By Riley Manning
It’s often said behind every good man stands a good woman, and perhaps that’s particularly true for pastors. From a sounding board to Bible study leaders, the pastor’s spouse provides support in every way imaginable.
“Lots of times it’s things that no one sees,” said Jessica Webb. Her husband, the Rev. Jason Webb, serves as head pastor of Ingram Baptist Church in Baldwyn. “If he has to up and go to the hospital or a funeral, I’m the one that holds down the fort at home with the children.”
At other times, it means living in a somewhat public eye, in what ministers’ families often call the “fishbowl.”
“Everyone knows a lot about what’s going on in your life,” said April Haynes, wife of the Rev. David Haynes, who pastors Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Baldwyn. “Lots of it comes up in the sermon, but I don’t put on for anyone. I’m who I am all the time, and I’d go crazy if I wasn’t.”
First Ladies of the Church
April said she and her husband started dating in high school, in their native Kossuth. While David felt the call to preach before they married, he didn’t pursue it until the year 2000, after the birth of their daughter. Working at a pharmacy in Corinth at the time, April gave the job up to stay at home with their new daughter, while David found work as a full-time youth pastor at a nearby church. The biggest change, though, came when David got his first head pastor position at a church in Marietta, forcing them to uproot their lives in Kossuth and move.
“Marietta was only 40 minutes away, but we had lived our whole lives there. We left everything we knew,” she said. “But you haven’t lived the life until the church has moved you. We were very much walking by faith, and it was scary if you thought about it too much.”
April said life got easier. David accepted the head pastor position at Mt. Olive in 2010, and since their daughter was grown enough to be in school, April stepped into a career in real estate.
However, her side job as a pastor’s wife never sleeps. She has found her niche helping with vacation Bible school in the church, and is a regular fixture on youth trips. Not to mention, keeping the preacher up to date.
“A pastor is on call all the time, and I help any way I can,” she said. “I remind him to send cards, or if the soap is out up at the church, I run and take care of it. It’s a full-time job, but I love it. We’ve been in it long enough now that I run into kids I used to teach Sunday school to who are grown up now and living for God, and that’s awesome.”
For Jessica and Jason, their journey has been about finding their individual identities as ministers. The Webbs met while in school at Blue Mountain College, and bonded over their involvement with student ministry. Though he started out as a youth minister, Jessica said she knew Jason would ultimately step into a head pastor role.
“Student ministry gave me more of a chance to be hands-on, which is kind of my nature, because it’s one specific area,” she said. “Working in this capacity has been a different journey because I can’t do everything he does. So for me, it’s been a lesson on learning the art of ‘staying and praying,’ instead of having to be in the nitty gritty all the time.”
Jessica said she grew up a pastor’s daughter, and credits her mother with being the “ultimate pastor’s wife.” At Ingram, she said she’s found herself drifting towards women’s and couples’ ministry. Her biggest job, though, is supporting Jason, as the young pastor finds his voice in the pulpit.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but he did, too. I remember telling him, ‘I don’t think I’ve heard the real you preach yet.’ At the same time, I was nervous about being prim and proper, which I’m not, and he said, ‘The right thing to be is yourself,’” she said.
A preacher’s husband
The Rev. Sherry Horton, pastor of First Christian Church in Tupelo, and her husband Randy Horton have a slightly different experience.
“I usually introduce myself as ‘the preacher’s wife,’” Randy said. “I don’t bake brownies or anything, but I’m usually called when someone needs help moving something.”
Sherry said she felt the call to minister as a teenager, but had no women preachers to look to as role models. When Randy and Sherry were married, they both worked as teachers and continued to for over 20 years.
“I knew she wanted to be a minister. One night I could tell something was bothering her and she said she’d felt the calling again,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised. It was either say, ‘OK,’ or argue with God. Our only son was in college, so it was as good a time as any.”
Sherry entered seminary, the final year of which the pair lived two hours apart while Sherry held a part-time position at a church in Stuttgart, Arkansas, while Randy remained in Southaven.
“That was tough,” Randy said. “I went to see her every weekend. During the week I was putting a dent in the couch, and took a part-time job delivering pizza at night just to get out of the house.”
The couple finally consolidated when Sherry took a head pastor position at a church in Newport, Arkansas. About a year ago, the Hortons jumped at the chance to move to Tupelo. Now Randy said he’s more involved in the church and community than he ever has been. He volunteer coaches junior high basketball at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School, and serves as elder in the church.
“My main job is to be a chauffeur and sounding board,” he said. “Losing the building in the tornado has been stressful, but it’s bonded the church in an unusual way. We’re a good team. We’ve always made decisions together, and I’ve always backed what she’s wanted to do.”