In the Shadow

Dear DW,

 For the last three years, the only thing people at church have called me is “brother John’s wife”.  Seriously, I don’t think some of them even know my first name.  There are days when I feel like I am losing my identity.  I used to be a leader who was known for who I am as an individual.  Since marrying a pastor, it’s like everything I do is judged in light of who he is.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be John’s wife and I love serving God with him, but sometimes I feel like everything I am is getting lost in the bright light of his ministry.  Will I ever just get to be ME again?


In The Shadow

Springfield, MO

Dear In The Shadow: 

Being a ministry spouse does often force us to play a very submissive role in our church lives.  I know that’s a hard place to be when you are used to being a leader.  Having your spouse “on display” while you are noticed only for the role you play in your spouse’s ministry can minimize your identity as a person.  But, I want to challenge you to think deeper about how much control you really have over your place in the shadows… 

My question to you is this: Are you pursuing what God has called you to do or are you choosing to live in your husband’s shadow out of necessity or convenience? 

 Obligation to ministry is not good for you, your spouse, or the church.  Be honest with yourself and explore whether or not you are perpetuating this identity loss by not seeking exactly what it is that God may be asking you to do.  Are you fully using your spiritual gifts and talents in the church or are you doing just what is “expected” of you? 

 And here comes the hard part: It’s time to have a serious conversation with your husband.  He needs to know how you are feeling and you both need to discuss how things are going to change so that you can truly express yourself as a person.  This may mean simply taking up a hobby or participating in a class where no one knows who he is.  It could mean volunteering in a different ministry area of the church than the one he administers. 

 It’s your choice to allow yourself to disappear.  Start to redefine how you can express yourself as an individual in this ministry relationship.  I feel confident that once you find that niche that you can call uniquely yours, people will start to know your first name again.

 With love,


Posted on September 7, 2011, in Identity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think you’ve given some good advice here, DW, but I have to add, sometimes the church shoves the wife into the shadow, or blatantly ignores her. I’ve had it happen to me in the past, and to ministry spouse friends of mine. So sometimes it’s not anything to do with the pastor or the wife.

    • Alaska mom- Thank you for your comment! I agree- I think that it’s almost always the expectations of the church that shove spouses into the shadow. However, we can’t control the actions of people in the church. We can only be responsible for what God has asked us to do. Any spouse that is feeling slighted or constrained by their role in the church has to evaluate whether or not they are being obedient to God in their ministry spouse role or are they “denying the gifts that are within them”. This is a personal evaluation between the ministry spouse and God and has to be discussed with their husband. Unfortunately, it is a reality that when a ministry spouse decides to act outside the church’s expectations for her, the pastor could pay the consequences. Both pastor and spouse have to be in agreement on how to handle potential criticism as a couple. Couples in unity over the decision to act outside church expectations will find it much easier. And, God is faithful when we act according to His will no matter what church people may do or say!

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