Pastors’ Wives Tell All: Navigating Real Church Life with Honesty and Humor – Stephanie Gilbert, Jessica Taylor, and Jenna Allen

Pastors' Wives Tell All: Navigating Real Church Life with Honesty and Humor by Stephanie Gilbert, Jessica Taylor, Jenna Allen
Published by Baker Publishing Group, Baker Books on April 30, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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In a world that expects near perfection from people in ministry, it is hard to be honest about struggles of being a pastor's wife or a woman in ministry--let alone have a sense of humor about it! In their popular podcast, Pastors' Wives Tell All , Jessica Taylor, Stephanie Gilbert, and Jenna Allen create a safe place for pastors' wives and women in ministry to be their most authentic selves. Now they're bringing their wit and wisdom to women through the written word.

Addressing topics such as how to smash stereotypes, deal with marital issues, make friends, and overcome parenting anxiety, they remind pastors' wives (and the people in their congregations) that God doesn't expect them to be superhuman. They show women how to

· establish and maintain healthy boundaries
· seek wise counsel
· confess their sins and shortcomings aloud
· shed the persona of perfection
· and much more

If you're a pastor's wife--by calling, by choice, or by circumstance--you'll find relief, renewal, and refreshment in the pages of this book.

There are lots of great books on the market about pastoral ministry, and about how ministry families can deal with the unique pressures that come with always being on call and in the spotlight. This book stands out as especially unique and helpful, as Stephanie Gilbert, Jessica Taylor, and Jenna Allen take a deep dive into what it’s like to be a pastors’ wife. They share a great range of anecdotal examples, encouragements, and practical ideas for how to deal with common struggles, writing about issues like comparison, marriage and parenting difficulties, and issues related to friendship, church hurt, and experiences of doubt and discouragement.

The authors host a podcast together, and they have an excellent combined writing voice. Co-written books can sometimes be clunky to read, but this one flows extremely well, especially since they write about themselves in the third person and don’t trade off with a first-person voice. You don’t have to try to follow who is talking, and the unified writing voice is really helpful. The authors also fill the book with their shared humor and silliness. I laughed out loud many times, and even though some of the jokes occasionally seemed too flippant to me, I enjoyed the humorous tone and loved the funny stories about ministry.

Stephanie, Jessica, and Jenna share lots of personal stories and examples throughout, and they unpack how different Bible verses apply to tough situations that people face in ministry. They share a lot about their own difficult experiences, and they strike a great balance between being vulnerable and not oversharing in ways that could hurt other people. The specifics they share are especially helpful in the sections about dealing with church hurt, gossip, and conflict within churches, because they give concrete advice based on real examples, instead of just talking about these issues in vague terms.

This book also addresses the common struggle of feeling like you can’t be yourself at church, but have to fit everyone else’s perception of what a pastors’ wife should be. Stephanie, Jessica, and Jenna share heartfelt stories about their journeys towards self-acceptance, and they empower other women to be honest, pursue true friendships, and express their personalities. However, I sometimes felt that their emphasis on embracing their own quirkiness went too far in the opposite direction.

The authors regularly highlight how loud, silly, and boldly weird they are, and even though that can be freeing for women with similar personalities, I wish that they had included examples and encouragements for shy and soft-spoken women, who will have their own, different struggles with church expectations and social norms. The advice about accepting your God-given personality still applies, but the authors keep presenting this through the lens of accepting that you aren’t quiet, prim, and proper. The authors don’t address specific concerns for women with quieter, more subdued personalities and temperaments, and frequently reference this group as a stereotyped foil for comparison. I’m sure that this was an unintentional blind spot, but I found it disappointing.

Pastors’ Wives Tell All: Navigating Real Church Life with Honesty and Humor is a great resource for women in ministry. The authors are friendly and engaging, and they share vulnerable stories from their lives that will help readers feel understood in their own struggles. The book has a broad enough focus that it will apply to pastors’ wives, women in their own vocational ministry, and dedicated church volunteers, and it can also be a great read for someone who wants to better understand and support women in ministry. This book will be the best fit for readers who relate to the authors’ big, bold personalities, and I wish that the authors had done more to acknowledge and avoid slighting quieter women, but there is so much wisdom in this book as a whole that I would recommend it to most women in ministry.