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Panel of pastors’ wives shares a look into family dynamics of ministry 

Nathaniel Hendry
The panel of pastor’s wives included (left to right) Amy Johnson, Sherry Trainer, Michelle Benson and Sarah Fleming. Photo: Nathaniel Hendry

With their husbands out of the room, four pastors’ wives shared a first-hand account of what it looks like to serve alongside their husbands in a special Feb. 28 Ministry Chapel panel discussion. The women responded to many audience-submitted questions quickly to make the best of their limited time.  

The panel included Amy Johnson, a staff member in BJU Seminary; Sherry Trainer, a staff member in the School for Continuing, Online and Professional Education; Michelle Benson, a staff member in Student Health Services; and Sarah Fleming, a staff member in the Center for Global Opportunities. All four women have husbands who are currently pastors. 

Trainer, who married later in life than many people, addressed the question about how single people should live and serve while not knowing whether marriage is in their future. She said they should seek to do the next thing that God gives them to do, enter joyfully and proactively into their vocations and develop their talents. She also encouraged them to guard their hearts by using discernment in what they watch and read because those things will shape their romantic expectations.  

Trainer also encouraged young single people to build friendships with older and younger people, pray for their future spouse and live lives focusing on service. “Learn to cultivate a lifestyle of serving, of living for others,” she said. “That’s where joy is found, just in living your life for others.” 

Benson spoke about the character traits to look for in a spouse. While many people point to Proverbs 31 to describe a virtuous woman, Benson mentioned that 1 Timothy 3 describes a godly man. She also pointed men and women to 1 Corinthians 13, saying a potential spouse should fit the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Take the word love out and put your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé’s name in there,” she suggested. “‘Blank’ is patient and kind. ‘Blank,’ whoever it is, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on his own way, is not irritable or resentful.” 

Before reading the next question, Johnson asked the audience to raise their hands if they were open to full-time ministry. Most of the audience members raised their hands, which she said was unsurprising since they were all in Ministry Chapel. Then she read the next question. “‘How do I find a spouse committed to full-time ministry?’” The attendees burst into awkward laughter as they looked around, scouting for potential significant others. 

Benson followed up by emphasizing the importance of finding a like-minded spouse. “If God has called you to ministry, you need to make sure the person you marry has that same commitment that you do,” she said. 

The panel also spoke on finding balance in family and ministry needs. Trainer said she had to learn to love football because her husband really enjoys it. Sarah Fleming encouraged parents to bring their children with them while doing ministry such as mission trips and youth activities. Benson said that couples should seek to labor side-by-side in ministry.  

Asked about how to keep from feeling overwhelmed in ministry, Trainer emphasized that husbands need to encourage their wives when times get rough. She also emphasized that there is no biblical description of a pastor’s wife, so women should not feel pressured to meet artificial expectations not mandated in Scripture. 

The panel then also addressed how to deal with loneliness in ministry and manage peer relations. Fleming encouraged the attendees to avoid putting on a fake persona and instead pursue genuine relationships. Johnson reminded potential pastor’s wives not to think of themselves as fundamentally different than other wives but to build natural relationships with people in the church. Benson, a nurse, also said that God can use people in whatever field He calls them to do, even if it is not intrinsically related to ministry. 

Trainer also answered a question about how to prepare to be a pastor’s wife. She shared a story of how, early in her marriage, a pastor’s wife gave her an eight-part series that purported to describe the perfect pastor’s wife. After trying with much consternation to fulfill the onerous criteria laid out in the series, she became discouraged. Her husband, Brian Trainer, told her to stop, saying, “I don’t want you to be the perfect pastor’s wife. I just want you to be my wife.” 

Benson answered the last question on what she found most surprising about her role. She said she did not expect to do so much counseling and encouraged students to prepare themselves to counsel in future ministry. 

The panel also recommended several books and authors: 

  • Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George 
  • One With A Shepherd by Mary Somerville 
  • What Do I Know about My God? by Mardi Collier 
  • In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin 
  • Jonathan Goforth (biography) by Rosalind Goforth 
  • Works by Elizabeth George, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Paul Tripp 

Ministry Chapel is a special chapel that meets on select Tuesdays. It is open to students of all majors and required for School of Religion majors.

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About the Contributor
Nathaniel Hendry
Nathaniel Hendry, Editor-in-Chief
Nathaniel Hendry is a senior communication major currently serving as the editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Before becoming editor, he worked as a writer and photographer for the Collegian for three semesters. He also runs a videography business and in his free time enjoys running, playing sports, reading, gardening, traveling, hiking and camping.  
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Panel of pastors’ wives shares a look into family dynamics of ministry