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November 15, 2016

Relating to Staff as a Wife on Staff

By Cathie Heard

Last post I talked about four things to keep in mind when you, as a wife, join the ministry team. In short,

  • It’s not unrealistic and it can be a blessing for you and your husband,
  • But it does represent a new strain that has to be carefully managed,
  • Adding stress at home is not a gain for the Gospel, and
  • Planning ways to manage the awkwardness of your husband being your boss.

You can read my whole post on Being a Wife on Staff here. This post, though, I’d like to zero in on the potentially difficult job of relating to staff as the minister’s wife.

Here are some conclusions I’ve come to while reflecting on the experiences that have come my way over the years while relating to staff as the wife of the senior minister. To begin with, I’ve come to realize that the words of the minister’s wife carry weight. In the past I refused to believe this. I didn’t think of myself as the minister’s wife. I thought of myself as just like everyone else. And I still don’t think my words to a staff person should carry any more weight than the words of anyone in church, which is healthy at one level. But on another level it is unhelpful and naïve.

I’m not just anyone else. I am married to the senior minister and that means, in people’s thinking, I am a version of him. Or maybe in some thinking, I’m a loose canon and might say something to him about them. So my words are weighty. Whether I want them to be or not, they are. If I point out something that can be improved, it can be heard as the boss being critical. If I suggest a direction, I can confuse people as they don’t know if they’re supposed to carry it out (Did the boss say this?), or if it’s just another opinion to be considered and possibly ignored.

Here are three principles I’ve come to over the years:

  1. My words carry weight so it is better if I am not critical. Others will critique (they always do). So, since my words are weighty, I can use them to be affirming. Everyone does work that is good, beneficial, and which has most likely cost them – point out that work and commend them for it.
  2. It’s better if I don’t suggest the direction for a ministry to go in, the right person to carry it out… Unless, of course, I’m in a meeting where it’s the right place to do it, or a role I’ve been given. Otherwise it’s just too confusing for everyone else involved.
  3. Be warm to everyone on staff. On the whole people can be insecure and wonder what you think of them. Be warm. There may  be many people the staff deal with who are critical and even resistant to their ministry. Be warm. There may even be those on your staff who feel a bit lonely. You don’t have to fill everyone ‘s needs – but you can be warm. It helps morale a lot.  That is the power a minister’s wife can have.

Finally, what do you do if things go pear shape and your husband has serious conflict with someone on staff?

I think you need to keep your relationship with staff separate to the one your husband has with them. Take them at face value. They may not be able to do the same back, but you need to in my opinion. Whatever I know behind the scenes, I think it helps to deal with them just as they have presented themselves to me. Not in terms of what they said or did that my husband has confided to me about. That is a matter for them to deal with together.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cathie Heard

Cathie Heard is the wife of Andrew and the other half of a church planting couple that planted EV Church on the Central Coast of Australia 18 years ago. She is an accomplished speaker, particularly in the area of women's ministry and how wives can assist and carry out the Great Commission.

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