When Your Spouse Is Not a Minister

by Jennifer Gale

The purple, flower-covered invitation to a “Pastors' Wives Retreat” arrived in my mailbox at the church. As a pastor serving on staff, I smiled. It wasn't the first time I'd been mistaken for a pastor's wife. My fingers slipped through the envelope's seal as I turned the invitation over. Surprise! The invitation wasn't for me at all — it was for my husband!

Moments like these illustrate the unique position of credentialed women in the Assemblies of God, especially those whose husbands are not ministers. Of the 8,132 credentialed women in the U.S. Assemblies of God in 2013, 2,300 (28 percent) said they were married but not to another Assemblies of God minister. Of all credentialed ministers in the Assemblies of God, these 2,300 women represent just a slim 6 percent of the total.

While the joys and blessings of ministry abound, the unique status of these credentialed women and their spouses can result in challenges on several levels.

Professionally, when it comes to filling or creating a space for ministry, ministers and their husbands may find that their marital and professional roles do not meet the initial expectations of potential churches or supporting organizations.

Socially, both ministers and their husbands can feel somewhat out of place as traditional ministerial gatherings or meetings tend to cater to the majority.

Practically, juggling the demands of marriage and ministry is often challenging. Husbands with careers and regular schedules may not always understand the flexibility that ministry demands.

Thankfully, spouses who are mutually supportive of one another and make communication a priority can overcome the challenges this ministry scenario presents.

Couples who are openly supportive of one another's roles may strongly influence those with questions or reservations. For example, people may recognize an encouraging husband as an active partner even if he is not in full-time ministry.

Couples who communicate in advance of ministerial meetings and social events can share their plans for the event, when to attend together or separately, and how to prepare themselves for the possible feelings that may arise in social settings where they are in the minority.

Calendars and computer or mobile phone applications that synchronize events can help ease practical challenges. Beyond the calendar, taking time to communicate expectations spouses have for one another will alleviate many of the tensions that can arise with a complex schedule.

While challenges do exist, credentialed women whose husbands are not ministers enjoy opportunities particular to them. For example, their husbands may provide fresh, outside perspectives to issues, conflicts, and challenges. The work and social relationships these men establish outside the church could lead to significant community connections and ministry opportunities.

Like all ministry couples, ministers and their non-credentialed husbands must discover and embrace the call of God on their lives as individuals and as a unit. Caring support and intentional communication go a long way toward alleviating the challenges of life and ministry.

The status of these couples is unique, and they may not find an easy fit among the majority, but both ministers and their husbands who are not ministers are warmly invited to serve in the Assemblies of God. The invitation is addressed to both!

— Jennifer Gale, vice president of Student Life, Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania