by Mary Somerville
Some churches may be surprised to hear this, but the Bible does not teach that a pastor's wife must play the piano, run the women's ministry, and host all social functions. Actually, Scripture does not give a job description for the wife of a man in ministry. So how do we know what God expects of us? What is our role? Paul does give some character qualifications that are necessary for a deaconess or wives of deacons. "Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things" (1 Tim. 3:11).
As wives of men in ministry, you and I must be sure that we have this kind of exemplary character. But what are the "all things" that we are supposed to be faithful in? Scripture makes it plain that our calling is exactly the same as that of every other woman in the church-to be a godly woman, wife, mother, and faithful member of the body of Christ.
Let's take a close look at one key Bible passage that defines the roles of all women in the church. As we carefully examine these practical instructions, we will be able to see our own role more clearly: "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, not enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored" (Titus 2:3-5).
Notice that above all God is concerned about the character of the exemplary women in the church. If your children are grown, then the teaching for older women applies to you directly. But no matter what your age is, as a wife of a man in ministry, you are looked to as an example. So we all must pursue the character qualities of the older woman.
The very first character quality that we must focus on is reverence. The term "reverent" is taken from "revere," which means to regard with affectionate awe or veneration. God wants us to exemplify behavior that exhibits affectionate awe for God. One way for us to keep that focus is to dwell on the attributes of God and His Son. It is easy to let the demands of life and the culture around us draw us away from our greatest privilege as women-knowing and revering God. Obedience will flow naturally from that loving respect. We need to constantly keep our eyes on the awesome God we serve.
Next, we must be sure that we have control over our speech and our appetites. Being a malicious gossip, or enslaved to wine can tear down our lives and ministries. It is easy to mask gossip as "needs for prayer" and to pass on confidential information about what others have done or said that hurt us. This sin can do damage to the name of Christ and hurt our husbands' ministries. What damage an uncontrolled tongue can cause! God can manifest the fruit of the Spirit-namely self-control-in our lives as we yield this area to Him. As He gives us a controlled tongue and controlled passions, that makes us stand out from the world and makes us ready for ministry.
Continuing in Titus 2:3 we see that Paul addresses older women as the main ones leading in church ministry. If you are free from your child-rearing responsibilities, then you fit into this category of older women, like me. This is not the time for retirement; it is the time for "teaching what is good." Put on your work boots and get ready to use all of the wisdom you have accumulated through years devoted to your character and your home. Free up the younger women to focus on their main ministry in the home. Get active in women's ministries, whether one-on-one or in large groups. We cannot excuse ourselves from service by thinking that the younger women won't want to hear our outdated opinions. The younger women need encouragement from those who have walked the road. They need to be discipled by those who are more mature in their faith.
Paul teaches us that the ministry of younger women is to focus on their home. So as the wife of a man in ministry, your main role is to love your husband and children, to guard your purity, to be a worker-a kind worker-at home, and to be subject to your own husband, so that the Word of God may not be dishonored. Any other ministry that you pursue in the church must not interfere with these priorities.
To be "workers at home" simply means being homemakers. This is how we fulfill our callings to love our husbands and children. Our priority task as wives and mothers is to make home a prepared place for them. The greatest ministry that you can have to your church is the provision of a home for their pastor, where he can receive the rest and rejuvenation he needs to be able to serve effectively as their spiritual shepherd.
I love the people in our church dearly, but I think they need to understand that my relationship with Bob takes precedence over all of my other relationships. My first ministry is directed toward him, before the church and all its demands. My family is the Lord's work.
I think that you and I, as wives and mothers, are the essence of home. Our presence in it to care for the family is what constitutes home. A member of our fellowship who lost his wife said it most poignantly: "Our house is no longer a home so I'm going to sell it."
We also make our homes a place of love and training of our children and a place of order. We serve a God of order, not confusion. To have a home characterized by order, we must be disciplined ourselves to have a place for everything and to train our children to put things in their place when they are through with them, to clean their rooms, and to live harmoniously with one another.
The question comes up about working outside the home. Many wives of men in ministry are college-educated women and may have worked in a career before marriage. Should they give that up to work at home? That's an issue that must be grappled with before the Lord, taking into account our needs versus our desires. The couple must determine how she will fulfill her God-given roles.
Bob and I agreed that my place was in the home and not in the workplace. I have found that the role of wife and mother, plus pastor's wife, is very demanding and rewarding. It has been my career. My counsel to women seeking direction is that they should make their home their career unless their husband is not able to earn enough to meet the necessities of life and they need to help out temporarily. But it may also be possible to supplement the income without seeking an outside career. If you look at the Proverbs 31 woman, you will see that there are many ways that the industrious and creative wife can help provide for her family and even earn money from the home.
As we have seen, our first calling is to our Lord and Savior, then to our husbands and children. Are we merely to let our husbands do all the serving in the church? Just what is our role? We also have a calling to use our spiritual gifts as members of the body of Christ. We all have gifts. Some sample lists are in Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10, and 1 Corinthians 12. Some are communication gifts and some are serving gifts. If anyone is not using his or her gifts, the church is crippled. So don't try to be an ear if you are an eye. If you are an eye be the best eye you can be; don't try to taste and hear too. You are free to serve with all your heart and soul to God's glory as any other member of the church would, in the power of the Spirit.
Don't you see, my dear sister, that there is actually wonderful freedom that comes from understanding your biblical role? When you "limit" yourself to pleasing God, you are freed from the pressures of fulfilling unattainable expectations. You are freed from the pressure to try to juggle two or three careers. You have discovered that the role of a wife of a man in ministry is no different than any other exemplary woman in the church. You are freed to focus in on your own character, your husband, your home, and then your specific areas of spiritual giftedness. Keep in mind that you are not on a pedestal because of your position as the wife of a man in ministry. You and I are but sinners saved by His matchless grace, not having to prove anything in ourselves.
Yet even the responsibilities we have in fulfilling just these few essentials could appear terribly daunting. That is because it is impossible to do this in our own strength. Fortunately, we have God's promise that He will enable us. Aren't you thankful that you have God's grace, not only to survive, but also to thrive in your role? He called you to it, and He will enable you for it. This is the promise: "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Cor. 9:8).
By faith, you can daily appropriate God's amazing grace to fulfill your biblical role as a ministry wife. Then as you focus in on the essentials, you will find the joy of a job well done. You will be able to sift through the varying expectations and evaluations of the crowd and hear the voices that you long to hear: your husband saying, "Many daughters have done nobly but you excel them all"; and most precious of all, your Lord commending, "Well done good and faithful servant."