From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Commentary: It's not easy being a minister's spouse

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 29 May 2003 15:00:36 -0500

May 29, 2003 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn.  

NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photo of Connie Davis Rouse is available at 

A UMNS Commentary
By Connie Davis Rouse*

"Some were called, some were sent and some just went," a friend stated during
his usual round of "preacher bashing." While I do not necessarily agree or
disagree with his assumptions about ministers, I do think that his analogy
might adequately define the call of the minister's spouse.

Perhaps that is why there are so many failed marriages in the clergy-spouse
community. I am not necessarily speaking about divorce. I am talking about
ministers and their spouses who smile and converse when members of their
churches surround them, yet barely speak to each other in the privacy of
their homes. I am referring to ministers who ignore the problems in their own
families by busying themselves with caring for the families in their
congregations. I am pointing to those clergy who barricade themselves behind
the computer or some great theological project to pretend their problems

Yes, many of these couples remain silently committed until death for fear
that divorce might affect or bring an end to the clergyperson's career.
Silence is traded for whatever honors or privileges the spouses perceive they
receive from being a minister's spouse, and sadly, they stay, too afraid to
get counseling, too afraid that the secret might be revealed. However,
longevity does not necessarily make a successful marriage. Love does, and
when love no longer abides, the marriage is a failure.

Before I married my husband, I never considered that I might one day become a
minister's wife. In fact, the only thing I didn't like about this wonderful
man was that he was a minister. 

It wasn't that I had committed to a life of sin, but I simply had no trust in
"good church folk." Nothing I had heard from preachers' kids about their
lives seemed appealing. My personal interpretation of the church's treatment
of ministers and their families was horrible. My limited assessment, looking
from the outside, was that they were constrained and controlled, not by God,
but by "good church folk."
I, on the other hand, was creative and free, so being married to a minister
was definitely not a life for me. Unfortunately, I fell desperately in love
with the guy. Then the heavens opened up, and he said the magic words. "You
are perfect just as you are, and you don't need to be a minister's wife. Just
be my wife."
So, I "just went." I "just went" with my large baggage in tow, filled with
insecurities and dysfunction from childhood. I "just went" with this patient
and loving man who gave me the support and freedom to be me, thereby giving
me the space to grow and learn at God's pace, not his. At times I have sought
counseling, for I have felt broken and hurt, but I have grown and been richly
blessed, and at the end of the day, I still love God, my husband and most of
my church members.     

Being a minister's spouse is not always easy, whether you were called, sent
or just went. It is difficult at times to keep your identity or to even know
what that identity is. It is especially hard for those of us who "just went,"
unprepared for what we were to embark upon. And for those who married bankers
and lawyers that were called to the ministry after the marriage, the
experience can be devastating. I have learned, though, that God does not
always direct us down paths of ease. Yet, if we trust, God's grace will be
sufficient. God will take a mustard seed of faith and turn it into a

Ministry is extremely stressful. Coupled with the joyous occasions, ministers
are there amid times of sorrow. They work in a world in which the joys often
seem few and the sorrows are many. It is no wonder that so many of our
marriages fail, for the burdens that we carry upon our shoulders are so
great. That is why it is imperative that ministers do not, nor do they allow
their congregations to, place unfair expectations upon their spouses, who may
not have been called to this vocation. 

If it is perfection that clergy seek, then spouses will surely fail. However,
if it is partnership and commitment based on common and realistic goals that
will be mutually beneficial to both partners and to God, then the result can
be a nurturing environment that will foster respect, trust and love for years
to come. 

In the words of the late James Cleveland, "Please be patient with us. God is
not through with us yet. When He gets through with us, we shall come forth as
pure gold." Or if your minister's spouse is anything like me, polished brass!
Yet, by the grace of God, we will indeed come forth. And that, my Christian
friends, is good news for the family of God.	    
# # #
*Rouse is a freelance writer, columnist for the South Carolina United
Methodist Advocate and member of Disciples United Methodist Church in
Greenville, S.C.

Commentaries provided by United Methodist News Service do not necessarily
represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United Methodist Church.


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