How many jobs are there where your spouse comes to the interview with you? Where one partner is hired to do the job, but the other is expected to take on certain roles and responsibilities within the organization? The only one I know is ministry – it is common practice for the position of “pastor’s wife” to be viewed in the church as a vocation, in a way that no other spousal role is. I don’t expect that I will ever be expected to show up at PJ’s place of work and tutor because I am the professor’s wife . . . and as a lawyer’s partner, he might have to go to boring dinner parties, but he’ll never have to come to the office and type up my submissions – nor was he called upon to give his opinion on the carriage of justice before I could be called to the Bar.
I know that Ministry isn’t like any other job –your role is to be a spiritual and moral leader, and this makes a pastor’s home-life more relevant to his job than it is for most other professions (I am referring to pastors as men and their affected spouses as women throughout this post because I have not seen the same dynamic play out in situations in which the wife is the one in ministry).
However, it still makes me uncomfortable. I am sure that there are couples where the man is in ministry and the wife’s true calling is to be in ministry along-side him. However, I suspect that there are an equal number of families in which the wife has a passion and calling that is separate from her husband’s. By relegating her to the role of “pastor’s wife,” she cannot follow her own passions, and her identity is subsumed in his.
A marriage should be a partnership in which each person supports the other in becoming the best individual they can be. I worry that by making pastors wives an annex to their husbands’ ministries, churches (which generally consider marriage to be a sacred and important thing) are undermining the very foundation of this relationship in their leaders, by expecting the support to flow only one way.