Care for Your Own
When we get out of seminary we have great zeal, great vision for the church that we’re going to pastor. We have all these ideas that are going around in our heads. It’s kind of like a new parent that thinks, My kid is going to be that perfect kid. They’re the ones that are going to speak at two years of age and they’re going to do everything right.
And so we get to a church and we have this idealistic vision of what things are going to be like. Things can get pretty hard quickly. So one of the ways that I would encourage my brother pastors who are married and are going into ministry is to care for your wife. Your primary ministry is to care for her, to shepherd her, to love her, to not allow her to feel like she is a bother or an inconvenience. Don’t allow her to think that the church is a mistress with whom you’re having an affair.
Treat Her as a Helpmate
In order to do that, prioritize communication, conversation, and help her understand what the ministry is like in a manner that doesn’t burden her with the weight and the responsibilities of being a pastor—because she’s not the pastor. You’ve been called to be a pastor, so treat her as your helpmate. Encourage her, talk to her, let her know what you need from her. But also understand that when you’re going into a brand-new ministry, both of you are in a learning curve and one of the best things you can do is to do as much as you can together. You go into a new ministry, get to know the people in the church, open your home, be hospitable. And the more that you can do together as husband and wife, the more that she’ll begin to feel a part of the ministry and less like she’s an inconvenience.
Treat Her as a Church Member
Also, give her the liberty to be your wife and the mother of your children (if the Lord blesses you with children). She needs to have that freedom because our wives are uniquely made. They’re different than we are, but each woman is different from every other woman. So we need to, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7, “Live with our wives in an understanding way.” That means according to creational knowledge and also spiritual knowledge as our sister in Christ.
And so getting to know our wife, making sure we know what she’s like, and know what she’s like in this context. We may be married for a few years but it’s a new context. How is she going to respond and what are her fears in these contexts? So just getting to know her, living with her in an understanding way, and affirming her so that she feels encouraged and like a part of the ministry and church.
Care for your wife, study your wife, know your wife, honor your wife, and help her feel valued as a partner in your ministry.
By Your Side
But also, as everyone’s going to look to you and want to get to know you as the pastor, you’ll want her by your side. It’s encouraging to let the people know—even from the pulpit—your love for your wife and how you honor your wife. Don’t use your wife at her expense by making jokes about your marriage or about women, but just honor her before them and it will help her know that she’s a part of you, a part of your life, a part of the ministry, and a part of the church.
Then also guard her from expectations that are inappropriate and unrealistic. She’s not been called to serve. You have been called to serve and she’s been called to serve alongside of you as your helper and also as a mother of your children. So, she needs to have the permission from you to just freely be a regular church member and whatever that looks like for different church members. She can serve as a regular church member and not have the pressure of performance and filling in the gaps where people are presently not serving. She needs to have those freedoms. So really, just care for your wife, study your wife, know your wife, honor your wife, and help her feel valued as a partner in your ministry.
Juan R. Sanchez is a contributor to Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, Jr.
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