What’s it like being a Pastor’s Husband?

PH-ParkingThat’s a question I get from time to time, and one I always have a hard time answering. I can describe what it’s not like a whole lot easier.

The stereotype of the Pastor’s Wife is easy. Play the piano Sunday morning. Teach Sunday School. Host women’s Bible studies and luncheons. Be an ideal house maker with no outside job. Primly sit in the front pew with the PK’s, ready to rap knuckles and keep the kids looking respectfully attentive. Go to conferences that talk about how hard life is.

That’s not me.

Actually, it’s pretty cool being a PH. Since there is no stereotype, I get to define the role any way I want to. Some people seem to think I ought to have a title (First husband?). I have had more than one person try to call me a pastor- which is odd since I have no pastoral training, don’t have a formal job in our church, and have no standing within our denomination. I don’t deserve, nor do I want a title. One young lady from the youth group called me “Pastor Mitch” a couple times, so I started calling her “Admiral”. She had the same right to her title as did I mine. It was a running joke for a few Sundays.

These days I tell people “I’m just Mitch”. That seems to put and end to some awkwardness for some people who are still getting used to the idea. That, and it’s the most accurate answer.

Since I’m sleeping with the pastor (gasp!), I obviously can’t be on staff, serve on the board or do anything budget related. During business meetings I can give input, since I’m a member, but when it comes to salary and other money topics, I sit out due to conflict of interest. (Does my wife deserve a raise? Why yes, and a huge one!) I know that opinions differ, but I’m not a fan of husband & wife pastoral teams. Too many areas with conflict of interest- but to each his & her own.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know any other PH’s out there. It stood to reason they existed, but I didn’t know any. When my wife took on her current role of Lead Pastor, there were no other female lead pastors in the state for our denomination. Over the years she’s made connections around the country, and I’ve run across other PH’s. We’re all vastly different – so I don’t think a stereotype will be formed any time soon.

So what DO I do in the church? Just about as little or much as I want. When we came to this church, I was the resident geek. It only made sense for me to run the laptop showing song lyrics and sermon slides. These days I’ve got a rotation of people, so I’m only in the sound booth once or twice a month. I’m also the free tech support guy for the church’s computers and our home computers. (Side note: Printers, even when located in a church, are still filled with demons. They cause paper jams, you see…) I tried starting a men’s Bible study group, but it became clear that I don’t have the giftings to make that work. So I don’t do that.

Our church’s mid-week service is often an informal Bible study format. Early on in the church when my wife was unable to teach, I would offer to teach the class using her notes. Nobody complained, and feedback was neutral to nice. As the years have passed, I’ve found that I have a gifting for teaching (at least in small groups), so I’ve been on the mid-week rotation more often. There was a day when I tried to be at every church event, and participate in every group doing something. I felt I needed to do everything, even though my wife had no expectation that I would. I burned out. It took me a while to figure out that I was working a full-time job, and then trying to keep up with my wife’s full time job too. I still do Sunday & mid-week services, but I don’t always make it to the extra events going on through the week.

Wrangling the kids is about the only major difference we have with other people on Sunday. Rachel is busy all morning, sometimes getting to the church early for extra sermon prep. I drop the PK’s in the nursery/kids class or manage them while she works. It’s really not that complex if you look at it this way- when I’m at work, she has the kids. When she’s at work, I have the kids. It just so happens that her work is often evenings and weekends. Most of what I actively do is behind the scenes. I do a lot of praying for my wife. I lend an ear at the end of a stressful day. I give a lot of moral support and encouragement. Every Sunday I answer the questions “Did the sermon hang together? Did the message points flow together?” Since I’m normally among the first & last in the building, I end up doing a lot of setup & tear down of tables and chairs.

Our schedule during the week is pretty strange, but that’s another blog posting.

So, what’s it like being a Pastor’s Husband? Pretty easy. It’s what I want it to be. If there’s part of it I don’t like it, I can change it.

(This blog posting was originally written July 17th, 2007)

(This post was featured on The Preacher Girls blog on June 8th, 2015)