Think Your Job Is Tough? Try Being a Pastor’s Wife

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In this week’s TIME magazine, I write about pastors’ wives in an article titled “What God Joined Together.” You may not think of this as a workplace topic; in fact, it runs under the “religion” section banner. But make no mistake, being the wife of a minister is a job–and a doozy of one at that. The story begins:

HELP WANTED: Pastor’s wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth groups, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minister to other wives, have ability to recite Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.

The story continues,

The basic job description for pastors’ wives hasn’t changed in a century. But pastors’ wives have. The rise of megachurches, dual-career couples and women’s independence have complicated the role and in some cases intensified the frustrations. A recent spate of scandals involving prominent pastors has underscored the challenges their wives face. Eight in 10 pastors’ wives say they feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husbands’ congregations, according to surveys by the Global Pastors Wives Network (GPWN); the same number wish their husbands would choose another profession. “Wives’ issues” is the No. 1 reason pastors leave their ministries. The divorce rate among ministers and their wives is 50%, no better than that of the general public.

In recent years, pastors’ wives have found a place to vent. PWs (in electronic shorthand) from Fargo to Fiji reach out to and support one another in lively fellowship via Web-based networks, blogs and online discussion forums. On websites like PastorsWives.org SarahsTent.com and GPWN.tv, they share their thoughts on topics of unique interest, from the banal (recipe ideas for a mother-daughter prayer brunch) to the intimate (how to confront a pastor husband who is addicted to porn). When a Seattle pastor blogged that Ted Haggard’s wife was to blame for his infidelity, PW chat boards lit up in her defense.

Curious about life as a pastor’s wife? Or perhaps you’re a pastor’s wife eager for Internet connections? Following is a guide to the online networks and blogs I reported on in the story.

PASTOR’S WIFE WEB SITES

GPWN.tv
This is the web site of the Global Pastors Wives Network. The web site, launched last September, features lots of video clips instructing pastors’ wives on dealing with issues unique to them–such as how to build a youth ministry, raising children in a pastor’s household, and facing marital issues.

PastorsWives.org
This lively, extensive and popular site features message boards, lessons on how to prepare a devotional, a section on “marriage matters” that includes an article on how to confront a pastor husband who is addicted to porn, and, of course, recipes.

Love, Life and Living Ministries
Stephanie Elzy, the wife of a former pastor, runs this web site for other FPWs–be they divorced from pastors, widowed, or married to men who are no longer pastors. She and her husband Rod also offer marital counseling to pastors’ wives and FPWs.

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Stephanie Elzy, FPW and creator of Love, Life and Living Ministries. / Photo courtesy of Stephanie Elzy

PastorsWife.com
Idaho PW Janice Hildreth runs this fun, sweet site. She writes: “I, no doubt, have a lot in common with you. I took a job for which I was woefully unprepared and have fashioned it into a life I love.” I interviewed Janice and will post her very interesting experiences later.

LoisEvans.org
Lois Evans, a prominent PW based in Dallas, holds forth here. The site and her efforts seem to focus on “senior” PWs, or those with experience in their roles whose husbands lead large congregations.

Family in Focus
This is a collection of articles helpful to pastors’ wives from the satellite site of the Denver-based Christian support group, Family in Focus.

SarahsTent.com
Here’s a site founded way back in 1997 by illustrator Shannon Parish. She writes: “As a wife we often fall between the cracks, have hurts and struggles and unrealistic expectations put upon us that only another pastor’s wife could understand and other women would never dream of! After all…Who better to share our experiences, cry, laugh, vent, pray and encourage, than other Ministers’ Wives?” Sarah’s Tent is “a ministry devoted to gathering together God’s silent warriors, the wives of pastors and ministers of all denominations and cultural backgrounds, as well as their families, for fellowship, support, laughter and prayer.”

PastorsWife.net
Like its name, this is a simple, sweet site with recipes for entertaining and ideas for banquet themes.

PASTOR’S WIFE BLOGS [Lisa's favorites]

Not Your Typical Pastor’s Wife
I love this blog by Amy Andrews, whose intro to her site, WithPurpose.com, reads: “I’m Amy. I’ve got issues. And I’m the pastor’s wife.” She blogs with honesty and believability about issues big and small from her post in Rochester, N.Y.

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Not your typical pastor’s wife: blogger Amy Andrews. / Photo courtesy of Amy Andrews

Rebellious Pastor’s Wife
PW Lora Horn blogs here from her lonely post in rural Garrett, Ind. She’s a homeschooling mom (as is Amy Andrews) with deep, complicated thoughts about faith, knitting and baseball.

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