There are at least two kinds of pastor’s wives in the world (ok, there are many, but these are the extremes). The first is the Do-Everything. This is the woman who feels it is her duty to do whatever ministry needs to be taken care of that doesn’t fall under her husband’s realm of responsibilities. She will volunteer to play organ, run the nursery, direct choir, assist with communion, read the lessons, teach Sunday school, order supplies, and clean the bathrooms. Her career is related to her husband’s and the church, being “employed” by the church (without pay) as musician or teacher. If there is a job to be done other than preaching, she will be the first to volunteer, and everyone in the congregation knows it. Other members stop raising their hands at meetings, waiting for her to step up to the plate. Dishes pile up on the kitchen counters, dust collects in the corners, children cry in the hallways, and her assumptions prove true: if she doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done! The fear she harbors becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and she eventually becomes burned out with the sheer volume of tasks to be done.
The other kind of PW (pastor’s wife) is the Do-Nothing. She is the last one to volunteer for anything, out of fear that she will be stuck with the task for life. She would rather see a ministry fail than take it on herself, being far too busy caring for her husband and children to get involved at church. In fact, she is often absent from church events, and can come off as resentful of her husband’s career. Her chosen field of work is so far removed from the church that one wonders if a strip club would be a more appealing place for her to be employed. She often makes more money than her husband and complains about the extra activities that keep him from his family. When someone asks her to participate in ministry, she makes any excuse possible to extract herself from the obligation. Her greatest fear in life is being trapped in the “Do-Everything” role so she makes it clear that she will not do anything. As a result, she is constantly being asked to participate in various ministries because everyone assumes she just hasn’t found her fit yet, and inevitably she offends half the congregation.
Neither one of these extremes is good. The first one is probably closer to the kind of pastors’ wives that my mother and sister have become, though it is an exaggeration. The second is closer to my experiences (no, I wouldn’t work at a strip club!). Both extremes are based in fear – fear of the perceptions of others. In the Do-Everything example, the wife is fearful that she and/or her husband will be discredited unless she picks up the slack. The Do-Nothing is afraid of being used and/or having her identity and family life swallowed by the congregation.
I think there’s a happy medium between these two extremes, but I also know that the pitfalls are easy to fall into. I can volunteer for ministry and also learn to say no. It’s a matter of setting boundaries that aren’t completely unreasonable. I’m still learning what that means.