"First Ladies" of the Church Not Just Sitting Pretty Anymore


Pastors' wives such as Lynne Hybels have taken on new dynamic roles in the evangelical community and within their churches, but are still taking their family responsibilities as seriously as ever.

An interesting article in The Daily Beast examined the lives and services of pastors’ wives, which have changed dramatically in the recent few years. In the past, pastors’ wives would sit nicely in the pews supporting their husbands’ choices and attempting to fend off too many demands from congregants. Today, they are a dynamic, moving-and-shaking part of the church leadership with ministries of their own, sometimes internationally, coupled with the responsibility of family.

The article explored the life of Lynne Hybels, wife of Willow Creek Community Church’s Bill Hybels who heads up women’s ministry in her church, recently traveled to the Holy Land, aided rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and participates in immigration reform activities. And she still has time to take her grandkids to the movies. Lynne told The Daily Beast that she is scared of public speaking, but she has “been entrusted with the stories of horrifically abused women in the DRC, and peacemaking Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, and undocumented immigrants who worship at my church … If I refuse to tell their stories, for me it would be an act of disobedience, a failure to love.”

Another “first lady,” Tara Jenkins, serves in the body by supporting and ministering to pastors’ wives all over the country. Spouse of Charles Jenkins of Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago, Tara considers her work with minister’s wives a calling “to convene the ‘Esthers’ of this millennium to utilize their influence to change the world. I’m often in settings with pastors’ wives who are woefully underutilized. Sure, their congregations will follow their hairstyle or their clothing — but will they follow them into community service? God didn’t invite me into this role to sit; he invited me to serve.” Pastor Jenkins himself calls his wife “his senior advisor, confidant, and my most enduring friend.”

And then there’s Rick Warren’s wife Kay, who partners with her husband in heading up Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Although she’s a self-described “introvert,” the article calls her “the evangelical world’s leading expert on HIV/AIDS and women’s health, while supporting Rick’s ministry and raising three kids.” She founded the church’s international HIV/AIDS initiative and travels all over the country and the world making allies and getting her hands dirty in the fight. “It’s a constant series of adjustments — from my family to my marriage to my church to my friendships,” she says of her life. “You never have it fully figured out, but you just keep trying.”

The pastor’s wives in the church today clearly aren’t just sitting and looking pretty in church on Sunday mornings. They are a vibrant part of their congregation and of the Christian community, although they are just as committed to their families and to God as they ever were. Learn more about Kay Warren’s ministry, Lynne Hybels’ ministry and Tara Jenkins’ ministry.


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