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  • Dorothy Patterson

A Word to Ministry Wives

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

My husband and I have spent almost three decades in ministries in the local church, and for almost four decades we have been training ministry families. These words come from my heart to ministry wives.

Be yourself—genuine and sincere without pretense. Keep in mind that you are always and forever a work in progress. God is never finished! Nurture the personality and gifts God has uniquely bestowed upon you. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not, but be all you can be with the equipping and opportunities God has given specifically to you. Develop your talents and giftedness; use your skills and creativity appropriately.

Don’t waste time comparing yourself and what you have with others and what they have. Determine to look your best with the resources available to you. Do what you can to make your home attractive and inviting within your budget. Use your time wisely. Learn to say “no” just as graciously as you say “yes.” Don’t fall into the negative voice and kickative mood. Take a positive approach to doing the most with your time and energies. Invest heavily in your family, and the interest accrued will pay wonderful dividends in the church. Stay out of authoritative positions in the church. Participate enthusiastically and consistently in the programs of the church, but let your husband and the official staff cast the vision and execute the overall plans. You will have unofficial input and plenty of opportunity to share ideas and dreams.

Treat every member of your congregation graciously. Don’t get caught in the rat race of licking the boots of those who seem important because of their status or resources, while lording it over those who are lower on the totem pole. Someone has suggested that every minister’s wife needs the hide of a rhinoceros, and that is good advice. You should not be swayed by what others say about you.

The key for every preacher’s wife is that there are choices to be made. I believe wholeheartedly that God blesses choices that are based upon the mandates of Scripture. I also have discovered that there are seasons of life affecting those choices. When my children were living at home, I was unable to do many of the things I do now. When we were in a fledgling Bible Institute, we did not have the breadth of ministry we now have. In our first full-time pastorate, we did not have the salary and benefits we have now after  more than five decades of ministry. As the old adage goes, you can indeed have it all—just not all at once!

My own life has been governed by ironclad priorities, which I believe come from Scripture. Regardless of professional skills, academic preparation, opportunities based on gifts or training or luck of the draw, I have made choices. I am first and foremost a wife and mother and grandmother. I often remind myself that along with my very honorable profession of being a wife and mother and homemaker, I am also leading a very interesting life in my own right as the First Lady of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Whatever I do as a theologian is always going to come after my commitments to home and family. I functioned with these same priorities while we were in seminary, in early church assignments, as the First Lady of a Bible Institute with a handful of students as I do now with greater responsibilities in a larger seminary with an international outreach.

The REST is yet to come, and I fully believe that it will be the BEST as well (Eccl. 7:8).

Dorothy Kelley Patterson

Excerpt from A Handbook for Ministers’ Wives (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 235-236.


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