Over the past few years, a new term has developed in Adventist terminology—"team ministry." Administrators, pastors, and even lay people have expressed to us, "What a wonderful team ministry you have together." But what really is team ministry? in school we didn't take Team Ministry 101.1n talking with older ministerial couples, when team ministry is described and discussed as something new or special, they say, "We have done that all along." So what is meant when we loosely throw around the term? In order to give this paper a scholarly touch, we looked up "team" in the dictionary and found the perfect definition: Team—"Where two or more beasts of burden are harnessed together."
Whenever "team ministry" is mentioned, many ministers' wives express feelings of bitterness and frustration. Realistically, what do we expect of ministers' wives? Do we expect a pastor's wife who may, out of necessity, work full- or part-Lime, to still be involved as an integral part of her husband's ministry? Idealistically, some envision the minister's wife keeping an immaculate home while preparing fantastic meals that would make the Weimar kitchens jealous. She also should have the best behaved children in the church. She must happily accept all the offices in the church that no one else will have. She visits, travels, and is always available with her husband, as well as conducting five Bible studies each week, On top of this "team ministry," she is called upon to supplement the family income by working part- or full-time. (Those of you with one or more children in academy or college know of what we speak!) Is this fair? Is this what "team ministry" is all about? We don't think so.
As we view it, true "team ministry" can realistically only be done by pastoral couples if:
- The wife gets paid by the church.
- The couple is young with no children.
- The couple is older with no large educational or other expenses.
We believe a more appropriate term to be used in describing "team ministry" is "togetherness in ministry."
We feel that what is needed in ministerial families is for the husband and wife to be united in their vision and in sharing the unique mission of the Adventist church and its ministry. Whether a pastor's wife works in the home, marketplace, or by his side, the pastoral couple should share the deep understanding of the only reason the Adventist church exists—the singular message God has called upon it to give to the world, and their God-given call into the Adventist ministry.
There is no other ministry in the world like the Adventist ministry. We are a totally unique church with our urgent message. We are not here for the long haul. Our church was born like a Roman candle fireworks display —short and bright with the great climax of Jesus' coming! If the pastoral couple jointly understands these concepts and is united together in a holy passion for souls, the church will be revived to the only task Jesus has asked us to do.
We hope the day will come when all those pastors' wives who choose to be an integral part of a team ministry approach will be reimbursed for their work. In reality, however, with church finances the way they are in many areas, this may not materialize. If the church as a whole returned a true tithe, programs and workers could be greatly increased.
Through the years, both when she worked full-time as an executive secretary apart from the church and also the time she has been remunerated by the church, Gloria and I have taken the "togetherness" approach to God's call of ministry in both of our lives.