A few months back, I wrote a post about how you can support your pastor’s wife. In it, I mentioned that because the role of the pastor’s wife comes with so many challenging aspects, there could be a whole field manual for women about to square up with the task. In place of a field manual, though, I thought I’d offer more insight via a few dedicated blog posts. Here’s the third of three.
First, we talked about seminary life. Last time, we talked about the role of the pastor’s wife in the congregation. This time, I thought I’d bring it full circle by touching on the certainty of transitioning from one divine call to another—the impact on the congregation, the family, and the pastor’s wife.
This mode of transition happens for most families in the ministry at least once. Rarely will you find, especially in recent years, a pastor who has remained in his original call until retirement. Some pastors simply accept, after prayerful consideration, calls to a new church—but some transition to other synod positions, missionary work, or chaplaincy. With each of these transition types, congregation members may not understand the process or the pastor’s impetus to leave. Families might have to contend with incredible upheaval in their everyday lives. Wives will also face that upheaval but with all kinds of bonus logistical mitigation. Yay!
Take heart, though—transitions are challenging, just like every other facet of this life we’ve covered, but He who provides for every need on behalf of the lilies and the birds cares about us vastly more.
When the time comes for a pastor to deliberate a new call, his congregation usually waits with bated breath for his decision, often hopeful that he will stay put. If he accepts the new call, the reactions can range from positivity and support to sadness, confusion, and offense—the latter two especially if no overt “problems” or intrapersonal drama exist in that church.
This is on par with human nature. All of us are creatures of habit. We don’t necessarily like when things change in the first place. But what many might fail to perceive is that every call—whether sought for personal reasons or bestowed—is a divine call. Each is a legitimate opportunity given by God. And to respond with heat to a pastor’s departure for a new call can introduce an extra level of difficulty that need not exist, which can impact the pastor, his wife, and his family in a gut-punch kind of way amid everything else that is changing for them as a family in the ministry.
The hope is always that offended responses would not occur, but they might. Thus, it behooves us all as church members to temper our reactions with kindness and understanding in our sadness. It behooves us to educate ourselves about the call process, what a divine call is, and why a pastor might feel the need to move on—and also, perhaps, to appreciate the opportunity to reevaluate ourselves as a congregation in the search for a new shepherd.
Transitioning from one call to the next taxes the pastor’s family, especially if moving to a new city. (The difficulty only grows if a move is out of state or out of the country, but once again, don’t fret! If God asks you to do a thing, He will equip you to do the thing.) Leaving behind a beloved cohort of friends or an excellent school situation is not easy on a pastor’s children. Sometimes, the timing of a transition throws a wrench into the family’s lives as well—perhaps a new call comes just before a child starts confirmation classes with their best friend or just in time to relocate a teenager before their senior year of high school.
These may seem like small things to an adult mentality, but they can be overwhelming changes for our children.
Perhaps a new call places a family in a new country where everyone must learn a new language and adopt a new culture, far away from the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins your children have always had access to.
Or in a position where a parent deploys on an aircraft carrier for eight months and can only communicate via phone calls with ten-second delays, random cutoffs, and the sound of jet engines drowning out parts of the conversation. I can attest to this one!
Suffice it to say that extra grace is needed when a pastor’s family must uproot—not only from within the family but from the local Body of Christ as well.
Now the fun part. Wives. Dun dun dunnnn.
We have the hardest bit.
We are the ones our husband turns to if there is strife in the congregation over leaving.
We are the ones our children turn to if disruption puts cracks in their routines and expectations.
And we are usually the ones who scramble and research and network and knit together a new support system from scratch when transitions take shape. We are the ones who nurture the wellness of our families, taking the lead on finding new schools, doctors, and dentists. Working out new health insurance details. Budgeting with a new salary. Overseeing setup of the new home. Updating every subscription, account, and delivery service with the new mailing address (and then, somehow, attending to our professional endeavors and finding new friends to lean on for our own well-being).
Sounds tough, huh? It is. It’s a lot. And a lot of people outside of the ministry don’t think about just how much goes into it.
But when serving the Lord in the vocations He gives you, is anything ever only on your shoulders?
Nope—and thankfully not! We have hard work, but we do not walk in it alone, and we do not walk in it empty-handed. Periods of transition will test you, but armed with God’s promises, goodness, and direction, they will also strengthen your family. They will refine your own mettle. And, as pastors move into fresh calls to serve as the Lord intends, they will bless the church as a whole, whose members will—more often than not—cradle your family with love and care.
You’ve got this, fellow wife.
The Christian life is often not an easy one. May these brief musings from Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick offer you spiritual encouragement and comfort as you experience all that the Christian life encompasses—grief, happiness, tension, contentment, fear, and joy.