Handbook for Ministers’ Wives

Posted on Sep 24 2016 - 10:25am by Rebekah Schrepfer
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Handbook for Ministers’ Wives

Sharing the Blessings of Your Marriage, Family, and Home

Author:  Patterson, Dorothy   
Genre:  Christian Living
Publisher:  B&H Books2002
Tags:  Local Church, Serving, Women's Ministry

Rebekah’s Review


I enjoy Dorothy Patterson.  Her contributions to the complementarian view of womanhood have been invaluable!  This book is also a great addition to the pastor’s wife’s library.  

The main body of the book reads like Emily Post’s Guide to Manners.  She tells the pastor’s wife how to act and even what to wear and what to say in a variety of ministry areas.  Her advice for home life is quite detailed.  Perhaps she was just trying to throw out there as many ideas as possible, but I would be overwhelmed if I tried everything she suggests.  I felt a little defensive for my own way of conducting home life.   For example, she is very structured with her child rearing, and I am not so much. She even devotes a couple of pages to the process of naming your children. However, the reminders of the point of each exercise and habit and tradition was good.

Her Victorian style and suggestions would not work so well in our neck of the woods, and so her belaboring the point was annoying to me.  I would rather have enjoyed wrapping my mind around the Biblical precedents  and principles for hospitality, rather than wade through her numerous suggestions that don’t mean much to me.  I think Mrs. Patterson was desirous to be of practical use to new pastor’s wives, but for me it was a lot of mental clutter to wade through.

It is a handbook after all, though.  So if I ever need to know the protocol for entertaining formally in our home, I have the book to turn to.  I think a lot of her suggestions on gifts and recipes  and hospitality  ideas could be substituted by using Pinterest these days.

This is really for a pastor’s wife who is starting from square one.  Most of the reminders of propriety and appropriateness seemed obvious to me, but I grew up in a ministry family.  A wife who never has been around such situations may truly need these things spelled out.  Where should the pastor’s family sit or stand at a funeral, what kinds of gifts are appropriate, and practical suggestions on how much or how little she should be involved would be helpful to many.  I know some pastor’s wives who need to read this!  And to be honest I need improvement in some of these areas too.  Appropriateness and graciousness is becoming a lost art.

Some sections are written to congregations as admonitions and suggestions in regard to their pastor and his family.  I appreciated her addressing the unique challenges of living in a parsonage.   I also appreciated her discussion on whether a pastor’s wife should work outside the home and whether that is any business of the church’s.  The was a good section on resignations and terminations.  She tactfully discusses difficult ministry hurts.  Just to know that it has happened before to others and the varying degrees of severity, was soothing and helpful to me.

I loved her answering of dilemmas and philosophical questions.  I wish the book spent more time on that, but that’s just me. Interestingly, she holds the view that woman can have a direct call from God to full-time ministry. However, she qualifies it by stating that calling will be within the confines of God’s ordained hierarchical structures.  So while a pastor’s wife may be called directly to that ministry, not all pastor’s wives are called by God for that in particular.  She says,

“Most women who become pastors’ wives never hear a divine call to ministry; rather, they marry men who have had such a call. This fact underscores as never before the importance of seeking God’s will in choosing a life partner. Human love may wane under the strains and pressures of a pastor’s life and work; but when God has been at the heart of every decision, He will supply the strength and wisdom needed for any woman to function ably and faithfully in this role. A ministry wife’s realization of this calling is often a slow unfolding of God’s will through the working of the Holy Spirit in her heart. One thing is certain: God never has separate plans for a husband and wife because He has made the two one in His plan for marriage (Gen. 2:24)” (p. 32).

“I desire to seek fewer self-fulfilling experiences in exchange for more God-honoring obligations. I want to yield personal rights in exchange for God-given privileges. I want to commit my life to begin my ministry for the Lord in my home, focusing on meeting the needs of my household. I want to renew my efforts to be a helper to my preacher-husband in his God-assigned task. I want to expect great things from my preacher-husband and attempt great things with him. I will gladly spend and be spent in all I do for God as the wife of a preacher (p. 77).

“God does not give any woman a blank slate and tell her to write her own job description—to do as she pleases with her life. She is not simply to consider her gifts and training and make her own choices. Rather, He gives you a road map in Scripture with the fixed boundaries and general guidelines and lots of crossroads with choices to be made. Fortunately, however, He also furnishes a guidance system for finding and redirecting you when you get lost along the way. The Holy Spirit is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and He always knows your location and the proper destination. If you let Him, He will get you there!” (pg. 158).

The Kindle version was hard to read because of pull out quotes in boxes.  The formatting was not so good, so you might want to be aware of that if you are considering purchasing it.