or late; musical and tone-deaf. Some even play the piano. The proven truth is that a minister’s wife can make or break him. Men who survive in ministry almost always do so because their wives are supportive and regarded as an asset by the congregation.
So why do I insist that the job of a pastor’s wife is so hard? There is no labor union exposing the plight of these women; no news expose on the difficult life of a pastor’s wife. These women rarely complain. Most have achieved a level of excellence in which they go about their work with seeming effortlessness. So, most people never give their situation a second thought. That’s where I come in. I am married to a pastor’s wife, so I have special insight into what these dear women often must accomplish (pardon my excursions into exaggeration for effect).
First the pastor’s wife must maintain a level of spirituality at least equal with that of the most spiritual person in the congregation. She must be able to quote scripture with little hesitation on almost any subject. She must never have serious doubts about any article of faith cherished by her husband’s congregation. She must actually pray for the dozens of prayer requests she receives monthly. The ability to walk on water is helpful, but not required.
The pastor’s wife should be in reasonably good shape physically and should maintain a modestly attractive appearance. Her home must be neat and well-organized. Her cooking should be on a gourmet level with at least several dishes which are the favorites at church dinners. She must be cheerful about unexpected guests for dinner. She is to be an excellent manager of family finances, a smart shopper and able to hang pictures tastefully. At the same time she is never to draw attention to herself or her abilities. It is a good idea for Proverbs 31:10-31 to be prominently displayed somewhere in her house.
It goes without saying that she needs to raise near-perfect children. From her they should be learning respect, good manners, cleanliness, theology and perhaps even Hebrew and Greek. She should seriously consider homeschooling in order to ensure that her children are trained properly and not exposed to unduly harmful influences. The children should be able to sing or recite poetry to any group on short notice. They must earn excellent grades, never get in trouble, never bicker among themselves and never show disrespect to neighbors or members of the congregation.
The wife of a pastor often listens patiently to concerns and hurts of several people each week, while sharing her own inner life sparingly (if at all). She should be prepared to forego close friendships in the church for long periods. She should smile a lot. It is indespensible that she should know whose jokes to laugh at and whose humor to blush at. She must be willing to put in many hours of volunteer work in ministry only to have others get much of the credit. She has to be able to take constructive criticism with good humor, humility and a large grain of salt. She should never show anger; always be humble; never gossip. She should have the constitution of an ox, the hide of a rhinoceros and the disposition of a dove. She is to be the servant of all, yet find time to put her own life in perfect harmony—and maintain all of this over a lifetime.
Most importantly, this woman has to live with a very difficult man—the pastor. He is much in demand and often not home in the evenings or on weekends. She must be able to figure him out when he is unsure of himself and quietly support him when he is criticized or attacked. She must also tolerate him when his head is twice its normal size after a particularly good sermon. When he is tired or away, she is to keep the family together without a trace of bitterness.
Though not as extreme as this exaggerated description, the wife of a man in ministry is, without doubt, one tough job! My own marriage to one of these amazing women has given me some inside information on this unsung group of people. I thank God for my wife, Melinda. When she married me, she also married ministry. She is raising four amazing children, while serving alongside me. She is creative, attractive, intelligent, hard-working and the life of the party wherever she goes. Her singing is the envy of angels. I could not have done what I have been privileged to do without her. She makes me look very good. Thank you my dear.
I am confident that I speak for thousands of other men in ministry when I express my thanks to all these dear women who serve with us. As far as I am concerned, they deserve the award for the hardest job in the world!