I formally accepted the call to become a pastor's wife on June 6, 1970, the day I married Rev. Don Tennison. On that day, I became a pastor's wife but I knew before I said my marriage vows that my commitment to Don also involved a commitment to vocational ministry. When I publicly promised to be a faithful and loving wife, I was also promising to partner with my husband as we served the Lord together.
After forty-seven years of ministry together, including pastorates at three different churches, I can honestly say that the opportunity to serve God as a companion of a shepherd to God's people has been one of the greatest joys of my life. From the beginning, I had to take steps to ensure that serving as a pastor's wife remained a joy. It is important that we keep a balanced life.
We are first a child of God, then a companion to our spouse, a parent to our children, and finally a leader in our church.
My first priority was not to be so busy working for God that I forget to enjoy Him. Ministry must flow out of the relationship that we have with God, and not the other way around. Too many ministers, including pastor's wives, base their relationship with God on their ministry so that we are a pastor or pastor's wife first. I had to keep my life with God the priority, through prayer, Bible reading, etc., because God and not ministry was the center of my life. If I could not live life as a disciple of Jesus, then I would be in no position to help disciple others. I must make sure my walk with Him is valid, before I can care for my husband, minister to my child, and be a blessing to the church successfully.
My second priority was to keep the needs of my marriage and my family a priority over the needs of our church body. Being a pastor's wife meant first being a good wife to the pastor. That also meant I was to serve with my husband and not to use my husband's position for my ends.
The call to serve as a companion to the pastor involves teamwork: we don't compete with each other, but we complete one another. I had to help wherever I could, and I needed to remain an encouragement to him at all times. Ministry can be discouraging, and I am sure there were times my husband was more of an encouragement to me than I was to him.
When I became a mother, my priorities shifted again. Being a wife and mother was God's calling to me just as much as serving the church, and my husband and son needed me more than the church did. The church could have many pastors and pastor's wives over the years, but my husband had only one wife and my son only one mother. I did not always keep that priority because difficult times in the life of our church sometimes called for extra love and attention to the church. However, I could not have maintained my joy in serving the church if my family suffered because of it.
My third priority was to remember the needs of the church were a priority over the needs of my own ego. I had to find my satisfaction in God because I could not turn to the church to meet a need only God can fill. Sometimes when we pour our heart and soul into a community, we look to the church to replenish our heart and soul. The cost of ministry will not seem worth it if we are looking to the church pay that bill. We can become discouraged because of the indifference of some and the unfaithfulness of others. We must remember we are not rewarded because of results, but because of our obedience. God is a great bookkeeper.
The cost of ministry will not seem worth it if we are looking to the church to pay that bill.
We need to serve the Lord with all of our soul, mind, and strength because God has done more for than we can ever repay. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and the opportunity to serve with him in the ministry. That ministry has remained a joy in my life, but only because I kept my priorities in place. The church will not sustain your marriage, your family or relationship with God. God sustains the rest, and God must remain the priority.
The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Martha, and her husband, Don, have been married and in full-time ministry for 47 years. They have one son, Dr. Allen Tennison. Their determination to trust God, have a passionate knowledge of His Word, and a steadfast love for God's defines the Tennison's philosophy of ministry. "My greatest passion is to see a life in need to meet a God who cares." Martha is a passionate preacher of the Word and a joy to all who know her.