“After the death of his wife in 2006, my pastor, now my husband, continued to shepherd his flock without a wife by his side. In 2007, I received call from him, asking if I would lend him some money. I did not have it at that moment, but I promised to give him what I had. Three days later, we met. When we had a conversation, I realised his problem was not money, but he wanted someone to express his feelings with.
After listening to him, I was terrified. He shared with me matters of the heart and I was not sure whether to say yes or no. I was in a dilemma. At 23 years, he proposed to me. I must confess that I knew nothing about the mountains and valleys ahead of me.
When I said I do, I also said I do to becoming a maama (mother) to the congregation he was ministering to,” Favour Esther Senfuma, a wife to Pr Senfuma of Inner Man Ministries recalls.
According to Senfuma, being a preacher’s wife is a blessing yet one of the hardest callings to deal with. It is a journey filled with all shades of trials.
Being referred to as mukyala musumba (pastor’s wife) is dream come true for some women. However, Senfuma notes that many tend to lose their true identity and start living and working to fulfil the expectations of the congregation, society and the pastor.
“In many cases, you are expected to be smart at all times, know all the Bible verses and everything at church. You are expected to attend every church function. The church and the public expects a preacher’s wife to be perfect yet we are human beings,” she explains.
Christine Beyagala, the head of preachers’ wives at Namirembe diocese, observers that a lot is expected of a preacher’s wife. She is expected to support her husband’s ministry, raise and nurture an exemplary family, be a perfect mother with the most disciplined children, best chef, welcoming, hardworking, smart and a model Christian woman.
“Society believes a preacher’s wife has no room for any mistakes. You are a spotless white piece of cloth. Any spot in it gets easily noticed,” says Beyagala.
Janet Maka, a wife to Pastor Moses Maka, a leader at the Central Uganda Conference of the SDA Church, says: “People’s expectations of us are very unrealistic. Just because I am married to a preacher, it does not make me a saint. It is so frustrating that our children are judged unfairly. All other children can make mistakes except pastors’ children. Yet they are children just like any other. They engage in fights, they fail at anything including getting low marks at school. But when all this happens, the public starts to judge the parents and the children,” Maka laments.
The blaming game
To Senfuma, a preacher’s wife is held responsible for anything that goes wrong at church. When the church ministry is on the rock and the man at pulpit seems unwell, the wife gets questioned. Yet most of these women have little or no say in most of the church decisions. For instance, if any of the employees gets fired from any church project, someone will conclude that the preacher’s wife has a hand in it. When people are leaving the ministry, you are the cause,” says Senfuma.
“People fail to trace the source of the problems within the church and start attributing them to the pastor’s wife.”
Maka on the other hand says: “Even when the man of God is in the wrong, the wife must act as his shock absorber and protect him, because society and looks at him as a holy man. Many preachers’ wives must carry the cross of being their husbands’ number one fan.
Dealing with criticism
Cylia Kayiwa of Namirembe Christian Fellowship, says being a preacher’s wife requires a woman to be very prayerful. There will be trying moments and criticism. In such circumstances, the pastor’s wife cannot fight back, but suffer in silence and keep strong in prayer.
“It is difficult when people criticise you, but it is worse when they turn their guns to your husband and children. Some years ago, someone came up to claim that my husband had human skulls beneath his church and that he was involved in human sacrifice. What hurt me most was that some pastors also confirmed the allegations. This affected every member of the family, especially my children. Their friends at school started calling them cannibals. It was a very trying moment but I remained strong in prayer,” Kayiwa recalls.
Relatedly, Senfuma says criticism takes many forms. What you are wearing, how you discipline your children, what you are adding to the ministry and pastor matters. All this is done to find fault in one’s actions.
However, she says positive criticism is welcome but not malicious acts aimed at destroying one’s image, ministry and family.
Limited time for the family
Lillian Olal of Anointed Upper Room Church, Kamwokya, Kampala, says preachers have limited time with their families regardless of whether one is a senior or junior pastor. “A preacher’s job is potentially a 24/7 job. Even the few hours he is at home, he is still receiving phone calls for prayers and counselling.
“Many times, my husband goes away for days, weeks or months for personal prayers and fasting. All you have by your side are children,” Olal explains.
Senfuma says there are times it feels like the church is stealing him away from you. Yet the congregation also thinks you are taking away their pastor.
“My husband has no resting time. The only time I have with him is in the evening when he is tired,” Senfuma narrates.
Maka says: “On many occasions I have told my husband we are losing you.”
Lack of privacy
Beyagala reveals that the doors to a preacher’s home must be open all the time. It is a place that entertains and accommodates visitors and guests of all walks of life, known and unknown.
“As a wife, you are expected to welcome everyone who comes to your home. Your home is an extension of the church and at times a place for meetings. Despite the fact that you have children, people expect to find the home organised and spotlessly clean. If it is not, everyone at church will know how dirty the preacher’s wife is.”
According to Senfuma, the call to serve as a preacher’s wife is a lonely journey. She says: “You have close friends who cannot open up because your husband is their pastor. They see a righteous man, yet he is a different man at home. Many women are hurt and crying in silence each time they hear their husbands preach, because at times, they do not live the life they proclaim at the altar.”
“It gets worse when your husband has no mentor you can confide in because the other parties cannot relate to your struggles as a pastor’s wife, unless they have been there,” says Senfuma.
“As a preacher’s wife, you have to listen to people’s issues, challenges in marriage, as well as act as a counsellor. But we never open up to other people about our own issues.
This role requires you to be a mother to the church members, to protect the image of your husband and uphold the institution of marriage and family, against all odds. Many preachers’ wives have no friends to confide in,” she expresses.
The positive side
Much as the expectations of a preacher’s wife are way too high, we cannot deny the fact that it also comes with lots of bennefits, which include respect and trust.
Beyagala says once a woman becomes a preacher’s wife, she assumes the role of being a mother to every member of the church and the congregation tends to trust her.
She explains that the position gives women a chance to work with many people. Senfuma says pastors always receive invitations to preach in different churches and on many occasions, their wives are invited along for these trips.
“Not only do you get to experience new cultures, but you meet new people, make new friends and exchange ideas with Godfearing people,” says Senfuma.
“The pastor’s wife and family never lack. God has miraculous ways of providing for the preacher’s families. When you become a preacher’s wife, you are called to serve God’s people without holding back,” says Senfuma.
Here are five popular misconceptions about the pastor’s wife;
You have it all together. Some people assume you have worked through all your issues. On earth, we will always have battle to do with our flesh. Sure, you may struggle. Will the Father give relief at times? Yes. But “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Your gifting should match your husband’s. Although you and your husband are one flesh, you are not the same person. God made you differently. And yet he knew what he was doing in putting both of you together. Be the best you can be. Enjoy hosting people in your home, go ahead and teach if you enjoy it.
Kiss close friends goodbye. There is wisdom in carefully choosing whom you disclose your hopes, desires, and struggles, especially when doing so sheds light on your burdens. Not everyone can handle such information with grace and maturity. Do not buy the lie, though, that you cannot have close friends. Doing so will only isolate you and your husband from good fellowship with other believers.
You must be friends with everyone. Even if you’ are not a pastor’s wife, how deeply are you able to know everyone? It is impossible to be the same kind of friend to everyone. We are limited. We practice humility when we acknowledge we cannot be close friends with everyone and must trust the Lord to meet that need in both us and them.
Your children are the most sanctified. Faith is not an inheritable trait. Our children, like anyone else’s will make wrong choices. All children need to be corrected.