What does your spouse do? (by PW)

It’s been awhile since our friend “PW” sent us a post. She is a pastor’s wife (PW) and often speaks about what it’s like to be the spouse of a pastor. Some today would like to think this is not an issue; but it still is. So, this post today might bring things into perspective:

How do you (Mr or Mrs PW) describe what your spouse DOES for a living?


In my employment, I work with people from around the world. It is really like being in world missions through working in a multi-national corporation. I have a younger coworker, who I have known for over a year and a half, who comes from a mixed Muslim/Hindu background. He has a number of reasons why he is embracing life the USA. One reason is that his immediate family has suffered persecution for their religious beliefs first in Iran, then the family fled to India and again suffered persecution in India.

Recently, he sent me a cute joke having to do with the roles of men/women in the home–the role of the man is to make the coffee in the home because of the NT scripture “HE BREWS.” I knew he wasn’t necessarily from a Christian background. It opened up the opportunity to discuss what my husband does for a living.  

I told him that my husband DOES brew the coffee in the morning. He replied: “Then, he must read the Bible, yes?”  I replied, “Do you know what my spouse does for a living?” You never know exactly how to describe what your clergy spouse does for a living when you discuss it internationally. I try not to give them more than they can chew in one sitting.

This individual was careful and considerate in the dialog. I first asked: “Do you understand what clergy do here in the USA?” His first response was, “He gives sermons?”  

I answered, ” Yes, that is part of what he does.” 

He replied, “Let me guess, he hears confessions, does christenings, prays…”  

I replied, “That is a good start!” 


We then discussed how there are many things that go into “being a clergy” in our community of believers–even the aspect of running a non-profit organization. 

And then, he asked me this: “Do such good people ever have time for themselves, or make any kind of money for their own living ? How do such people survive without any basic standard of living?”

I think that this person has quickly and honestly grasped that a clergy of the sort that I described was a caring person who has worth. I do not always get that sincere of a response from someone who learns my spouse is a clergy member.  It is often hard to describe what our spouses do, let alone to such a caring soul. How would you describe this context for someone who has no idea what clergy do?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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