Lizette Beard: [00:00] Broadcasting from Nashville, Tennessee this is “Keep Asking,” the weekly podcast that helps you dive in a bit deeper and wider into the research providing insight into today’s church and culture.
[00:23] Hello. I’m here today with my colleague Scott McConnell and our colleague and special guests Mark Dance and Janet Dance to talk about part two on our research for pastor’s spouses. Welcome back, everybody.
Scott McConnell: [00:42] Good to be back.
Janet Dance: [00:44] Hi.
Mark Dance: [00:45] Thank you.
Lizette: [00:45] Just as a quick reminder, this is part two. You can find part one online. We want to mention a thank you to our sponsors of this study, the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, MD.
[00:58] This is a project where we surveyed 722 spouses of pastors. Those are pastors working in a ministerial role. That is within any Protestant church.
[01:10] Mark, you mentioned in part one that your goal with your work as Director of LifeWay Pastors is to help pastors win at work and home. How do you see this project in a big picture? How have you seen that, or do you expect to see, what you’ve learned in this project to help you fulfill that?
Mark: [01:40] This is very much a breakthrough study. I love what LifeWay Research does, myth busting crew under Scott’s leadership to say, “What’s going on? Confidentially, what are you thinking?”
[01:55] Now that we’ve talked to pastors and spouses I feel like the conversation is much more complete. It has to be. It has to be complete because a pastor’s ministry will never be stronger than their marriage. As we look at the marriage and the home, he’s required to win at church and home. He’s required to manage his home and manage the church.
[02:22] The spouse walks into that marriage, into that ministry with at least the same pressure as the pastor. They’re walking into this together before they have kids going, “We’ve got to get it right.” Everything’s on the line.
[02:42] That’s why I think this study is so important because we do get a real good glimpse of what’s going on in the spouse’s mind and heart.
Scott: [02:50] One of the ways we asked that concept of winning at home was to find out how many of the spouses feel like they’re expected by their congregation to be a model family. We saw that 8 out of 10 embraced that and said that really is the expectation of us. It reminded me a lot of the conversations we have about celebrities and sports figures in our country.
[03:18] Are they a role model? Are they not a role model? A lot of times those celebrities don’t want to be. They don’t want the pressure of having to be a role model, even though if they’re in the limelight enough they become one.
[03:33] What goes through your mind as a pastor or as a spouse as you approach that decision? Why would you want to be in that role?
Janet: [03:45] I think what Kathy Litton spoke about in the LifeWay Research article that came out yesterday, when she talked about the importance of a calling.
[03:56] Even if the spouse is not actively working or being paid in the ministry ‑‑ this is my opinion. I don’t have a scripture to back this up ‑‑ I see that sense of calling as so valuable because when things do get bumpy, as they will, if they don’t have that foundation to fall back on I think that would be…
[04:27] Going in, when I was a preacher’s kid, I said I would never marry a preacher. When I was in college God got a hold of me and said, “I’m the one making the plans here.”
[04:43] For me, it was a calling. It wasn’t that I thought, “Oh, gee. I think it will be cool to marry a preacher.” I knew what I was getting myself into. And so, when things have been rough I know that this is what God has called both of us.
[04:59] Also, when we have been called to change ministries, Mark has never acted unless we both felt that God was calling us to that specific ministry. It used to make me mad but Mark would always pray, “God, tell Janet first.” I never really liked that because it put the pressure on me.
Janet: [05:27] I think that’s crucial that the couple not move forward until both of them are in agreement that this is what God has for them.
Scott: [05:39] That’s funny. We were with some reporters this weekend sharing this data. One of them asked, “Does the pastor have a shorter line to God than the spouse?”
[05:49] The minister’s spouses we had in the room spoke up pretty quickly and said, “No.” They gave the same testimony you just gave saying, “No, we’re not going to move forward unless we’re both hearing something from God because that’s not the way God works.”
Lizette: [06:09] I want to throw this out there and get your thoughts on this sense of calling because as I think of some examples of church planter wives, getting more specific about our church planter spouses and some of my friends who are married to church planters.
[06:27] The spectrum of the roles they fill, some of them, they take a leadership role with the other pastors’ spouses, whether its teaching in the children’s ministry. They just love leading, helping, and being in the mix of everything.
[06:52] One of the most beautiful examples I heard was when someone asked a friend of mine who’s a church planter’s wife. They said, “What’s your role in the church?”
[07:00] Her answer was, “I keep Jeremy’s shirts ironed.” They also have a whole passel of kids. She has a home, but I love her freedom in saying and knowing she felt a part, but she felt no need to try and paint a bigger picture of her role in leading the church.
[07:26] If someone finds themselves somewhere on that spectrum, how do you help them find direction about calling and being a part of that when it can be a varied role?
Janet: [07:43] Absolutely. That is going to vary from their life stage to their location to the specific type of ministry that the spouse is doing. That has to be so personal.
[08:00] One thing that Mark would always do when we would go to a new ministry is tell the congregation that, “Janet is going to do what God is calling her specifically to do in this ministry.” Knowing that he had my back on that, too, was great.
[08:21] That changed in different places. When you’re a church planter, man, you have to do practically everything. We’ve been in different ministries. The larger the church the less I was needed at church doing specific ministries but the more I was needed at home.
[08:50] Home and having that place where Mark could come home and there be order and peace. I’m not expecting him to do half of the chores around the house. That became more important the larger the ministry.
[09:05] When we first started, I was children’s director. You name it, I did it. That varies. That’s very personal and a very personal calling.
Lizette: [09:19] Back to some broad things, was there anything in the research results that gave either of you some clarity or changed your opinion on something? Specifically impacted your next steps in the ministry you’re engaged in now?
Mark: [09:41] Speaking of church planters, the seminary we’re at almost half of the Canadian seminary students are church planters. Janet and I were church planters for 10 years.
[09:59] Almost every other week we’re with a different group of ministry spouses. This is very important research for us. We used it yesterday. We’ll use it today in just a few minutes when I speak at chapel.
[10:13] The thing that probably impacted me and surprised me the most, one, I was so relieved to find out how satisfied most of them were in their ministry role. Also, how satisfied they were in their marriages. It’s almost like I can exhale because I knew what the pastors thought about two years ago. They thought it was awesome.
[10:36] They rated their spouse for their spouse, the highest degree of satisfaction with their marriage and ministry. It was pretty close in their response to this. The whole fishbowl thing that Scott mentioned earlier, and you guys are great about asking the same question different ways to try to get to the heart of the model family fishbowl/privacy tug of war.
[10:56] These are things that they know are there. They acknowledge these challenges but they’re not afraid of them. These ministry spouses aren’t wimps. They are warriors. They, sometimes, struggle with resentment about the demands of ministry. Sometimes they think their spouse puts the needs of the church before them. Some of them do.
[11:25] Those are warning signs but there’s no panic here. They have a strong sense of call. They are in. They’re not quitters. I’m encouraged by it.
Scott: [11:40] One of the elephants in the room when we talk to ministry families is, of course, some of the conflict that occurs within churches. 7 out of 10 of the spouses indicated that their spouse, the pastor, has experienced resistance to their leadership in the church. Half of the spouses have personally felt like they’ve been attacked in the church with something that’s been said.
[12:04] How can ministry families be ready for that? Obviously, you don’t want that. You never want to invite that but since it appears to be a reality of ministry in many churches, how can you prepare for some of the comments that get made, whether it be on social media, or personally, straight to your face, that are unkind?
Mark: [12:31] Janet pointed to me to answer this. Because we do everything with anonymous text, all our Q&A is anonymous so they’ll have a degree of confidentiality, sort of like yours.
[12:44] This comes up in every single event, dealing with conflict. It’s in every church. Honestly, those who are not dealing with it are going to because every church is full of people and people are dysfunctional. Every church is kind of like a dysfunctional family, like every family.
[13:13] Conflict is inevitable, what I’m saying. What they want to know is, “How do we deal with it?” Not, “Are we going to deal with it?” but, “How do we deal with it?”
[13:21] More importantly, the spouses are, in particular, asking, “How can we help our kids deal with it?” Most churches are smaller. You can’t protect or shield your kids completely from conflict in the church. They’re concerned about that because they don’t want their kids to be resentful of the church. They don’t want their kids to drop out when they grow up.
[13:49] Those are things. They do take it personally. They have to. When someone criticizes me, when I was pastoring for 27 years. I guess I still am as an interim. When I got criticized it hurt Janet as much or more than it did me. This research bears out that she also flinches when he gets hit.
Lizette: [14:21] A couple of final questions. I’ll ask them both so you have a second to think about it. First is what’s one thing that you hope pastors who see this research will take away from this study? What’s one thing that you hope pastors’ spouses will take away?
Mark: [14:41] She wants me to go first. What I hope the pastors will do, first of all, is make sure their spouse has a friend that they can count on. That 1 out of 10 may seem small but the spouse needs to have a friend. That is his responsibility to make sure her needs are met.
[15:04] The 7 out of 10 that have very few to confide in about important matters, those are things that concern me the most. The financial part, probably any profession would be equivalent to that but I think for the pastors I would say to make sure that your wife or your spouse has security. It’s an important need for them.
[15:29] Make sure that you are involved in the finances of your home because that’s part of managing your home. If your spouse is concerned about this, and apparently, many are, then get under the hood and help. Don’t just turn over the checkbook and say, “This is your problem.” That’s what I would say.
[15:48] Make sure your children are VIPs. They need to be number three on your VIP list. After Jesus and Janet, my kids are next. They need to know that. Not all of them do.
Janet: [16:04] The thing that I think would be encouraging to pastors’ wives that I’ve already touched on in the last session. Just that comfort to know that we’re normal. Also, to know that other pastors’ spouses are going through some of the same challenges as we are and that we can be honest with each other and not feel that shame.
[16:33] Most of us are going through the same challenges. Some of us are responding in better ways than others, but we can learn from each other. We can count on each other, depend on each other and not feel that shame, I think is the big message that I hope that spouses bring out of this.
Scott: [16:57] Thank you both for your ministry, investing in pastors and pastors’ spouses. I think you’re modeling what each of us, as church members, need to be doing, is caring for our ministers and making sure that they can thrive in ministry in a way that helps our whole church function in a more healthy way.
Lizette: [17:22] We appreciate you all taking the time. You have a great day.
[17:28] We want to thank all of our listeners for listening. To keep up with more of what Mark and Janet are doing you can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkDance or visit his website and blog at MarkDance.net.
[17:41] Mark, what’s your Facebook page again?
Mark: [17:43] It’s MarkDDance.
Lizette: [17:47] If you have any questions about this podcast or any of our others please tweet to us @SMcConn and @LizetteBeard or @LifeWayResearch.
[17:57] Finally, we want to say a thank you to the sponsors of this project, Richard Dawkins, MD and the North American Mission Board. We appreciate them seeing the need for this research and following through with the funds and the support we needed to get it taken care of.
[18:12] Join us next time for another edition of Keep Asking. Keep asking, learn more, do better.
Pastors’ Spouses Experience Mixed Blessings by LifeWay Research
Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences, and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years. He has been married to Janet Kendrick since 1988, and they have two children: Holly and Brad.