By Susan Beacham
I confess that I did not know that March was Pastors’ Wives Appreciation Month until someone told me. Most congregations know about October and Pastor Appreciation Month but I wonder how many are aware that there is a month for Pastors’ Wives appreciation. I think the feelings of being unappreciated, perceived or real, is one of the driving forces behind some of the “negative publicity” we see regarding pastors’ wives.
According to a survey by the Global Pastors Wives Network, “8 out of 10 pastors’ wives say they feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husband’s congregation.” I agree with Joanna Breault’s comment in a Christianity Today article, “My hunch is that many of those congregations do appreciate and accept their pastors’ wives; the wives just don’t know it.”
When Doug and I were pastoring, there were those members of the congregation that I called our cheerleaders. The thoughts of them still make me smile. People like Kenneth Dantzler, Roy Wood, Sarah Wilson, Nell Hartsfield, Lorraine Melton and many others made pastoring a joy. I’m not sure I was fully aware of their effect on my life until after the pastorate when I had time and perspective to reflect. While there were some difficult days, because of our cheerleaders difficulties did not become the defining word over our pastorate.
Another blessing that I’ve come to appreciate more and more is that the Franklin Springs Pentecostal Holiness Church didn’t put expectations on me that were outside of my giftings. I know there are situations where the church expects the pastor’s wife to fill a multitude of positions from music, to teaching, to hospitality. They graciously let me serve in the music ministry but never put any pressure on me to cook dishes for dinners. However, in the beginning of our ministry, because of my insecurity and self-imposed pressure, I thought I needed to serve on the hospitality committee. I will never forget the relief I felt when one of the ladies lovingly let me know that “they’ve got this”. I understood that the ladies were not excluding me but were actually more sensitive than I was to the demands I was making on myself.
In terms of family, I’m thankful that our children have not and do not resent the church because of the demands that can be placed on the family. I’m thankful that we did not have a congregation that expected our children to be the neighborhood saints! They allowed our children to be like anyone else’s. While we did try to model a Christian home, no unrealistic expectations were placed on us.
My final word of gratitude for our pastorate was dispelling the myth that you couldn’t have close friends. The Franklin Springs Church had an excellent reputation in regards to the music program. There were many Sundays when the offertory played by Barbara James and Jesse Brafford brought as much ministry and healing as any spoken word. After both Barbara and Jesse retired from their positions, imagine my fear and trepidation when I was called, not by the congregation or by Doug, but by God to be the pianist at the church. I tried to give Him every reason I could think of as to why this was a bad idea. I took Moses’ lament from, “I can’t talk good to I can’t play good” and “do you know my brother Aaron” to “do you know Carol White”! When He finally asked if I was telling Him no, I surrendered and told Him I would do it, but please send someone who would be patient with me. In an answer to prayer that blesses me to this day, God sent Frieda Thornton. She remains one of my closest friends.
I tell you this to encourage anyone who is currently serving in the calling of Pastor’s Wife. Remember it is a calling and know without a doubt God will equip you and be with you through the marvelous journey. It may be a roller coaster ride with it ups and downs and unexpected turns, but believe me, in the end it is a ride I am exceeding thankful that I didn’t miss!