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Pastors' Wives Retreat

Pastors' Wives Resource site provided by the Sunday School Discipleship Ministries International, a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene. We want to hear about your experiences, the lessons you’ve learned and how God’s Word and prayer supported and sustained you in the joys and challenges of parsonage life.

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Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. 1 Chronicles 29:11

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We want to hear about your experiences, the lessons you’ve learned and how God’s Word and prayer supported and sustained you in the joys and challenges of parsonage life.

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The Right Gear Makes all the Difference PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jill Barber   

Two people on MotorcycleWhile I sit on the back of our motorcycle and my husband takes us home from General Assembly in Orlando, Florida, it hits me that our life in ministry is much like riding this bike.  Ministry in itself is an unconventional way of living. Not that it isn’t rewarding and full of blessings, but it is a little different than most other professions.  In a similar way, motorcycling, even as a passenger, is definitely an unconventional way of traveling.  It takes more effort, more gear, driving more defensively, and you feel every kind of weather element there is.  Now, with almost 20 years of ministry and marriage under our belts, my husband and I have realized that with the right “gear” and some extra effort in learning the curves of the “road” and enduring the ever-changing “weather” in ministry, we can live a life of freedom from the pressures and assumptions that ministry often brings.  With this eye-opening way of life, the last ten years have been an unforgettable adventure in serving the Lord.

When we were just starting out in ministry things were interesting.  Freshly married and fresh to ministry is a unique recipe.  Sam (my husband) and I are fourth generation Nazarenes.  That is a wonderful legacy and we thank God for our heritage, but a strong heritage doesn’t exactly help when trying to learn how to maneuver through the curves of ministry that become a part of your marriage.  All we have ever wanted to do was what the Lord wanted us to do, so we dove in.  Thankfully, things went pretty well.  God was gracious and blessed our efforts, but during this time, I was trying to figure out what my role really was.  Sometimes it felt like I had a target on my back and anyone was allowed to aim and fire at will.  I couldn’t figure this out.  All I did was fall in love with a “God-called” man.  I was unprepared for all of the “bumps and potholes”---the pressures, that come along with this life.  Through many tears, times of prayer, and letting the Lord lead, we survived, but there were some pretty dark days. 

Ten years into our ministry and marriage, we were privileged to be on staff at a great church in North Carolina.  Sam was just finishing a graduate degree and, while we were happy in ministry and in our marriage, the role of ministry in our married life was still something that we struggled over from time to time.  It was about this time that the Lord led us to a life-changing place and introduced us to a great leader of the church, our Pastor and friend, Dr. Tim Taylor.  Though we didn’t fully understand it at the time, his strong leadership created for us an umbrella of protection.

In our personal interview during the hiring process, his words felt like magic when he said them.  And when he did, a new life came forth in me.  Here is what I remember.  Pastor Tim went through all of the necessary new-hire items and then he spoke directly to me.  (Incidentally, in what other profession does the wife attend her husband’s interview?) He told me that he wanted to make sure that I knew that he was hiring Sam, not me.  He stressed that if I needed to just be a part of the congregation, that was great with him.  If I felt led to do ministry, that was great with him, too.  He just wanted the Lord to use me as the Lord intended.

Wow! It wasn’t a totally new concept, but no one had ever convinced me that I was allowed to be used by God as He intended, not just as others intended.  Dr. Taylor valued me as a person and a member of his congregation, not just as a “pastor’s wife.”  Not surprisingly, his attitude carried on through the board and leadership was well. I had never known such a welcome freedom in ministry.  For the first time I understood that this was what I was longing for.  This protective covering was one of the first pieces of gear that Sam and I learned to wear for this adventure called ministry.

As the years have sped by, Sam, now a lead pastor himself, has only strengthened and added onto the “gear” that we use for ministry.  While working with church boards and other leadership teams, Sam reinforces the idea that they would be hiring him not me or our son.  Every time this has been brought up, everyone in the room or conversation totally agrees.  Let me tell you, this simple concept has had life-changing meaning for me! I can now experience freedom wherever we go.  I can be totally used by God and lead by Him to do what He wants me to do.  This has also given Ross, our son, the freedom to be himself.  We don’t live in a glass house anymore.

Let me say that I know what it is like to live under a blanket of unspoken expectations and feel the pressure of what I’m supposed to do as the pastor’s wife.  I know many ladies who are still living that way. As independent as I am, I soon discovered that by myself, I could not change that pressure in any way that I tried.  Talk about being frustrated.  Thank God for the example set by our pastor and then continued by my loving husband. 

If you have ever ridden on a motorcycle, especially as a passenger, you know that there are things that you need to make the ride more enjoyable.  You need eye protection, a helmet, the right type of clothes (leather jackets during cold weather, gloves, etc.), rain gear for those rainy days, sunscreen for those hot ones.  All of the above and many more things help to make the ride more fun.  While I was first learning about riding, Sam would give me these things when the time called for it.  I think he wanted me to really enjoy the ride so I would ride again with him.  He was right.  The ride on the road is now so enjoyable for me, that we make plans almost weekly to take a ride.  You see, I know that no matter what may come up, weather changes, pebbles that fly up, or bumps in the road, Sam has already provided for me the gear that will help me get through it without devastation. 

Riding through this life of ministry, Sam has again provided the “gear” for me that protects, shields and guides me through this unconventional lifestyle.  It is a crazy thing in ministry, but full freedom for the wife really comes when her husband creates an umbrella of protection.  In my life, I just needed someone to say that I could be used of the Lord instead of being used by the church.  Sam tries to always make it known that his family isn’t part of his paycheck.  In other words, we are off limits for preconceived expectations.  Within this umbrella of protection, my son and I love to involved! I choose to listen for the Lord’s guidance to join activities and I do those because of the Lord’s leading, not because I am supposed to. 

Life is really short and ministry is sometimes pretty hard. So my heart’s cry for all the couples that find themselves serving is to strengthen their marriage right in the middle of their ministry.  I have witnessed too many couples leaving the ministry due to not knowing how to deal with it in their marriage.  Or there are those couples that just keep trudging through year after year.  I refuse to accept that life in ministry is a long life of suffering!  I don’t have a rule book to make it easier, but I have found a few things that make it less hard and much more enjoyable.

I am a pastor’s wife, but I am first my husband’s wife.  This is the perspective that keeps me focused and lets me live a healthy life in ministry.  I do need to say that if it were not for Sam’s willingness to be sure I had the right “gear” for the ride, we would still be searching and looking for something to make our life better.  It is not always up to the pastor’s wife to “find her way” in ministry.  I proclaim that it is upon the husband to provide her with the “gear” that she will need as they travel this unconventional life together. 


Jill Barber is a business woman living in Gahanna, Ohio.  She is the wife of Sam and the mother of Ross.  Jill loves open hearts and open highways...and also being a pastor's wife.


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