It seemed to be a match made in heaven. Wendy had grown up on the mission field and dreamed of being a minister's wife since she was a little girl. I grew up as a PK loving the church, and I sensed a call to ministry by the age of 12. I'd envied my parents' mutual involvement in the congregation and prayed God would give me a wife with whom I could be a partner in ministry.
God answered both prayers. As newlyweds in our first church, Wendy and I looked for ways we could minister side by side. It wasn't hard. I discipled the husbands; Wendy counseled their wives. Together we led a weekly Bible study. We entertained church leaders and new members in our home, sharing in the planning, cooking and cleanup. We loved each other. We loved our congregation. We loved our identity as a ministry couple.
Soon, however, we discovered that, while the flood of pastoral demands could irrigate the work of ministry, they could also drown our marriage. Fortunately, we found some points at which we could regulate the flow.
Wendy turned to gardening; I took up photography. Getting outdoors and celebrating the splendor of creation not only took our minds off the church; it filled each of us with joy that we could share with each other.
Sunday may be holy, but Monday is sacred to us. Sleep in. Enjoy a cup of coffee. Leisurely read the paper. Go for a long walk. Plant flowers. Take pictures. Go antique hunting. Linger over lunch at a favorite restaurant. This was easier before kids, but when babies came we took them along. As much as we loved the church, we needed the routine of simple pleasures that had nothing to do with ministry.
Wendy and I decided to celebrate holidays and special days in ways that were unique to us. We decorate the house and have special menus for Valentine's Day, Academy Awards night, the Fourth of July and Santa Lucia Day. We have even created our own family holiday: July 31st commemorates the day 35 years ago when my parents moved our family to our new hometown. And don't even try to schedule a church board meeting on one of the special days we observe in our home!
Wendy and I both have wonderful families — we want to spend time with them! But throughout our marriage we have lived far away from our parents and siblings. So we have determined to visit our respective hometowns during vacations. Thus, every year we trek to places where we are known and loved, apart from our professions. Those times remind us of who we are as real people.
Conversations, letters and surveys tell us the concerns you wives in ministry have. About 45 percent of you fear physical, emotional and spiritual burnout. Nearly 60 percent of you work outside the home. Some 45 percent of you tell us you have no close friends. And more than half of you worry about raising your children.
The underlying cause for the multitude of pastors leaving pastoral ministry centers on two critical issues — marriage/family difficulties and burnout. Based on fourteen letters of concern written by wives of pastors, this book could have been entitled, "Fourteen Frequently Asked Questions by Pastors' Wives."
A well-known expert of pastors' wives shares some insights and suggestions on how pastors can help energize their wives in ministry.