After a talk I did last week, I've been reflecting on the diversity of clergy families and their experiences. It can be difficult I must admit, writing so frequently about the negatives of ministry life, and I truly hope one day when I'm asked I can say all the experiences are positive. But for now, perhaps it's ok to be the one who bears difficult news in the hope that very soon it won't be news, but the past.
Speaking of starting conversations, I've been reading more about the lives of Pastor's Husbands (PHs) recently, trying to understand if there are any differences compared to Pastor's Wives. I've been surprised by how little I've been able to find, but also what I have found is quite different to what clergy wives experience. We've added some personal stories to our resource page, but I wanted to share three experiences that have popped up over the articles I've read and see what you think of them.
- Flexible! Generally speaking clergy wives are expected to be in a joint ministry and participate heavily in church activities. Pastor's Husbands however do not have these expectations on them. In fact, there is the expectation that they will have full time jobs outside of the church, but also feel welcome to join in where they wish to at church.
- Stand Down. Several PHs have mentioned the difficulty of stepping aside to let their wives handle difficult situations or criticisms. They naturally want to help protect and care for their wives when they are confronted with these difficulties but are learning over time they have to accept they are a listening ear or comforting shoulder instead of a protector.
- I'm Not A Pastor! There seems to be a bit of confusion in churches what to call PHs married to the minister, if the pastor has a title, why not their spouse?! This can lead to the assumption that the husband is also a Pastor when they have no theological training or desire to be in paid ministry. I love this summary: "I have had more than one person try to call me a pastor- which is odd since I have no pastoral training, don’t have a formal job in our church, and have no standing within our denomination. I don’t deserve, nor do I want a title. One young lady from the youth group called me “Pastor Mitch” a couple times, so I started calling her “Admiral”. She had the same right to her title as did I mine. It was a running joke for a few Sundays." - Mitch (see article here)
The role of Pastor's Husband has not had as long to be defined as the Pastor's Wives so there seems to be a lot of ambiguity regarding their role in the church, their spouses' life and ministry. Perhaps this is a good thing. There is room to create their own definition of the role rather than fit into a preconceived one.
If you would like to join the conversation, we'd love to hear about your experiences! For more articles about clergy spouse life, visit our Library.