Even though almost everybody admits that the pastor's wife is a church member just like anyone else, something more might be expected from her simply because her husband is in charge of the church community. If within that community she does not perform her assigned duty, even though it is not a written law that the pastor's wife is responsible for it, there is a tendency to ascribe this deficiency or failure to her more than to any other sister member in the church.
There are certain types of responsibilities which seem to be expected of the pastor's wife: taking care of children, playing a musical instrument, being knowledgeable about good nutrition while also being an excellent cook. Without the ability to do these, she does not meet the expectations of the church members and that may give rise to painful comparisons.
But are there actually responsibilities which suit the pastor's wife more or less specifically? Or can she take on whatever needs to be done? Every human being is unique, a fact which contributes to the beauty and richness of the world. Yet there are tasks—both at home and in the church—which have to be done, and for that purpose we all must work together, using the talents our Lord has bestowed on us.
Fortunately, all pastors' wives do not have the same talents. It is a useful policy to have our pastor husbands transferred from one place to another because the churches can benefit from the various types of gifts of each new pastor's wife. In my opinion, there is one thing which is indispensable in our ministry: availability. Some people think that a pastor's wife must necessarily hold only certain types of responsibilities, conferred as a matter of routine, but let us heighten our church members' awareness of the particular gifts the Lord has given to each pastoral wife.
Apart from her individual talents, the pastor's wife brings with her a specific stock of experience gained in other communities. That experience can be of service to church members.
Although I believe that all the position requirements and responsibilities outlined in the Church Manual for any church member can be conferred on the pastor's wife, there are two reasons why I do not think it is always judicious to apply it:
I. Some church members may be suspicious of the similarity of views coming from the pastoral home, and the pastor and his wife may bring pressure to bear at the Church Committee's meetings.
2. Sometimes the pastor's wife holds an important responsibility for many years, preventing other church members from gaining the experience and from growing. After that pastor has left, such a church often finds itself deprived of healthy spiritual food.
How, then, can we reconcile the notion of availability with the growth of the gifts? Again, I believe that the pastor's wife could accept a responsibility when no one else can assume it. However, she must consciously work to train other people for that responsibility so that when she leaves, there are those members who can readily take her place.
It would be good for the pastor's wife to view church members as people with potential talents which can ultimately be developed. She holds a privileged position because of the ministry of her husband, who knows each member's problems and aspirations. Therefore she can, with a positive spirit, encourage them to blossom in one department or another. Thus she can discover new talents which will enrich the church.
Ideally, with her wisdom, availability, sensibility, insight and experience, the pastor's wife will not find that one responsibility takes up her time more than another. Instead she should make herself available to support, to help, to counsel, depending on the needs of the church members. Her "status" confers on her no particular authority, but she is chosen to be an advisor by those who can see in her someone to turn to, a person worthy of trust and of esteem, one whose opinion is deserving of respect.
I feel this is perhaps idealistic, and what is ideal cannot always be carried out in reality. Yet let us begin by showing faithfulness in the least of things. Let us win the confidence of the members by faithfully accomplishing our tasks without imparting unwanted advice or without setting ourselves up as models. Instead, let us work painstakingly, remembering that we owe an explanation to Someone greater than ourselves—Someone who will one day weigh up our work in the light of the Gospel and its principles.