We started looking in the last issue at the subject of expectations. This month we want to continue with that subject, and consider where expectations come from.
Some expectations come from the congregation. Sometimes they are an old tradition that someone started years ago, and they expect you to continue. “We want you to lead the children’s ministry, just like all the former pastor’s wives have done.” Sometimes these are more than expectations—they are in written in the church’s constitution and by-laws. Let me just say if they are written out in such a way, then you better know what you are getting into before you go there.
Other expectations come from the false assumption that when they hired your husband, they hired you too. You know—the old two-for-one expectation. “Oh, by the way, we need your wife to be in charge of all the ladies ministries. And also we need her to be the Sunday School superintendent.” I read of one pastor’s wife who was told that she would make her husband more marketable if she would learn to play the piano! That is pretty extreme.
Other expectations come from desperate needs in the congregation. “We hope your wife has musical ability. It would be so nice to hear the organ again. And she can oversee the special music for the services.”
Then there are always those that are outspoken busybodies that think they have to keep you straight. “Oh my dear, I know you are new here, but that dress is much too casual.” Or, “Our former pastor’s wife NEVER wore her hair that short.”
Then there are your own personal and family expectations. Many times, the pastor and his wife will have greater expectations of themselves than their congregation has of them. As they try to meet those expectations, they soon get frustrated. In reality, in any congregation, hardly anyone expects you to be flawless, to be all things to everyone, or to perform all aspects of ministry perfectly at all times. Many expectations are self-imposed.
Personal expectations can come from childhood memories. Maybe you had a special pastor’s wife that you looked up to while you were growing up. Trying to be just like and do all the things that she did will cause great frustration and disappointment in your life.
Some expectations come from you wanting to impress others. Maybe you know a pastor’s wife that others look up to, so you try to be just like her. If you are more concerned about what others think than about what God wants you to do, you are going to wear yourself out trying to impress them with how wonderful you are.
Some expectations can come from your own idealism which says, “A pastor’s wife is supposed to be a charming hostess, a spiritual leader, a loving wife, a perfect mother, and an immaculate housekeeper.” So you try to be perfect in everything you do, and knock yourself out trying to show everyone that you meet all those requirements.
Expectations can come from problems between husband and wife or a lack of communication. Sometimes you may agree to do something that your husband does not want you to do. Good communication between you and your husband is vital.
So how do you handle everyone’s expectations? Who does a minister’s wife listen to? Who can she talk to? What is she to do? Where does God fit into this picture of 100 different voices telling her what to do? There must be a better way than being pulled through life kicking and resisting. There most certainly is—and we will look at that in our next issue! But here is a hint: you only need to please two people in your life—God and your husband!
Beverly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and Doug Hammett have been married for over 35 years. Since her father was a pastor and her husband was already a pastor when she married him, she is well acquainted with the blessings as well as the problems of the ministry! Bev’s favorite things to do are read and spend time with her family.
In Autumn of 2010, Doug stepped aside from his position as senior pastor at LVBC to reach and train men in Botswana and South Africa. Beverly continues to write for our ladies publication, giving her unique perspective of life in the ministry, and now life on the mission field. You can read more about their ministry here.