Tales of a Male “Preacher’s Wife”

(This is excerpted from my full article featured this month in Sojourners Magazine and on the Sojourners website.)

MY WIFE IS a pastor. Specifically, she’s the senior pastor of a prominent church in downtown Portland, Ore. I’m on staff too, but only part-time, and she enjoys telling people she’s my boss. Technically, I answer to the church board, but people get a laugh about the reversal of “typical roles.”

I get my share of “preacher’s wife” jokes, to which I have a handful of rote responses. No, I don’t knit or make casseroles. No, I don’t play in the bell choir. Generally, the jokes are pretty gentle, but they all point to the reality that few of us will actually talk about: We see the traditional roles of women as less important than those of their male counterparts. And so, to see a man who works from home most of the time and takes the kids to school while his wife has the “high power” job brings everything from the man’s masculinity to his ambition into question.

But regardless of the teasing I get, Amy has it a lot worse. One time, when she was guest preaching at a church in Colorado, a tall man who appeared to be in his 60s came up to her after worship. “That was pretty good,” he said, smiling but not extending his hand, “for a girl.”

Amy and I planted a church in southern Colorado 10 years ago, and we actually kind of enjoyed watching people’s expectations get turned on end when they met us. A newcomer would walk in the doors of the church and almost always walk up to me and start asking questions about our congregation.

“Oh, you’re looking for the person in charge,” I’d say. “She’s over there.” Then would come the dropped jaws and the wordless stammers as they reconfigure everything they assumed walking through the door. Amy’s even had people stand up and walk out in the middle of worship when they realize she’s about to preach.

SEX, FAITH, AND power have been long-time, if not always productive, bedfellows within organized religion. And from what I’ve seen as a “preacher’s wife,” Christianity is at least a generation behind the rest of the United States in figuring out our respective roles and limitations…

To read the rest of the article, visit this link on the Sojourners website, or check out the June issue of Sojourners Magazine.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • http://twitter.com/wg23 Matt Willis-Goode

    A few years ago I was a part of a church planting team. My wife and I and another clergy couple all worked and lived together as we planted an new church/community. In preparation for this experience, the four of us attended the Exponential church planters conference in Orlando, Florida. The keynote speakers were Rick Warren and Allen Hirsch. At the end of the conference, Rick Warren wanted to pray a blessing on all of the church planters. He invited all of the planters to come forward, so he could pray over them. He added that all of the planters wives should come forward as well, because their ministry was just as important. The four of us easily decided that we did not want to receive a blessing that was based on the planters being men, while the wives were the supporting cast.

    • Christian Piatt

      It’s powerful tide to reverse

  • Chad

    For a time my wife was an associate pastor at our church. At one point one of the elderly ladies of the church pulled her aside and told her “You need to let your husband lead.”

  • kash

    well if your wife is telling everyone she is your boss- then your role is obviously seen as lesser!!
    most male pastors would never even treat their wives like that in front of everyone- cause they are equals-your wife and you have some weird sub/dom thing going on – no wonder people are amused- this has nothing to do with people thinking women are inferior -

    • http://www.facebook.com/christiandpiatt Christian Piatt

      Two words: mommy issues.

    • http://twitter.com/jtrane Jim Rice

      I think the point is that she is his boss *at work* (because he’s on staff at the church part-time). As much as I believe in “many gifts, one spirit” and an egalitarian workplace, most of them do have bosses … and that has nothing at all to do with sub/dom issues, weird or otherwise.

      • kash

        regardless, if a male pastor said the same thing, the bloggers would be screeching from all corners
        also if she is his boss- he should probably see that as the reason why people are at first stunned and not because he is apparently doing something womanly

  • Sne(South Africa)

    I also think that that’s not a right thing to do because even if she is he’s boss there’s truelly no need for her to boast about it especially infront of so many people, this degrades you as a man and the bible says that a women should not be superior than a man, a man is always the head of a women and the head of the man is Christ.

  • JimC

    I am a pastor’s husband. Years ago the Alban Institute did a survey of pastor’s husbands and most of them defined themselves as not being like the normal pastor’s husband but none of them could define what a typical pastor’s husband was. As the sole pastor of a congregation she was once asked “Does your husband do the preaching?”


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