Chinese pastors’ wives struggle with something more personal than political oppression.

by Hannah Nation

Late this last summer in one of China’s major cities, a small group of Chinese pastors’ wives gathered together from the unregistered church (or “house church”) for a time of training and support. Most of the women didn’t know each other, nonetheless, they shared their common burdens with one another:

“We get little to no rest; even if we do slow down on a rare occasion, we feel guilty.”

“Our to-do list is endless. And if we don’t do it all and do it well, we create new problems for ourselves.”

“Our congregation has unrealistic expectations of our family. Sometimes I have my own unrealistic expectations of myself, my children, and my husband.”

As the communications director for China Partnership, I hear daily about efforts to train and equip the mostly male pastorate of a rising church movement called Grace to City, which focuses on gospel renewal among China’s unregistered churches. The needs of the Chinese pastorate are myriad, and they include one often overlooked but very important group of people: pastors’ wives like these.

Although China has a government-sanctioned church called the Three Self Church, the vast majority of Chinese Christians belong to unregistered church communities that often meet in rented apartments, storefronts, or hotel conference rooms. When Westerners think of these “house churches,” they often assume the biggest challenge is the political environment. While the legal issues surrounding the unregistered church are often tense and at times overwhelming, the ministry struggles are much more mundane and common. Like small church pastors in the States, Chinese pastors and their families experience significant pressure as they lead often-underfunded and understaffed churches.

A lot of that pressure is borne by the wives.

The social, spiritual, and even physical struggles expressed by Chinese women are both familiar and foreign to their Western sisters. As recent articles have highlighted, they face common challenges surrounding singlenesssuccessmarital infidelitydomestic abuse, and parenting. They also face issues particular to their context, including the former one-child policy and matters of filial piety.

Arguably, however, the challenge most often identified as an impediment to ministry and family life is the Chinese work ethic.

For Chinese pastors’ wives, it’s a quiet, subtle struggle that pervades family life. These women in ministry face spiritual difficulty not in dramatic showdowns with the government but rather in the same daily struggle to live according to God’s grace that most believers face around the world.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today: “Women”