Home > Ministerial Spouses Association > Resources > Ministerial Spouse Leaders Toolkit >
LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01Susie M. Hill, Ph.D., an educator, celebrates being a minister’s wife, mother of two adult children, and grandmother to three grandchildren. She’s a Certified Family Life Educator, a certified family consumer scientist, and author of My Secret Weapon: Unlocking the Explosive Inner Power of a Woman.
Embracing Courage:
How to serve without fear
“Do you love God?” and “Do you love people?”
Those were the two questions I was asked as my then-boyfriend was being hired to work as a pastor. I had no warning that those questions were coming. I only knew that I was in love with a man who loved God. Even he had been in a quandary about whether to major in journalism or theology.
Well, before I knew it, I had made the promise to marry a minister (something I had said I would never do). It’s amazing how we think we know what is best for us. I spent my teen years with one goal in mind: to graduate from high school, go to college, get married, and then live happily ever after with my husband (not a pastor). I didn’t have a clue about ministry, nor did I know any pastors’ wives other than the one at my church.
Growing up, I had struggled with insecurity and my identity. This state of mind was so bad that as a student I never raised my hand to answer or ask questions during class. It was bad. So when I found myself newly married to a pastor and living in a five-church district, I was a bit terrified. Just as we started our first district, an older pastor’s wife gave me a book called How to Be a Minister’s Wife. I read it and proceeded to follow the prescriptions that were given: 1) A minister’s wife lives in a fish bowl, so be very careful what you do. 2) A minister’s wife is never to have close friends, because this would not send a positive message to other members.
So I walked through each church door mindful of what I had read. Our first district did not have a pianist, so I volunteered to play for weekly services. This was not a problem for me, because if a song was in the hymnal, I could play it. However, I never got up front to say anything; I just could not do that.
When we had children, I decided I would stay home with them until they entered first grade. While completing my B.A. degree in home economics, I had realized that this was the only field of study concerned with preserving the family. That was right where my heart was. However, the decision to stay home meant we would have a smaller income to live on. That’s when I used my education to my advantage by baking bread, sewing my clothes, and looking for bargains wherever they could be found. I even tried sewing a pair of jeans for my husband. (I don’t think he wore them more than twice.) All I know is that I was trying desperately to do the best with my decision to raise my children. For several years I had little-to-no contact with other adults during the week and limited contact with church members during weekly worship services. I did not know it, but I was suffering from power loss.
I wondered at times if I was conveying the message of who I was. But only after thirty years of ministry did I recognize the bottom-line issue for me as a pastor’s wife. My insecurity and introverted personality were just a cover for the fear that had been controlling my life. It was then that the Lord directed me to read and claim the promise found in Psalm 46:1, 2, 7: “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore I WILL NOT FEAR. The Lord of hosts is with me” (author’s paraphrase).
It took years before I came into the knowledge of what fear was doing to me. Fear kept me from seeing who I was. Fear kept me from seeing beyond my present. Fear of what others might say or think kept me from doing what God was calling me to do. Philippians 1:6 says, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
It was reassuring for me to have a husband with twenty-year projections for our future as a family. Every year he would write out his personal goals, as well as our family goals. Somehow I thought that my supportive role would make us both look good. I found out after many years that I needed to set my own personal goals that would allow me to grow and develop in areas of my life that needed strengthening.
For example, the Lord woke me up one Sunday morning, and I said to my visionary husband, “Honey, I think I want to get my doctorate.”
This stirred him. “You do?!?”
In thirty minutes he returned to the room with a printout, saying, “This is what you’re going to get your doctorate in, and this is where you are going to get it.” Now wait, you have to understand that this was not the norm. It just felt safe to follow my husband in his dreams. Only when I had nearly finished my doctoral studies did I realize what fear had done, and was continuing to do, to me. I allowed the fear of what others thought, of what they would say, of what they would do, to keep me from experiencing what God had in store for me. He had a plan for my life as a pastor’s wife.
True, I had never raised my hand back in school; at the time, I couldn’t see beyond my present. I felt so unnecessary. When I married, I thought my husband would take away my insecurity and replace it with confidence. I thought he would erase all the hurt and pain from my past and turn it into joy and happiness. I used my past as a crutch by saying, “I am the sum total of my past experiences” (all the negative ones). It was not until I was in the last two classes of my doctoral program that FEAR almost took me out. Then the Lord reminded me of His promise—that He had started a work in me, and He was going to finish it (Philippians 1:6). It was the most challenging and most meaningful experience of my life.
The Lord has taken me from an insecure little girl and brought me to the place where I, a pastor’s wife, recognize that I have gifts and talents that I am required by God to use for others. You may ask, whatever happened to the fear in my life? Well, I still have fear as I mount each platform to speak or to render special music, but I have learned to give God my fear. He takes it, and then He does His work through me. You see, “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore I WILL NOT FEAR. The Lord of hosts is with me” (Psalm 46:1, 2, 7, author’s paraphrase).   
Many pastors’ spouses share in the struggle to know who we are and become confident in our role. Expressing our femininity in ways that truly communicate our identity is a major challenge to pastors’ wives in the twenty-first century. Likewise, male spouses of women clergy break new ground in establishing and expressing their identity with very few role models.  Do not allow fear to dominate your life. Each pastor’s spouse has been given gifts to be used in the context of who you are. You may not be a pianist or a singer, but as one minister’s spouse said when a member instructed her to go play the piano during a church event: “I have other gifts.”
Finally, although your personality is important, your character is more important because it shapes your personality. Regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, multi-talented or profoundly gifted in one area, let God use you where you are. Do not let fear keep you from experiencing the joy of service that the Lord reserves for you.
Helpful Resources:
My Secret Weapon: Unlocking the Explosive Inner Power of a Woman, by Susie M. Hill, www.drsusiehill.com
The Ecstasy and the Agony of Being a Pastor’s Wife, by Hester Philbert,
Global Pastors’ Wives Network (www.gpwn.org)