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Photo credit: Jason McCoy

What is your husband’s name?

My husband is Rev. Ernest F. Ledbetter III. He is a third-generation pastor here in Chicago.

What church do you preside at as the first lady?
The historic Mt. Pisgah MBC in Chicago in the Bronzeville community.

How many years have you held that title?
This month will mark our third year anniversary at the church.

Do you preach along with your husband? 
I speak sometimes at different events such as Women’s and Youth Ministry services for my church and other sister churches, but preaching I will leave to my husband until the Lord says otherwise.

Does it seem like you are a pastor along with him?
No, because pastoring is what he was called to. We share some aspects of Ministry Work as it relates to Praying for members, visiting sick, counseling families and being a consistent presence and example in our members’ lives. However, pastoring is much more than that. He has to ensure that he is leading following a God-given vision, preparing sermons that will save souls, while laboring in the ministry to ensure the souls that God has given him authority to watch over are being led correctly, not by his opinion but by the Lord’s direction. I can pray and choose the areas that I feel led to work in throughout the ministry. He, however, must cover all ministries and everyone, including me. I can’t begin to compare what I help him do to what he is called to do.

What does being the first lady mean to you?
In the “church world,” it’s been said that a first lady is the “minister of the minister.” That’s basically saying that she is what he needs her to be both physically and spiritually. She is a strong woman as she understands that her pastor/husband is still a man, still human, and (gasp) still makes mistakes as he too is striving daily to be a good Christian and Godly example. But throughout her marriage, she can be led by him as both a husband and spiritual leader and respect what those two titles entail. Generally speaking, every Christian woman is the First Lady of her own home as she should be an example of a Godly woman and should be excellent in all that she does (or at least strive towards it). She should be a woman who is a helpmate and knows how to pray for her family and church.

What is the most challenging part of being the first lady?
The stereotypes and limitations that are sometimes placed on you, especially at this age (old school millennial). Sometimes people expect Pastor’s Wives to fit into a certain mold based on what they are used to seeing. I don’t wear hats, have my own career and am very successful in business, and am not just the pushover “wife of the pastor.” I bring ideas to him and the Ministry and am not afraid to speak up for what I am passionate about and what I believe in. I wear what I want as long as Pastor Boo approves and it’s respectful, although it may not always be “traditional.” I don’t really look at people’s perception however as challenges because people will make assumptions about the pastor, the first lady, and the ministry. I look at them as opportunities to change perceptions and pull the roof off of limitations just by being myself and who God made me to be.

What is the best part of being the first lady?
Seeing the lives that are changed. And knowing that God has given me an incredible opportunity and lifelong mission to be a catalyst for helping and servicing others along with my husband daily. It’s a pretty cool thing to be with the person you love and together know your lives are devoted to doing the work of the Lord by being a blessing to his people.

Did you ever think you would become who you are today?
Professionally, I knew I would work in media, marketing, and advertising. Spiritually, I never saw myself married to a Pastor. Though my mom would call me “First Lady” when I was younger telling me that the way I carried myself even while young reminded her of one. I would always tell her I would marry a football player. But when you have a praying momma …

How do you balance church and home life?
Phone calendars!!! Seriously, I stay in constant communication with my husband to ensure that I am aware of all of his preaching and ministry engagements as well as any requests that I may get. Between work and church events on weekends and in the evenings I am always checking calendars before saying yes because I hate missing things that I promised I’d attend, especially members graduations, school plays, birthdays, etc. These days I am very busy supporting him as a pastor’s wife while continuing my own life and career and work in the ministry. But it’s fun to think that you’re too busy, cause it’s a good busy, and you’re doing a great work.

What is your advice to future first ladies or those who already are in the capacity of a first lady?
I end up meeting and talking with many young women who are dating, and newly engaged and married to ministers and pastors and this is some of the advice that has helped me.

1.) You have to love God for yourself, have a personal relationship with him and a strong prayer life. That will get you through the toughest of situations, especially in those beginning years when learning to balance ministry and marriage. You can’t rely on your husband’s anointing and knowledge to save you.

2.) You have to understand your husband has a calling and respect that. If he needs to study, let him. If he needs to be by himself to pray, give him that time. Never stand in the way of his and God’s relationship. He should never have to choose between God and you.

3.) Lastly, you must agree with his “message,” meaning your husband is also your pastor and leader. And you can’t love him as a man, and not agree with any of his teachings as a pastor. That’s not to say you will always agree or understand his vision. And that’s not for you to do as God has given that to him, not you. I tell women who are dating ministers, go listen to a sermon while dating. You may love his company and think he’s a great guy, but you can’t you be with half of him. The ministry is a very important part and you are not only marrying a man but a minister with a ministry. If he is teaching something that you as a Christian can’t agree to or respect, then you should reevaluate and pray as you will have to support both the man and the ministry in marriage.