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On Being a Wife of a Pastor…

previously published in November 2004

If you asked me over 25 years ago whether I could see myself as a pastor’s wife, I probably would have said no. If you asked me if I could envision myself as the pastor’s wife at a Korean church, I would have definitely said, “No!” Life has unexpected twists and turns that make it unpredictable. I firmly believe that God leads my life, and He has provided me with these unexpected challenges and blessings.

For the past 12 years, I have been married to David D. Kim who happens to be a pastor. Throughout the course of our marriage, he has served as a youth pastor and a senior pastor of five Korean churches from coast to coast. During our courtship, the issue of David’s career and calling was a matter of serious discussion and prayer. I distinctly recall considering whether David and I should get married since I questioned whether I would be a help or a hindrance to his ministry. The skills that seemed most beneficial to a pastor’s wife were lacking in me. I can’t carry a tune or play the piano or any other instrument. I can cook but not traditional Korean food. My Korean language skills are nonexistent (I was adopted when I was about two). David never had any reservations, but I was really concerned. What I knew was that David was the man that I believed that God had meant to be my life partner. I asked God to help me to be the right support and encouragement to him.

Looking back at how God has led is always a rich experience. Despite sorrows or missed opportunities, there is joy and peace in knowing that God has been with me throughout the various places and experiences. When I look back at what gave me the greatest joy, it is the relationships that grow and are centered on Christ that is the most meaningful. I have been able to meet and get to know so many different people at the various churches. At each church that I have been, my life has been made so much richer because of the people.

To be honest, being a youth pastor’s wife has been easier. I was more comfortable with the spoken and unspoken expectations because culturally I had a better understanding of the youth than I did of the older Korean members. My experience as a senior pastor’s wife has been more challenging since I feel I have not been able to establish better relationships due to my inability to speak Korean, age differences and dissimilar cultural backgrounds. I regret not being able to effectively communicate with someone who is ill or grieving. I miss not sharing a good laugh or blessing that God has given. Of course, I have to be more creative and intentional in establishing and maintaining relationships, even though it isn’t always easy.

When my husband was being interviewed by the conference, I was also present. The conference officials constantly assured me that they were interviewing my husband and not me. They wanted to hire my husband. Of course they understood that I would be supporting my husband, but he would be the one shepherding the church congregation. On the other hand, I realize that many church members feel that the pastor’s wife is also hired. The pastor and wife are a two for one deal.

For a while I struggled with my role at the church. I knew that I was not doing what people were expecting. I was not making a lot of visitations (We had just had our first child when we came to the Eugene church). I didn’t call the members on a frequent or regular basis. I was very self-conscious of my cooking skills, since I knew my church members really enjoyed eating Korean food most of all. So we didn’t invite people over very often. I was busy with teaching the children’s Sabbath School, and looking after my young daughter who kept me from mingling more with the members. Being a people pleaser, I wanted to meet the expectations of the members, but I felt that I was falling short. No one told me that I was failing, but I felt that it was unspoken. I didn’t want David’s ministry to suffer because of me. This caused a great degree of internal stress.

I suspect that many pastors’ wives struggle with this. When our sincere desire to serve God, family and the church conflict with external and internal expectations, we lose the enthusiasm and joy that gives us the motivation to go on. Instead of bemoaning my situation, I had to come to an important understanding.

I had to remind myself that I am a member of the church who just happens to be married to the pastor—not much different from a wife of the church elder, husband of the deaconess or any other member. Sure, the pastors’ wives are often held to a higher standard, but why should that be different from any other member at church? I want to attend and participate in church not because I am the pastor’s wife but because of my relationship with God. I certainly would not stop participating at church if my husband were no longer the pastor.

Instead of being a people pleaser I needed to be concerned about pleasing God. I desire to worship God and help in any way that God asks. He has gifted me because of my love for Him, not because God wanted to fulfill people’s expectations.

We are all called to love God and others. Each is equipped with different skills and gifts. Whether we hold a church office, have recently joined the church or have been born in the church, our natural love response is to allow God to use us in any way, regardless of age or any other status—including whether you say, “I do” to a minister.

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