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Pastors and Wives: Complement Each Other

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Jamie and Aaron Ivey joking with each other in a studio at Focus on the Family.
Jamie Ivey, left laughs with her husband Aaron.
Aaron Ivey says a lot of people look at their lives and ask how it works. How does a writer and podcaster help a pastor fulfill his vocation? How does a pastor help with a writer and podcaster? How do they complement each another?

Jamie Ivey is host of the popular Christian podcast, “Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.” Her husband, Aaron, is the worship pastor at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. Last year, they wrote a book together titled, Complement: The surprising beauty of choosing together over separate in marriage. The Iveys recently talked about how the two complement each other within the framework of Aaron’s vocation as pastor.

Two people, one mission

Aaron says a lot of people look at their lives and ask how it works. How does a writer and podcaster help a pastor fulfill his vocation? How does a pastor help with a writer and podcaster? How do they complement each another?

Jamie says her role as a pastor’s wife is no different from that of any other wife.

“When we look at it and ask how our marriage helps Aaron as a pastor, I would just ask how any marriage helps any man in what he might be doing, whether it’s a doctor, or a lawyer, or a chef, or an artist or a pastor?” Jamie said. “I don’t want to negate that there are heavier responsibilities on his life, but it’s my joy that I get to walk alongside him and do that. It’s also his joy to walk alongside me and what I do.”

One of the reasons they’re able to do this is their common mission to make Jesus known in the world and to help people fall in love with Him.

“I’m serving and doing whatever I can to uplift and elevate what Jamie’s doing, and she’s doing the same,” Aaron said. “It really doesn’t matter what your job is when you’re living with that kind of common thread.”

Make your wife a priority

The vocation demands a lot from pastors and their wives. A pastor must often split his time and attention between his family and the needs of his flock.

Jamie recognizes the need for give-and-take when Aaron must focus a little more of his energy on the church. At the same time, it’s important for Aaron to reassure her that she’s still his No. 1 priority. The two have weekly date nights and family nights to reinforce that notion and invest in their relationship.

“From the perspective of a wife married to a pastor, I think one of the greatest gifts Aaron can give me is for me to know that I am more important than his church, and I am more important than the people he’s leading,” Jamie said. “(What I need) to know as his wife and as the mom to our children, is that at the end of the day, I really am the second-most important person (behind God). That’s helpful for me when those seasons get hard – when it’s intense at church, or when he’s having to be gone four nights a week instead of two.”

Aaron agreed.

“Every pastor knows that ministry can overtake your whole life,” he said. “It can become something that is so overwhelming – that can feel so urgent all the time – because you have people who are genuinely needing and wanting a shepherd.

“It is so easy to try to become a perfect pastor to your people, then go home and be so exhausted from pouring out that you’ve got nothing left to give to your family … I’ve seen pastors do that time and time again, and then they lose the thing that is most important – the family unit at home that you’re called to minister to first.

Life in a fishbowl

Jamie and Aaron have been married for 20 years. Aaron has been a pastor for 18 of those years, and has served in churches of all sizes. At times, it can feel like a pastor’s wife and family are living in a fishbowl.

Aaron does his best to protect Jamie from feeling the pressure of being the perfect wife of a pastor.

“I don’t know what that is,” Jamie said. “I don’t feel the pressure. (He doesn’t) put the pressure on me, and our church doesn’t put the pressure on me. I just want to focus on being a good wife, and he happens to be a pastor.”

Aaron lifts those expectations from Jamie by encouraging her to use her gifts and talents in the way God intends.

“Every follower of Jesus has a calling and a purpose on their life,” Aaron said. “For me as a pastor, I want to see what’s best in her, and see all the giftings and qualities she has and blow wind in her sails. I want to encourage her to do that and not put her in a stereotype kind of box of what a pastor’s wife should be.”

Jamie said she felt a little bit of pressure around the kids’ behavior when the kids were younger. Since then, she’s gained a little perspective.

“What people really want to see is real people talk about the way Jesus is working in their lives,” Jamie said. “Sometimes that means having conversations about your children not acting ‘good.’ That sets the stage for the people you’re leading in your church to say, ‘I think I can trust them, because I have more in common with them than I thought I did.’

“As a pastor’s family, you should be confessing before your church. I’m not saying you get up and share all your dirty laundry, but your church needs to know it has a person that’s leading them that is passionately following Jesus and making mistakes along the way. God’s grace is covering that. I would encourage you to take some of that pressure off of your family as much as you can.”

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