Take Care of your Minister’s Wife
By Kathy Barr
What a tragedy we are witnessing in the lives of Mary Winkler and her children. Mary is the woman who was recently charged with killing her husband, a minister at a church of Christ in Tennessee. While we don’t have all the facts in the case, it is painfully obvious that this family was, to say the least, under a lot of pressure. Obviously, financial problems were of great concern to them. It appears that they were being scammed by a company who promised them a large amount of money if they just sent the company some funds. The first question that comes to mind is that of her husband’s salary. Was it adequately meeting the needs of his wife and children? Often, ministers are paid salaries that just don’t cover the bills of even the most budget-minded individuals. Churches need to make sure they are not asking their minister and his loved ones to live in near-poverty. What, possibly, could be some of the other stressors in Mary’s life? Few realize the challenges of being married to a minister. Perhaps if Mary’s church knew what problems she was dealing with, this story would have turned out differently. One of the first things you will probably be told by a minister’s wife, if asked what her problems were, is that it is exceedingly difficult to live up to people’s expectations. Everyone has a slightly different feeling about what a minister’s wife should be like, how she should spend her time, what her home should look like, etc. Trying to keep all the church members happy is an impossible dream, but many ministers’ wives give it their best try. How can church members help with this problem? First of all, pray for their minister’s family. Accept them as they are, realizing they are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Encourage and praise them whenever possible. Another challenge for the minister’s wife, at times, is sharing her husband with the congregation. Oftentimes, she feels she is the least important member of the congregation, and that she and her children’s needs come last. Feelings of guilt are common when she asks for time that could be used by her husband for church-related tasks. Can church members help with this situation? Yes! Churches should tell their minister to take at least one day off a week from his ministerial work and devote it to his family. When he does this, not only will his family’s needs be met, he will also return to work, rested and rejuvenated. Ministerial burnout is much less common in pastors who take time off, both weekly as well as for family vacations. What other challenges does a minister’s wife face? Ironically, even though her life is often full of activities that involve being with people, there are times when she feels lonely. Perhaps church members can ask if there are any needs in her family for which they can pray, giving her the chance to open up about what is happening in her life. Another way church members can help a ministerial couple is by offering to watch their children while they go out occasionally on a date. It is often difficult for the minister and his wife to find time together, and church members can be a big help in this area. What, then, can a church do to help their minister and his wife have fulfilling lives? Most importantly, pray for them, and ask God to give them the strength to help them deal with the challenges in their life. Second, find ways to minister to them when needed – providing babysitting, thanking them for their efforts to build up the church and minister to its members, for example. Third, accept them as they are, imperfections included. When you minister to your minister and his wife and family, you will be blessed in ways you can’t even imagine!
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