I signed up for this

By Jenna Fleming

I’ll never forget the moment when I reached out to a seasoned minister’s wife — and she pushed me away.

It was several summers ago at a convention event when I, a young newlywed, approached this seemingly wise and invested woman for a chance opportunity to meet for coffee and glean from her years of experience. Her response to me was, “I never signed up for this.”

Her words hung in the air like a tightrope that I dared not cross. My first inclination was to judge her, and to be honest I did judge her initially. But after I walked away from this encounter, I considered her words and the heavy heart from which she spoke. She had a backstory, while I was just developing my own.

Come to find out, her story included a wayward child, a busy ministry, and a public life. She never signed up for this.

Two kinds of pastors’ wives

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of pastors’ wives: those who know they are marrying into the ministry, and those who get adopted into the ministry. There are those wives who marry men who never set out for the pastorate, but sometime early (or later) into their marriage, their husbands sense the call of God, enroll in seminary, and enter full-time ministry. Then there are the wives who marry men studying for the pastorate, knowing at the onset they will be the wife of a pastor.

Then there is me.

My story into ministry

I had a personal call from God to enter full-time ministry that became clear to me in college. I did not know what I would specifically do in the ministry, but I did know that my love for the local church and all that swells out of local church ministry (i.e. discipleship, evangelism, social justice, etc.) was not impressed upon my heart by accident.

While in my 20s, I served in local church ministry and was graciously mentored by pastors, a pastor’s wife, and committed lay leaders throughout that season. Professors, seminary wives, and my church invested in me as well. The Lord placed the right people in my life to pour their wisdom, experience, and love into me. I am forever indebted to them.

I met my husband in seminary. He is an incredible man and, though I didn’t know it back when I was preparing for ministry, God was preparing me for him and for our lives together as ministry partners.

That is the beginning of my story, but there are other stories from wives of pastors that are different from my own — stories with their own significance. I have met some of these women, and some I consider personal friends. Every one of these wives has a specific calling to her home, her work, and her church, even if she never set out for any of it.

When I married my husband, I already felt like I had been through a few ministry battles — with some scars to prove it. There have been surprises along the way. But this is just how ministry is. Surprises, both good and bad, are part of it. When I said, “Yes!” to God’s unique call on my life, I did not know what I signed up for, but God has graciously led me to three specific things we should sign up for in ministry:

  1. People. The broken, the wise, the young, the old, the immigrant, the poor, the rich, the believing, the doubting — all of them. We are enriched beyond what we even know by the giving to, and receiving from, the people God brings into our lives.
  2. The Great Commission. Making disciples is what the Christian life is all about. A pastor’s wife has a front-row seat where she can meet missionaries, pray for missionaries sent on short-term and long-term trips from her church, be on mission herself, and see people repent, believe in Christ, and be baptized.
  3. Prayer. The warfare is real. There are enough books and blogs on marriage, motherhood, ministry, and all the rest. I have determined, though, that there cannot be enough prayer. We are daily under spiritual attack, and the enemy is after our marriages and our kids. We need not be fearful about this, but sober in our desperate need for God and His help to guide us in the wisdom of His Word.

If you are a pastor’s wife and are unsure about what you signed up for, be encouraged! God makes no mistakes, and you are not where you are by accident. You are intentionally placed in your husband’s life as his helpmate, ministry partner, and friend. You do not have to be like the pastor’s wife at the church down the road, but be the best pastor’s wife you can be — YOU! That is what you signed up for, and that is who God called you to be.

Pastor’s wife or not, all of us are not where we are by accident. Ask God what He may want you to do with your life. He has intentional plans with you, and the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (see Romans 11:29). Say “Yes!” to the call and in obedience walk with the One who designed you for His glory.

You were made for this!

Published April 12, 2018

Jenna Fleming

Jenna Fleming is a pastor's wife and writer whose credits include LifeWay's Journey Magazine, ERLC, True Woman blog, For the Church, and the Tennessee Baptist Reflector. She received her MA in Worship from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and now serves at home with her husband, Travis who pastors FBC Gallatin,TN. They have three children ages 7, 5, and 2. You can read Jenna's blog at cultivatinglifeathome.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennafleming81.