19 September 2015

Minister's Husband: There Is No Handbook

While we have been doing a lot of analysis of our Australian study, we like to keep a fresh perspective by reading articles written by others and from other countries. One topic we have been looking into lately is the role of the minister's husband (who aren't in ministry themselves as a career). It's very difficult to find any solid information on this topic, but we have come across quite a few personal stories and newspaper articles which we are working through and adding to our Clergy Spouse resource page. It struck us that while each person and situation is different, one theme pops up across most stories: There is no handbook. There are no guidelines, expectations, or roles for these men. They seem a bit lost. In fact, they get the sense that churches don't really know what to do with the them!
Now there might be some freedom in that, being able to create a role that suits you is perhaps something that a lot of clergy wives would appreciate. But for a lot of these men they are at a loose end, with nowhere to fit in easily or belong. Sometimes they become the on-call tech guy, or the person in charge of organising working bees. Some choose not to be part of their spouses' church, or are ok with being called a pastor even if they're not, but regardless of the activities they choose, churches seem to see them as just someone else in the church, and not the man married to their preacher. Many men described this as uncomfortable and difficult, but also that it's a challenge they can choose to take up and make their own, especially when finding the best way to support their wife's work.

With so little information and direction, we thought we would see what is out there to support these men as they define their role. We are yet to find much that is helpful. Some articles wanted to provide a way forward for pastor's husbands. One article did this by providing a long list of things that PHs should do (read it here), we found this informative but also a little intimidating (quite a few that seemed based on not causing upset in the church). Another gentleman started a blog as a PH and invites others to join him in discovering how to be a PH (he hasn't written much yet but we wanted to include the link if anyone is interested). We found a university in America who is currently conducting a study with pastor's husbands, but that is all we have been able to find that really looks at helping these men understand and form a role they enjoy.
It's a work in progress from what we can see so far. It seems that people are beginning to see the challenges for these men, but it's early days yet. If you come across something helpful, we would love to read it and hopefully include it for others to use.