Every year since the PCA’s founding, the Women’s Discipleship Ministry (formerly Women in the Church) has designated a denominational ministry to support with a financial love gift. The 2018 gift will support PCA Ministerial Relief, a ministry of Retirement & Benefits Inc. (RBI).

Ministerial Relief will use the funds to create Cherish, a program to provide Christian counseling to pastors’ wives.

Few people know the sensitive details of a pastor’s life except his spouse and perhaps his financial advisor. The staff at RBI knows each client’s financial situation and assists survivors when a pastor dies. The staff also learns when marriages disintegrate and financial assets must be divided between the parties. 

“It was clear to us that even if the pastors didn’t think their wives needed counseling, the wives thought they did.”

Because the RBI advisors see the unique toll that pastoral ministry can take on a marriage and family, they want to help families, particularly pastors’ wives.

Low-Cost Access to a Lifeline

To create Cherish, Ministerial Relief partnered with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) to build a network of qualified counselors who will help women via Skype, FaceTime, or phone call. 

Bob Clark, head of Ministerial Relief for RBI, said the counselor network aims to include counselors who speak Korean so the program can serve pastors’ wives in Korean-speaking churches, too.

Ministerial Relief has designed the program so that the bulk of the funding will go directly to the counselors. Pastors’ wives will receive the counseling at no cost or for a small co-pay, and the program is open to all pastors’ wives.

Who Pastors the Pastor’s Wife?

The idea to offer counseling to pastors’ wives began at the 2016 General Assembly when RBI co-hosted a seminar with Parakaleo and CCEF called “Who Pastors the Pastor’s Wife?” Gary Campbell, president of RBI, said the seminar was standing room only.

“It was clear to us that even if the pastors didn’t think their wives needed counseling, the wives thought they did,” he said. 

Tasha Chapman is a professor of educational ministries at Covenant Theological Seminary and part of a team that has studied the factors contributing to a pastor’s longevity. She learned that the strength and health of the wife and marriage are key indicators of a pastor’s endurance in ministry.

Because ministry is a lifestyle and not simply a job, it asks more of the wife than other careers, Chapman said. The pastor’s wife becomes a key confidant, supporter, consultant, even a mentor for the pastor. 

“She is a very strategic partner of the church, even if it isn’t acknowledged,” Chapman said. 

Since the emotional and spiritual well-being of the pastor’s wife and his marriage are key to a pastor’s resilience in ministry, churches make an important investment when they care for pastors’ wives.

Long-Term Goals

Campbell hopes to raise enough support through the 2018 Love Gift to keep Cherish viable for at least one year. After the first year, he hopes that “individuals in the church will step forward and tell PCA pastor wives that this ministry needs to continue.”

For Clark, a former PCA pastor, the issue is simple. “We want pastors’ wives to be healthy,” he said.  “The needs are real, and we want to meet those needs.” 

For more information on Cherish, including how to donate, visit 2018lovegift.org.