All The Preachers’ Wives Anthology
By Dr. Velma Bagby
I had forewarning about the difficulties and the drama that can arise surrounding the role of a pastor’s wife, thanks to the multiple experiences I witnessed of women who served in this role. In one denomination, I witnessed what happens when members dislike the pastor’s wife. How the church board acted inappropriately towards the couple. Eventually, the two divorced.
Yet in another case, I saw a pastor’s wife show disdain for a family member. She disliked the fact that her husband, the pastor, assigned the family member as choir director rather than her. My family member continued to show respect toward them both, even though the pastor’s wife made it obvious to everyone that she hated the decision.
The third story I witnessed was about the preacher’s wife’s abusive marriage. I thought it odd how the members ignored the behavior they saw. The pastor’s wife looked sad most of the time, and my heart ached to see behavior contrary to loving a wife like it says in “Ephesians 5:25 NIV… just as Christ loved the church.” Even more difficult was when she dismissed efforts to comfort her.
Then, there’s my personal experience. One pastor called me into a meeting and berated my service on the praise team. I served on the praise team, taught in the school of ministry, and conducted Bible study in the women’s ministry. When he used those hurtful words to question my reputation, I responded, “If his report was true, it should apply to all my areas of service.” So, I stepped down from all of them. My response shocked him. It upset me, but I remained respectful. Shaking inside, I could not wait to tell my husband. After I spoke with my husband, he met with that pastor and advised him not to meet with me in private unless he was present. I was proud of my husband and felt protected. We later discovered the reason the pastor asked me to step down from the praise team was that another member wanted to replace me. We soon left that ministry.
Having grown up in church, being active in a variety of roles, allowed me to get to know some of the drama behind the curtain during most of my adult Christian life—what the congregation does not see. Seeing it prepared me for some of the drama I could expect in my leadership role and helped me guard against it. My husband and I joke about our experiences and say, “Well, now we know what not to do.”
During my formative years as a Christian young adult, I watched preachers’ wives ignored, misjudged, abused in their marriages, and sometimes mistreated at the hands of members. I also witnessed preachers’ wives acting as if they were superior to their fellow preachers’ wives. I’ve yet to discover the purpose of that behavior. I often wondered if the larger ministries saw themselves as superior to the smaller ones.
Before becoming a preacher’s wife, I suffered discrimination in some denominations that did not support female ministers/preachers—even though I was an ordained minister with a Doctorate in Theology. They didn’t care. I recall when a local church invited me to speak. The usher led me to a seat in the audience. After they introduced me, rather than lead me to the pulpit, the usher led me to the front of the church. They placed a small stand there, which looked like it was designed to hold sheet music. As I placed my Bible on the stand, I whispered, Lord, I’ll preach wherever you send me. The message was on fire. Afterward, the pastor approached me and said, “You might change my mind about female preachers.”
Another occasion happened when my dad passed away, and I was the scheduled speaker. To secure a larger church, my brother called a local pastor to inquire about using his facility. The pastor told my brother he would not allow me in the pulpit. Thankfully, our ministry facility accommodated my family. We moved forward with the services, and I felt free to preach what God gave me. Again, God sent fire through the message. Afterward, the minister of that other church approached me and acknowledged the powerful message.
Having gone through the storms and witnessing the travesty in how women were treated in some ministries, I realized it was all for my preparation. I did not take the discriminatory practices personally, but kept my focus on God, on winning souls, ministering to those who were less fortunate, and inspiring, and encouraging fellow followers of Jesus Christ.
The drama I witnessed growing up, and the discriminatory practices towards women and me, prepared me to manage my role as a preacher’s wife with grace. I am always friendly but recognize being friendly wasn’t always welcomed. I remember meeting a young preacher’s wife at a conference, I was aware they had recently moved to the area, and I had not met them. I greeted the wife and said, “Hi, our church ministries are in the same area. I’m glad to meet you.” She looked at me and snapped, “Oh, so you had to wait to get to the conference to meet me?” She walked away. Her rude behavior shocked me. Some of her church members saw her behavior and assured me she had the problem. I dismissed the behavior and asked God to help me, never to be like what I witnessed.
I’ve gone to other events and gatherings, and the treatment was similar. Unless you’re of a notable ministry, you’re not included in the group. Our ministry is small. And our focus was never on building notoriety but on doing God’s work.
To find out the rest of Dr. Velma’s story go to https:/allthe preacherswives.com to get the book.