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The Pastoral Care Of The Pastor's Wife

Sarah Jane Wessels, B.Th., Dip. Biblical Counseling Studies 
Of Ngupasen, South Africa's 
Centre for Biblical-Christian Caregiving

Burnout and depression are no strange occurrences in the pastor’s life. A look into the factors that cause stress in the ministry as well as the effect that it has on the minister discloses the most shocking facts.

Pastors' Wives Hurt, Too!

The pastors’ wife is the secondary, innocent, victim of these stressors that so badly effect her husband. In addition to this there are stressors that affect the pastors’ wife because of her unique position. Many pastors in South Africa left the ministry lately. A psychologist who devotes a large part of his counseling practice to pastors estimates that seventy percent of these cases are related to wives that cannot cope with the demands that the ministry brings about.

Research into high medicine bills of South African pastors revealed that about 73% was stress related.

What's The Problem?

Many congregations have a preset role-prescription for their pastor’s wife. Often times these prescriptions arrive from a handed-down tradition that has long been outdated. She has to cope with baggage that has been the norm in churches since early ages. For instance:

The above mentioned only touches the tip of the iceberg but I am sure you get the drive..

Prescribed Role Expectations

In addition to this the spouse of the pastor develops a role-expectation about what, how and who she should be. She derives this from the role-prescription her husband, the congregation, and society at large have for her. She in turn:

With one or more of these factors present conflict often develops between who she is on the one hand, and who she should be according to the role-prescription of the congregation together with her own role-expectation, on the other hand.

The Results: Guilt...Or Worse!

She ends up with feelings of guilt when she cannot meet all of these expectations and usually end up being trapped in a cycle of increasing guilt feelings, followed by increased efforts to become the person she is expected to be.

This usually leads to severe depression; and all she did to deserve this was to love the guy so much that she married him "for better or for worse" - in many cases unaware of what lies ahead for her.

Typical Stressors

Typical stressors that burden the pastor’s wife are as follows:

Two Reactions To Stressors

1. Anger:

2. Identity Crisis:

Some Suggestions

Though very little is done for pastors' wives this far in South Africa, here's a few suggestions.

1. Pastors wives should form a care-for-one-another (pastor pastorum) system of
their own.

2. Congregations should be made aware of the problem.

3. A care-group in the congregation should be established for the pastor’s wife .

4. A program of pastoral care for the pastor’s wife should be implemented.

The following should be taken into consideration in such a program:

Sarah Jane (Visser) Wessels

NGUPASEN: Centre for Biblical-Christian Caregiving
Post Office Box 90
9585 PARYS
Tel/fax: 27 (0568) 7-1018
South Africa

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:53 PM