Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review: I'm More than the Pastor's Wife

Book Review: I'm more than the Pastor's Wife: Authentic Living in a Fishbowl World, Lorna Dobson

I picked up this book off a friend's shelf, intrigued by the title - I am a minister's wife, after all. (I still don't like the word pastor - no good reason though!)

It was good, and I will outline some reasons why in a bit.

However, it helped me to realise a number of things (most of which I already knew!)
  • I see myself more as Husband's wife, not the minister's wife. He is certainly the minister, but that does not define entirely who I am. [I'm sure part of that is because I do not attend the congregations that are his main responsibility, for 'stage of life' reasons]
  • Having said that, I am very happy to be the minister's wife. Both of us feel that being in ministry is an enormous privilege. We are invited to be a part of people's lives. We share people's joys, we talk, cry and pray with people in pain and strife, we help couples to prepare for marriage, Husband marries them and he baptises their children - we share in the ups and downs of people's lives. It is understood, and expected, that we would read the bible and pray with people. What a privilege!
  • We are truly blessed to be in the church that we are in. Husband serves at a church that values and cares for its ministers. Husband is supported and encouraged, we are provided with a wonderful home and there are many, many people who truly care about us and our children.
I guess, having said that, you may see why I don't feel I got a great deal from this book - not because it did not have much to offer, rather that I am just very content at the moment as 'the minister's wife'.

Some of the helpful points Dobson makes are:
  • The reminder that "As pastor's wives, what we need to realise is that our struggle for normalcy and balance is no more difficult than that of others." (p40). This is very true, our lives are not more complicated than others. In fact, I find that the benefits of my husband being in ministry far outweigh any negatives at the moment. Our circumstances I'm sure are different to some others, but Husband is able to be flexible with his time, helping to pickup or dropoff at school and he can be around for dinner/bath/bed times most evenings. He can have his day off on a weekday which enables the two of us to have a day together, child-free. This is much more flexibility than a number of my friends whose husbands work professional jobs in the city, who work long hours with little support from bosses when it comes to family issues. I sometimes think we ministry wives don't realise quite how good we have it.
  • The importance of support networks of other ministry wives'. I am convinced this is a very important means of support. We are in a church where all of the 'preacher's wives' (9 and growing), meet together fortnightly to pray for one-another as well as going away together once a year for a few nights. This has been a wonderful group and a great support, and true friendships have grown from it. We all make it a priority to attend. Over the years I have also caught up with other smaller groups of minister's wives from other churches. I have particularly valued the time with women who are at stages of life ahead of mine - seeing how they manage the early school years, the teenagers and the children growing into adults. Those of us 'young ones' think they should pool resources and write a book to guide us later! Dobson did not really go into how these types of groups could also help with accountability, but they certainly can. As we are all 'on the same level', we can ask each other how our personal relationship with God is going and be honest about our struggles. My guess is the average parishioner is unlikely to ask the minister or his wife if they are reading their bibles and turning to God in prayer.
  • I won't go into detail but she covers a wide number of areas: our identity, marriage, priority, relationship with God, balancing friendships, managing criticism, feelings of loneliness and boundaries. She had helpful things to say in all of these areas. Some things she covered were not relevant to me personally: we do not deal with a church board and Husband does not have a personal secretary who manages his diary.  Husband is not a senior minister either, so he does not have Parish Council Meetings or anything like that, and those things which he does have are supportive rather than not - however her advice on some of these areas would be helpful for those whom it is relevant.

My only real quibble with the book was that it seemed to skim the surface a bit, I would have liked to read more in depth about many of the issues she covered. Also, it was not as logically ordered as would have suited my brain, so I felt the chapters did not fit together well - but that is my problem!

So, all in all, a helpful resource.

Can anyone recommend other good books on this topic?

No comments: