A new curriculum for pastors' wives and women ministry leaders seeks to combat what many in the ministry call "life in the fishbowl."
Pastors' wives voice a lot of frustration over their inability to "be real," said Trudy Johnson, a Christian Marriage and Family Therapist, who developed the material.
A former pastor's wife once counseled by Johnson told her, "I just want to be a normal person. I'm leaving my husband and the church because I don't want to be in ministry anymore. I want to be a normal person."
After extensive research and counseling of pastors' wives, Johnson said she came up with the idea for the curriculum – titled "The Mask or the Vine" – because she began to realize that many pastors' wives "are in such need for guidance, direction and understanding," and sometimes they don't always get that.
The relationship therapist who has degrees in Biblical Counseling uses the curriculum at a new retreat facility for ministry leaders in the heart of the Rocky Mountains called "Sanctuary" and calls the retreats, "A'nesis Retreats."
"While the beautiful Sanctuary setting is ideal for the retreats, it is hard to coordinate schedules and funds to get three women at a time to Colorado, so I decided to bring the retreats to them," Johnson said in promoting the curriculum. "I knew I was on the right track when I started getting requests for the curriculum in this format before I finished writing it. The heart of God is reaching out to help these faithful servants who are so isolated and exhausted."
Shay Taylor, co-pastor with her husband at Rebirth Christian Fellowship, acknowledged that life is indeed in a fishbowl, but she told The Christian Post that she loves being a pastor's wife.
She said she thinks it's important for pastors' families to be under the limelight because it is a good indicator of whether or not that pastor is living what he is preaching. "Our ministry is based off of our testimony," she emphasized.
Amy Gordon, a pastor's wife and blogger for a website geared toward women in ministry, shared similar thoughts.
She wrote on justbetweenus.org, "One of the greatest blessings I have found in ministry has been the privilege of seeing God at work firsthand. As ministry wives, we have the privilege of witnessing the hand of God move in peoples' lives and in their hearts in ways that the average person in our churches may not."
Regardless of the blessings of serving in ministry, there are still often misconceptions of pastors' wives and the struggles they go through, Taylor noted.
She said that if a pastor's wife is going through a hard time they should never put themselves in a position where they are suppressing their emotions. "I would tell any pastor's wife, if you're going to cry, cry."
It is also important to carve out a role for themselves within the church and to seek the counsel and friendship of other pastors' wives for when they do go through hard times. "A pastors' wife's confidant cannot be in the church – they need a support system of pastor's wives, and there are so many support systems out there," she told CP.
"I say this all the time. They (those in the congregation) don't think we get sad, or we hurt, they think that our life is perfect, everything is perfect, or we don't have a messy room," she noted. But Taylor said she tells them, "We have a regular family, we have fun, people don't always feel like [we] have that aspect."
For Taylor, at the end of the day though, it's not about what people think of her. She said, "It's about my relationship with God and if I allow people to dictate my relationship with Him, God's not going to be happy about it."