February 17, 2010

Which "type" are you?

I don't know about you, but I love snarky religious humor. My husband does too, even if I'm the only one who laughs when he makes a joke from the pulpit. So, naturally, we love author Jon Acuff's hilarious blog Stuff Christians Like.

Jon explores all the bizarre things that make Christian culture unique, from Thomas Kinkade paintings to The Music Minister that Gives His Wife All the Solos (is that any of us?) to Talking About Sex at Weddings--I can't find the link to that one right now, but it's very funny in a glad-I'm-not-the-bride sort of way, and I bet it's included in his Stuff Christians Like book that is coming out soon.

Since we ministry spouses are quite accustomed to playing a certain "role" in the church, Jon kindly agreed to enlighten us on the three most common "types" of pastor's wives:

#348. Pastor's Wives - The 3 Types

I get up very early each morning to write these posts. Part of the reason is that I want to get them done before work, but it’s also because I am afraid of the P.O.P. What’s that you ask? The Pastors of Power, a secret society of famous pastors that operate in the shadowy underground of most churches. (They have a secret handshake like that winner of the Bachelorette where you bump fists and blow up your hand while mouthing “POP.”) They’re mad at me for telling secrets like that you only ever see a minister in shorts during VBS week or for admitting that there is also a Pastor’s Kid Guild that regulates how PKs live. Who do you think commissioned our theme song, “Son of a Preacher Man?” You think that lady just wrote that for fun? That’s adorable.

And today, both groups are going to be furious. That’s because I’m going to tell you the three most common types of pastor’s wives. These three distinct types are no accident, but are actually carefully sculpted roles that all pastor’s wives learn in a secret lair under a volcano. I’ve said too much already but I can’t stop now, here they are:

1. Sunny Rainbow Happy Lady
My mom, a pastor’s wife, is one of the nicest people on the planet. She is able to find something sweet about anyone. If you are a jerk she will say, “he really knows how to be direct with his emotions.” If you are hideous looking she will say, “he has such a nice personality and is great with animals.” She sees the silver lining in every cloud. And, when my dad said “hey, let’s move a thousand miles from everyone we know, go to a frozen land where the sun goes down at 3:30 in the winter, and start a Baptist Church in a car wash,” she said, “I’m in.” I love her and love her approach to life. I think most Pastor’s Wives are this way. They are just genuinely kind hearted people that God has put on the planet to make all of us a little happier.

2. The grumpiest person on earth
This is the polar opposite of type 1. This person is kind of like an ice queen, able to stare you down with a judgmental stare from a thousand feet away. This is like the pastor’s wife on the Simpsons. She’s mean, gossipy and secretly the one controlling the whole church. She has an inner circle of friends that rule things like the mafia. Want to bring a jello dish with fruit suspended delightfully in the middle? Better check with her. Feel good about your job interview for the youth minister position after talking to the search committee? Ha, better talk to the real search committee, the pastor’s wife. She will break you. I never, ever cross this lady. She’s liable to stab you in the bathroom with a shiv she carved from a church pencil if your family accidentally sits where her family usually does. Seriously, be careful. In her defense, I think she got this way by having hundreds of people criticize and nit pick and berate her husband for years. All too often, I think unhealthy churches turn type number 1 pastor wives into type number 2.

3. The Keyser Soze
In the movie, “The Usual Suspects,” Keyser Soze is the unseen mastermind that no one can figure out. He is a myth, a legend, a ghost that can never be pinned down. Some pastor’s wives are like that too. You just can’t figure them out. It’s not that they are robotic or fake, just that you can’t quite understand who they are. It’s almost like they’re in the witness protection program. They say all the right things. They are polite and friendly but you can’t help thinking to yourself during a slow sermon, “that pastor’s wife probably stabbed a mobster in Reno and is on the run.” You’re like the kids from Scooby Doo, gathering clues, trying to put the whole puzzle together, thinking maybe that the haunted lighthouse was really just old man Jenkins with a sheet. Give it up. Some pastor’s wives are great at establishing really firm boundaries. They know how easy it is to get emotionally drained at a church when hundreds of people want personal relationships.

Now I must admit, it’s fairly common to have a pastor’s wife that is a combination of these types. For instance, the other day my mom told me that someone that hit her car while she was backing out probably didn’t realize it because they were on the phone. That is an incredibly nice way to interpret a hit and run. But then one time, much like my wife, she chased a man down that hit her car, running red lights and jumping a hill like in Starsky and Hutch until she forced him to stop. OK, the hill part didn’t happen but the rest is true. The point is that she can channel her grump when necessary.

And I bet your pastor’s wife can too.

This post originally appeared at StuffChristiansLike.net.
I'm a #3. How about you?


  1. I'm not sure what type I am, but people in our congregations tend to see me as a #1. Although I see that type as rather insipid. Don't get me wrong, but being seen this way does have its advantages. Most of the time, I really think how I'm perceived is just a projection of the person looking.

  2. Robin Swift wrote a powerful article about spouse abuse on The Connection

  3. If church people actually asked me about stuff, I'd probably come across as a #2. But since they don't, probably assuming I'm a #1, I consider myself a #3--an enigma who sits there in the back pew and NOBODY KNOWS OR CARES what I'm thinking.

  4. I think I'm a closer to a #3, but it's been my (limited) experience that people tend to project their own expectations onto me (and my husband) as the clergy family. I'm probably viewed as each of these by someone in our church at any one time.

    At our first church my life was like Anonymous. I sat in the choir loft so folks could see I was in church and stayed out of trouble. They didn't care who I was, what I did, what I thought etc. as long as I was at worship and activities on Sunday.

    Happily, I'm now at a church where there are more people in my own life stage (mom with school age kids) and folks do seem sincerely interested in my thoughts and opinions. I still find myself quite guarded, but I'm trying to thaw. :)

  5. That would be amazing, Prisca. I hope one day (soon!) we'll be in a church like that. People our age, who I can build REAL relationships with--sounds like a dream come true.