Thoughts from a Pastor’s Husband

This week our From the Shepherd’s Nook post is by Chuck Shirey, husband of pastor-teacher Alice Shirey (about whom I say a few things in my Junia Is Not Alone).

Thoughts from a pastor’s husband…

Most would not consider ours to be a typical pastor’s family. My wife is not a typical pastor, and I don’t just say that because I think she is extraordinary. It is just true. Both of us went to seminary; she has an MA and I am the one with an M.Div. But calling doesn’t always follow education. I happily work in the financial industry, and at age 35 while running a small business and raising 3 kids, Alice learned she had the gift of teaching. So fourteen years ago she entered her career as a teaching pastor serving the first seven of those as a lay teacher.

So, I don’t speak for every pastor’s husband. At the same time, I wonder how many pastors’ husbands feel atypical.

Here is some of what we have learned over the last fourteen years:

1.)   One of the most powerful ways I can support her is to honor her call. It is good to rejoice in each other’s giftedness. I am thrilled that my wife has the gift of teaching and that our church recognizes, uses, and honors that gift. I learn from her and am challenged by her teaching. I love to talk to her about what I am learning, about how God uses her gift to teach me, and about how grateful I am she is stepping fully into the gifts God has given to her. The most powerful thing a pastor’s husband can do is drop his ego and cheer his wife on!

2.)   I recognize how invigorating but also draining Sunday morning is for her. Many Sundays she will have preached 3 back-to-back services often for over 1,000 people, while other Sundays she has to press the speed limit to get from one rural venue to the next for overlapping worship services.  Her particular teaching style, though steeped in research, prayer, and study, is also personal and full of honest stories about our life, her life, and very often, her struggles and failures.  It didn’t take long to realize that she is spent when she finally arrives home. For many, Sunday is a day of rest, but not for teaching pastors. Their heart has been on their sleeve all morning and is often a bit battered at the end of the run. She gets responses across the spectrum from being a 65 year old man’s favorite teacher to having visitors walk out because they did not expect or believe in the validity of a female preacher. A freshly prepared omelet, virgin Sunday newspapers, and a turned down bed seem to be the least I can offer. These simple gifts are often met with a weary and very grateful smile. When the kids were young, they joined in this process and knew that mom was “off the grid” for the rest of the afternoon.

3.)   We intentionally see ourselves as a partnership – in life, in work, in parenting and in ministry. This is how we work best and how we avoid competition or a division between sacred and secular. Her work makes my work more meaningful, yet I also love to help her edit her teachings. I love talking with her about what she is learning and adding my ideas or perspective or questions. She often tells me that she would not be able to do what she does without my support. She engages me in theological conversation and honors my “I don’t work in the church” opinions. She feels free to tell me when she receives accolades or great feedback from congregants, and just as free to tell me when she is criticized or her gift is questioned due to her gender. This creates fierce discussion in our home, as you can imagine.

Mutual support, sacrifice, and engagement in each other’s lives are how we attempt to honor God and one another. I am her biggest fan though our dog is a close second!

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.

  • John W. Frye

    Thanks so much, Chuck. May God richly favor you and your family. I give a hearty “high five” to Alice. May many more sisters rise up to join her in God’s vast kingdom work.

  • Lise

    Lovely.

  • Brenda

    I hope the beauty of this couple’s story inspires 1,000+ more to go and do likewise!

  • Ron D

    Chuck and Alice – God continues to inspire and bless others through you. Thank you so much!

  • Jon Altman

    What does the term “teaching pastor” mean? Is there a difference between that and a “preaching pastor”? Understand that I am a United Methodist in Mississippi, where most of us preach, teach, visit, administrate, and do pretty much everything else that a pastor does.

  • Len Hjalmarson

    My wife and I are about to embark on this journey. At the moment the perception is that I am the teacher — an author with a doctorate. In reality my wife has profound gifts in this area and we are being called as a couple. Now I get the fun of watching her spread her wings!

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com AbbessBrown

    Awesome, Len! Blessings to you both. Lucky congregation…. 8)

  • Len Hjalmarson

    thanks Peggy :) I see this as our chance to practice a model I have long admired — the Abbot (pastor) guarding the inward life of the community and the Bishop (apostle) guarding the missional life. Of course we aren’t alone in this — there are other pastors, teachers, evangelists etc already at work.

  • maribeth64

    Thank you, Chuck. What a vision you’ve given of not just supporting Alice’s keen spiritual gift of teaching, but partnering with her as a sounding board, editor and more. Alice is a perceptive, knowledgeable and gut-honest teacher…how lucky I am to attend her church!

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com AbbessBrown

    Awesome! Will Betty be the Abbess! :)

  • Len Hjalmarson

    In my thinking yes — but you know how this goes. As Anne Lamott puts it, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” ;)