By Joyce Thomas
In my last blog post, I wrote about being good enough to be a pastor’s spouse and the fact that many spouses feel they cannot measure up to the role and expectations of serving in ministry with their clergy spouse. The resolution was found in ll Corinthians 3:5: “not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (NASB). You must know that it is God who gives success in ministry, covering deficiencies as we open our hearts to the call of God.
On the other hand, there are many spouses who believe the call to do ministry with their clergy spouse is a joy and blessing. They see themselves as helpmates who are willing and ready to serve alongside their spouse in ministry. They believe when God calls the clergy, God extends the call to the spouse as well. These spouses are not shy about being out front and ministering to people. They are bold, on fire for God, and full of love and compassion for others and will not let challenges or expectations cause them to become disillusioned about ministry. They walk closely with their clergy spouse in ministry and whenever issues or concerns surface, they work together with their clergy spouse to solve them, giving strength and support to each other in those difficult times. As a matter of fact, they believe that in ministry you take the good with the bad and, in the end, God works things out for the good, as the Bible states in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love [God], who have been called according to [God’s] purpose” (NIV).
Spouses of clergy who serve with joy see challenges and expectations as opportunities to live out the principles and call of God. Romans 12: 9–13 says it this way:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.… Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (NIV)
These spouses sincerely love their call to ministry and live out Romans 12:9–13. They let the Spirit of Christ govern their conduct towards the congregation and therefore they let nothing deter them from serving God and God’s people. These spouses of clergy sometimes preach and teach in the pastor’s absence and counsel those who are in need. Though many spouses are not seminary trained per se, many of them are allowed to preach and teach based upon the recognition of gifts and training by the pastor and congregation. However, there are many spouses of clergy who do go to seminary, equipping themselves to minister alongside their spouse.
I am reminded of a friend whose clergy spouse started a non-traditional church ministry. Even though she was not seminary trained, she was included in all aspects of building the ministry. Not only did she help in the planning stages, but later taught Bible study, new members’ classes, and availed herself for whatever was needed. She made connections and inroads into many lives in the congregation, which was significantly helpful as the ministry grew and began to have a life of its own. As she participated with the people, she got to know them well and they in turn came to love her and embraced who she was as a woman of God as well as the spouse of the pastor. She truly enjoyed being the pastor’s wife and, even more, she enjoyed relating with the congregation members. She was never afraid to speak to the congregation about inappropriate behavior because she had taught many of them biblical principles. Therefore, when difficult times came in the ministry, she could stay calm and help her clergy spouse work through most issues without becoming angry. She indeed was gifted for ministry, and she knew that as the spouse to her husband; God had extended the call to her as well.
It is a great joy to know that many spouses love and adhere to the call of God, walking alongside their clergy wives/husbands. Just as they have partnerships in their homes they extend that same partnership into the work of the church. They find their role fulfilling and understand how important their role is to their clergy spouse and congregation.
Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.
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