Wednesday, September 12, 2007,11:14 PM
Pastor's Wife
I haven't read the book pictured here, or the widely popular She Can't Even Play the Piano. I throw away the denominational fliers I get for "pastor's wives" retreats. When we started in this whole church planting adventure, the thing I was most horrified by was that I would be a pastor's wife. Of course I was reacting to stereotypes and my limited experiences, but whatever a pastor's wife was - that was not me.

I didn't want my life, my personality, defined for me by others. I didn't want to be merely what others expected me to be. I am myself and being a "pastor's wife" should do nothing to change that. It helped that Mike and I are ministry partners doing this church planting thing together. I'm not just some invisible support beam that arranges the coffee behind my mask of unfaltering allegiance to every word that drips from my husband's mouth. We plan together, make decisions together, and share responsibilities like preaching. As a person I am going to have questions and doubts and am not going to hide those because I am a pastor or pastor's wife. When I think something is full of crap, I'm going to say that. I have no interest in being told what mold I'm supposed to be fitting into. I think the mold is stupid to begin with. (how's that for a thoughtful critique).

But apparently, the struggle to maintain a personal identity is a major problem for many pastor's wives. There are numerous books on how to be a good pastor's wife (or at least on how not to go insane as one). Most of them focus on how to be yourself while being the person everyone expects you to be. Did they ever stop to think that it is because of whacked out advice like that that women are reading those sorts of books at all? And of course, everyone's favorite go-to guy for sexist quotes, Mark Driscoll, has even suggested a few things that will help make a pastor's wife's life easier and less stressful. He writes -

"What can be done to help the pastors' wife?

* She needs a clearly defined and guarded role.
* She needs some help with the kids and house.
* She needs some help getting to and from church on Sundays.
* She needs a designated parking place.
* She needs a handful of safe relationships with other godly women.
* She needs to choose her own friends and define her own relationships.
* She needs to see her first jobs as Christian, wife, and mother, not free hire for the church."

Wow my own parking place at church, that would really make my life easier. And to be allowed (within my protected and guarded role) to choose my friends! What am I - a grown woman or a kindergartner? Maybe it would have helped if he had added to the list - "She needs to have a husband who doesn't say that a pastor's sexual sins are the fault of his wife not looking hot." But that might be asking too much.

These books and this advice is so condescending it's embarrassing. Sure the stereotypes and the expectations have caused problems, but I would think that allowing a women to be herself would be more useful than defining and restricting her role more. It's a messed up system, the whole church culture is a messed up system. We've created this ultra-ritualized pageant where people are expected to act in certain roles. It would be amusing if it wasn't so very sad. So do I have a point here? I don't know. Just that I refuse to be labeled with any of the expectations of being a pastor's wife. And that I feel sorry for the women who are confined by that role.

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posted by Julie at 11:14 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/13/2007 11:32:00 AM, Blogger H.W.

    Julie, I am so with you. While not a PW myself, just a lay leader, I still think about this stuff all the time. In fact, I just posted a little entry about getting invited to a conference that featured alternate sessions for "women," (my male pastor says they do this with the assumption that the "pastor's wives" will go to these)....

  • At 9/13/2007 01:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi Julie. Let's just review some of the items on that list:

    * She needs a clearly defined and guarded role. WHY? Did she submit her resume???
    * She needs some help with the kids and house. SOCIAL ECONOMIC--who has funds for that? The male dominated culture he lives in has an unbelievable income level.
    * She needs some help getting to and from church on Sundays. WHY? Is "she" disabled?
    * She needs a designated parking place. WHY--didn't someone "give her help to get there???"
    * She needs a handful of safe relationships with other godly women. WHY SO FEW?
    * She needs to choose her own friends and define her own relationships. YOU stated it better than I could have.
    * She needs to see her first jobs as Christian, wife, and mother, not free hire for the church." OBVIOUSLY with not an original thought of her own.
    Don't get me started.

  • At 9/13/2007 02:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    OK, so, me again...I responded to your list and then went to "watch/listen" to the video of his "sermon". I'm sure you don't need the feul for the fire, but here is another comment (and I could only list/watch for about 5 minutes before I burst into flames):

    All the b.s. driscoll is shoveling out in the name of a sermon REEKS of the pastor having some un-godly income level. Then, he goes on to say that he doesn't look at the pastor's wife as a "first lady," yet all the things he recommends ARE those sorts of things...almost with a security detail.

    OK, I'm done. I'm sorry I got so outraged. Why don't I learn?

  • At 9/13/2007 02:49:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Good points. Yeah, I avoided watching his stuff. Last time I did that I threw stuff across the room it pissed me off so much. The next scary thing he's got going - they are coming out with a book called Practical Theology for Women, because as they put it women "can and should be theologically informed." I don't even want to go into how condescending that is...

  • At 9/13/2007 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    This is really interesting. Maybe I'll post more thoughts about it on my own blog later. It's interesting that you say that you don't want your life, personality etc. defined by others or be what they expect you to be. I actually found myself stuck in this more so as a pastor's kid as a youth director and less now as PW. Sometimes as a youth director I felt I was only just that. I felt like no one saw me as a real person with needs, interests outside of youth, and the need for friends. Most of my strongest friendships were outside of the church because it was hard to connect with people like that in the church. For some reason, I don't feel like that as a PW.

    I've found as a PW, the role is totally what you make of it. Sure some think we need to learn how to make coffee and serve people and that's about it. I've seen all different types of roles. Some are like teammates going to council meetings, leading committees, leading worship and others want their own life outside of the church. People in the church have never really been to their house or even know them personally. I tend to be somewhere in the middle. I want my own career, I always want a few friends outside of the church, but I like being involved in a lot of different areas within the church too.

    Honestly I like our denom's Pastor Spouse Retreats (we call it "spouse" because we do have men that attend whose wives are pastors) because it gives me a chance to network with other people in my same life experience.

  • At 9/14/2007 01:37:00 AM, Blogger bluefireiceeyes

    it's nice to see intelligent women like you speaking up. keep doing it! :)

  • At 9/16/2007 10:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Amen sister!!
    I correct people at church who introduce me as the "pastor's wife" and go on being me.
    I really hope this helps others know that they have complete freedom to be themselves as well.

    Glad to find your blog and hope you are well.
    Shelley Pagitt

  • At 9/17/2007 09:34:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Hi Shelley, good to hear from you. It's nice to realize that one has the freedom to get beyond labels.

  • At 9/19/2007 12:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Julie,I have never blogged before. But I have a problem and I am doing a research paper on PW I am one so that is kinda the reason why I wanted to do the research. I needed the resources and what better way to have the time to find what I need. My problem : the disrespect some people have for the pw when she ask for them to do or not to do something and then make it out to the Pastor that they didn’t mean it the way it was taken. And try to make the PW look bad in front of anyone over anything. What is she to do? She has tried to talk to the Pastor and the person in the past and nothing seems to work this person continues to defy the smallest thing the PW ask them to do or not do. Disrespected

  • At 9/19/2007 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Anon- good luck in your research. I think part of the problem you are seeing is the whole hierarchical system in the church to begin with. If the Pastor or PW is considered to be in a place of power that can dictate to others which to do, are you really acting as a church family? should not the church be working together as the body of Christ? Yes, PW are often used and abused in churches. IMHO, such disrespect and manipulation of a person needs to be addressed by the church as a whole. What does the church expect of the Pastor or the PW? Are people more concerned with getting their own needs met or having their own agendas followed than they are about loving others and caring for those around them? If so that is a seriously unhealthy environment that must change no matter how ultimately painful it ends up being.


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