Pastor’s Wives: A Call for Compassion in the Stages of Change

By Darlene Dryer

One of the redundant tasks of replant and revitalization is initiating change in the church. How can we redeem these circumstances as another opportunity to love the people God has handed us to shepherd? How can we find compassion for the congregation struggling with change?

Change comes in five stages: pre-contemplative (Pessimist Peggy), contemplative (Calculated Carol), preparation (Prepper Patty), action (Action Alice) and maintenance (Maintenance Maddy). If we can identify where the struggling member is in the process, we might be able to understand them better so that we can love them better.

My husband recently preached on Revelation 2:1-7, the Church of Ephesus.[1] As I heard Josh speak, I thought to myself, “Wow, John is describing a church in revitalization!”  If we understand the lampstands to be the churches and the stars to the preachers/shepherds, then we can see ourselves as wives to the pastor in the struggling church and what we can become if we lose sight of compassion for our members while leading them through change.

John begins by commending the church for getting the evil out of the church and testing the false teachers. (I started to pat myself on the back. I can see we are doing this!) John continues by telling them that he sees them in their toil and patient endurance to uphold the truths of the gospel. (Thank you, John, thank you for noticing my hard work!)

However, he then scolds them. The church has forgotten their first calling: love! What? I have to do all this and still love the struggling congregants? Ladies, are we not guilty of this? I know I am!

We can be so focused on making the church pure, holy, pretty and heading in a direction of righteousness that we forget to love others on the way, as we are “doing church.” It is easy to love the ones who are on the same page as us. I don’t think John was saying, “Hey, love the easy one more.” He was saying, “You have abandoned your post to love your sheep, the difficult ones.”


Then he calls the church to repent – or the lampstand will be removed. Ninety-year-old John has been around the block a few times in the church. Sitting in the pew that night hearing those words, I felt like John would have told me to fix my face and start being nicer to people as they journey through change – or else! I had abandoned my first calling to God’s people! I am to love them as he first loved me. (John 13:34-35) I should be overlooking offenses (Prov. 19:11).

Reflecting on this, I thought about Peggy, Carol, Patty, Alice and Maddy – the five stages of change. It would be good for us to recognize the privilege of the pastor’s wife in the change process.

  1. We get to hear our husband’s prayers about the change long before the congregation hears it. We discuss with our own internal Pessimist Peggy in our prayers as we place value on the considered change.
  2. Then we move on to Calculated Carol and sort out the what-ifs and how this change aligns with our husband’s long view of the church.
  3. We then get with Prepper Patty in our mental space and count the cost. We don’t have to consider the sentimental attachment because we don’t have a long history in the church, but we do have to think about how we are going to fit yet another time-consuming project into our schedule.
  4. By the time the idea of change hits the business meeting and a committee is named (wink), we have already moved into Action Alice mode and are champing at the bit to move forward.
  5. We have already figured out with Maintenance Maddy how we can keep this mistake from happening again.

It is easy to forget that the congregation will need time to go through all the stages of change as we did, at their own pace.

How can I walk with these members in love? How can I reach out to them with compassion as they see an establishment, to which they have been giving to for decades, undergo change? They were once Maintenance Maddy, setting new standards and now they find themselves as Pessimist Peggy. How can we usher them into the realm of doing new things?

Does this look like writing Peggy a heartfelt card to acknowledge their service and dedication to the church and thanking them for keeping the lights on? Do we have Carol over for coffee and ask her how her kids are doing in college? Can we hug Patty on Sunday and whisper to her how much you depend on her stability? I pray for you sweet sister, to turn your frustration into compassion _ and whatever you do, do it in love.

This is the third in a three part series on dealing with change as a pastor’s wife. You can find the other two parts here:

Part 1   Part 2

¹ Josh Dryer, Fifth Street Baptist Church, Sermon. Sept. 17, 2023.

Published May 14, 2024

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Darlene Dryer

Wife to an amazing pastor husband, mother to three beautiful daughters, leads NAMB Replant Spouse Care and Development, and counselor to the strongest women in the world. Darlene has a master's degree in Christian Counseling from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Doctor of Ministry in Counseling from Liberty University. She enjoys homeschooling her girls, being in and around the ocean, and traveling!