CHATTANOOGA — “A pastor’s wife can either fan his flame or snuff it out.”
Tara Dew remembers exactly where she was when Adrian Rogers pointed his finger at her from a pulpit and spoke those words. She recounted the story Nov. 14, for pastors’ wives attending the annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center during this year’s The Summit: A Gathering of Tennessee Baptists.
Two months into her role as a young pastor’s wife, Dew and her husband, Jamie, attended an event featuring Rogers as the keynote speaker. The couple arrived early and had seats down front, Dew recalled. They were among the youngest there.
During his sermon, Rogers pointed his finger directly at Jamie and said, “Don’t let anyone set you on a shelf,” Dew said. “Then, he pointed his finger at me and said, ‘A pastor’s wife can either fan his flame or snuff it out.’ ”
It was a pivotal moment for Dew who was struggling at the time with the expectations her husband’s congregation placed on her as his wife.
“Many churches often think of a pastor and his wife as a BOGO,” Dew told the more than 110 women gathered for the event. “I can’t play the piano. I can’t sing and I can’t direct the choir.
‘Then what can you do?’ local congregations seem to ask.
“I love my husband,” Dew said. “I love God and His church.”
Princess Anderson, whose husband pastors Oasis Baptist Church in Chattanooga, said it was “a blessing” to work with Jeanne Davis and other members of the team to plan this event for ministers’ wives.
She and Kathy Britton, whose husband is a pastor and bivocational ministries specialist for the TBMB, encourage ministers’ wives to seek out one another at these annual events and in the months between.
Both women referenced the TBC Ministers Wives group on Facebook, a private group requiring administrative permission to join, that allows TBC ministers’ wives to share their lives with one another.
“It’s a safe place,” Britton said.
Equipping and encouraging pastors’ wives through regular connections can help fend off the self-doubt that often affects ministry wives, Dew says. In the years since Jamie’s first pastorate, Dew spent time corroborating the experiences of pastors’ wives through research and seeking to develop a means to equip them for their roles.
Dew’s doctoral dissertation, which she earned from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018, is titled, “Survive or Thrive — An Explanation of the Preparedness of SBC Ministry Wives.”
As part of her research, she surveyed the functions ministers’ wives performed in their churches and how they had been equipped for that work. More than 700 women responded to the survey. Dew discovered that a large percentage of ministry wives suffer from insecurity and isolation because they do not feel equipped for the work or connected to others.
“Less than 10 percent of ministry wives had taken even one class” to prepare them to serve alongside their husbands, Dew said.
As a result of her study, Dew founded Prepare Her, an academic program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary designed to equip women for ministry leadership.
“If we can encourage and equip wives, their husbands will stay in ministry longer,” Dew said. “We want ministry wives to know that they are no longer alone.”
For more information on Prepare Her, visit prepareher.com. To join the TBC Ministers Wives Facebook page, send a request to the group administrator. B&R — Lovell has written about Baptist work for more than 25 years. She and her husband, Joe, live in Columbia and are members of the Church at Station Hill.