Leslie Dodrill, Academic Convocation Fall 2010

A Comparison Study Between the Years 1988 and 2008 of the Educational Needs of Wives of Seminary Graduates During the First Five Years of Their Ministry

 “In today’s culture, the common marriage vows ‘do you accept … for better or worse’ recognize that each partner brings to the marriage his and her total persona and its consequences,” Leslie Dodrill said as she spoke to students, faculty and staff during the fall academic convocation at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary on September 9, 2010.

“One feature in a marriage which must be addressed is the spouse’s job and its implications,” Dodrill said, explaining that her convocation would discuss her research, which was to discover and validate the uniqueness of being the wife of a minister. Dodrill is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, as well as Associate Director for Student Affairs, at Golden Gate’s Arizona Campus.

Dr. Dodrill has served Arizona churches for nearly forty years in a wide variety of lay positions: Bible study teacher for all age groups, discipleship leader, Girls Auxiliary (GA)/missions leader, outreach/evangelism leader, and chair/member of numerous committees. She has served on the church staff at North Phoenix Baptist Church and is currently a NAMB-appointed missionary serving with her husband, Gary, in the Estrella Baptist Association. For eight years she served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at a Christian university. Dr. Dodrill also has a ministry to children with special needs and to their families.

“The woman who marries a minister cannot determine the perimeters of her role by herself alone,” said Dodrill. “Although college and seminary training is encouraged and expected for the man who has ‘accepted a call’ into the ministry, frequently the educational needs for his wife are ignored or treated casually.”

Several of the questions in her research included: ‘Are there consequences that a job of a career minister imposes upon the spouse?’ ‘As our culture has changed over the last few decades, have the expectations for a wife of a minister changed?’ ‘Do wives want, need and receive adequate/appropriate training concurrent to their husband’s seminary training?’ and the focus of the study: ‘Have the educational needs of wives of seminary graduates changed in twenty years?’

Dodrill pointed out that her research was conducted at a seminary other than Golden Gate. “In 1988 I initiated the study to investigate the perceived educational needs of wives of seminary graduates during the first five years of their ministries,” she explained. In 2008 she duplicated the research, and compared the results of the two studies.

“Many changes in society had occurred in the two decades since the original study,” she noted. “Technology had exploded, the number of women in the workplace had significantly increased, and models of church life were changing.”

Focusing on the results of the 2008 survey, and comparing them to the 1988 results, Dodrill found that the educational needs of wives of seminary graduates during the first five years of their ministry were significantly similar. “A majority of the wives from both years indicated they wished they had been more adequately educated for the role during their seminary years,” she said.

“All institutions of higher learning recognize the responsibility to create an appropriate program of study to prepare students for future careers,” Dodrill explained. “The student begins the degree with the unspoken expectation that the institution has created the appropriate academic content. Based on my research with ministers’ wives, I recommend that all seminaries provide their students with training in areas such as ‘Conflict Resolution, Anger Management, Confidentiality,’ ‘Stress Management,’ ‘Balancing Priorities and a God-honoring Lifestyle,’ ‘Christian Home and Family,’ and ‘Biblically-based Marriage Enrichment.’ In addition, the wives of future ministers should be offered curriculum to prepare them for their responsibilities during the first five years of their husbands’ ministry.”

“It is this educator’s opinion that to appropriately address the issues identified in this research, seminaries should attempt to educate both the student-minister and the spouse, as this is not a spouse responsibility alone,” Dodrill concluded, and suggested several electives including a course on ‘Minister and Spouse’ for couples; a weekend retreat for married graduating students; an assignment for the student minister to dialogue with spouse about conflict management, anger issues, confidentiality, etc.; and a course to lay an essential foundation for a healthy family relationship.

Seminaries are committed to not only educating students to be prepared, but to thrive, in their future ministry environment, Dodrill said. “Therefore, it is essential that Christian leaders recognize the significance and responsibility of purposefully contributing to the growth of healthy families.”

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