December 12, 2017

The Life of a City Pastor’s Wife

Tirrell Van Gelderen

Before we came to our present city pastorate, my husband and I ministered in a small town church on the western slopes of Colorado. The thought of coming to a big city and a large church frightened me. All kinds of thoughts flashed through my mind. I was especially concerned about my responsibilities to the church and my home. Could I be everything to these people that God wanted me to be? And could I be the right kind of wife and mother as a city pastor’s wife?

After moving we found city people as friendly as people in a small town. But we did notice that the vast distances and busy schedules do make a difference in how often people can visit with the pastor. This became one compensation of being in the city pastorate — our people respect their pastor highly and leave him time for his private life.

Of course, there have been adjustments to make within our home, too. The major conflict is that a pastor is extremely busy in city work. He and his wife can find themselves neglecting each other and their children if they are not careful. When we moved into the city pastorate the first of our five children was 13 years old, the youngest four months. We desired to be in the best possible place to rear our children during these important years in their lives. When God made it unmistakably clear that it was His will for us to come to the city, we felt we could entrust our family and future to Him.

From the beginning we have tried to avoid neglecting our family life. My husband and I go out together at least once a week without our children. To keep our family close together we plan activities for and with our children and see that we always keep our promises to them. The quality of time spent is more important than the quantity.

We want our children to feel that the Gospel ministry is the greatest call in the world and that the greatest privilege a child can have is to grow up in a pastor’s home. To achieve this, we try not to complain about the church or its people in front of the children. Also, we trust God to keep us from seeming to be paying a great price by being in the ministry. Our children do share the burden of the ministry, and our older ones spend extra evenings out visiting. Some would say that being faithful to the Gospel is a sacrifice, but I would count it a joy in spite of the sorrow. The greatest reward has been to see those that God has allowed me to help grow and mature in the Christian life. Many of them take time to express their thanks to me, and this is reward indeed. Just the other day, friends from our first pastorate wrote thanking us for the way God has used us in “building up the body of Christ,” particularly in their lives and the lives of their children. Last Christmas, friends wrote thanking us for shaping their lives into what they are today. One of the young women in our present pastorate wrote me recently to thank me for being a “real spiritual mother” to her, and another to express thanks for my “love, kindness and concern.”

The Bible says that elders are not to be “lords over God’s heritage, but … ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Therefore, as an elder’s wife, it is my responsibility to provide leadership to the women more by example than by authority. It is not so important to be perfect as it is to be Christian. Mistakes will come; but if they are of the head and not the heart, they will do little real harm. Never pretending to be more than you really are will go a long way in winning the respect of the church women.

Perhaps you’re a step away from being a pastor’s wife. What advice would 1 give to a young woman whose fiancé or husband is going into the ministry? I would say with Titus and Timothy, love your husband, “be … faithful in all things,” and “be … obedient” to him (Titus 2:4-5; I Timothy 3:11). If he is God’s good man, he needs your constant love and support. Never talk about your husband behind his back or tear him down to his face. Give even constructive criticism privately. To further help him, I would advise that you watch your tongue. It is very easy to fall into a trap that can cause you or your husband great grief. Other women will soon learn that you do not enjoy talking about or hearing gossip about others. Realize also that an important testimony before the church people is how well you control your children (1 Timothy 3:2, 4).

Be a prayer warrior, too. God can change people and circumstances for your husband without your saying a word concerning either. Remember that the main part of your ministry will be this. When God called your husband to be a pastor, He automatically called you to be a pastor’s wife. Rejoice in the privilege and use it to the fullest for His glory!

Mrs. Tirrell Van Gelderen was the wife of the late Wayne Van Gelderen who served as pastor of Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Chicago.

This article first appeared in Faith for the Family, July/August 1975. It is republished here by permission.

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