Some things cannot be taught when it comes to taking on the role of a pastor's wife, says Christine Hoover, a Virginia church planter's wife. Nevertheless, she admits it would have been nice to know what she knows now since serving alongside her husband at the outset of their more than 10 years of ministry together.
"No one prepares you for the first time someone asks you a question you don't have a clue how to answer, the first time someone shares a deeply shocking experience they've had and you must respond, the first time someone criticizes your husband, or the first time you are treated differently because you're the pastor's wife. You step in blindly and find your way," writes Hoover in her blog.
The wife of Kyle Hoover, pastor of Charlottesville Community Church, now embraces the lessons she has learned along the way. However, when she was two years into her marriage and months into ministry with Kyle, she broke down after realizing ministry life was going to be difficult.
When her husband served on staff at another congregation and at the time he planted Charlottesville Community five years ago, she began to realize a new perspective of her role.
"The way we view our role either makes it a burden or eases the burden," Hoover told the Christian Post. "Because I view my role as God's calling on my life, I am free to look to Him for validation, direction, and the strength to faithfully endure. I don't need to look to my husband or to other people for these things."
Although being in ministry for more than a decade has had its rewards, she says she still struggles to balance her role in and out of church.
"In a church plant, the pastor's wife is called on to do everything from leading major ministries to managing the website to hosting events in the home," said Hoover. "I've done all these and more. In all my activity, I've learned that my main role is to be a sounding board for my husband, to pray for him, and to help him."
While serving others in church has been demanding for Hoover (she compares it to a "constant pounding of waves against a rock"), she said she has managed to keep her heart soft and available to God.
"In my worst moments, I would prefer to stop caring, to stop investing my time and energy in others, to wallow in self-pity, or to walk away entirely," said Christine. "In reality, I don't want any of those things because I can't imagine that I'd be truly content doing anything else, so the fight is to keep my heart in the game."
She added, "Ministry, and especially church planting, have been by far the biggest strain on our marriage and family. You cannot be in ministry and simply drift in these areas, because you will absolutely drift into dangerous waters. You have to be on guard and vigilantly protect who you are outside of ministry."
One lesson she's learned and would tell her "younger self" if she could is that one should not allow the title of "pastor's wife" become her sole identity.
"The temptation will come instantly and swiftly, as soon as someone introduces you as 'The Pastor's Wife,' as soon as you receive honor because of your role, and as soon as you start believing that you are what you do," she writes in her blog.
Instead, she suggests that women should learn to create a marriage outside of ministry and nurture other interests.
Hoover also says being vulnerable is another lesson she has learned and one that keeps her from being isolated, as is the case with many women who serve in their husband's ministry.
"The most common misconception is that ministry wives are somehow different than non-ministry wives, that we don't have insecurities or that we don't struggle," said Hoover. "Other women tend to be guarded with us because of this misconception. And they also don't know what to do with us when we share our struggles."
She added, "Another big one is that we are too busy or we have tons of friends, because it's assumed we know everyone, so women don't initiate getting to know us…there are many more, and I can laugh at them now after 14 years of being a pastor's wife."