CHC advisory pastor Phil Pringle’s helpmate in life is Christine Pringle. City News meets her and finds out how she proves that “Behind every successful man is an understanding woman.”
|PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINE PRINGLE|
In your DVD, O Sacred Kiss, O Sacred Call, you shared about your relationship with your husband, Phil Pringle, and how you felt apprehensive about going on a sailing trip with him. It was very liberating for many women to hear about your struggles and fears. What do you think is the biggest struggle for couples when either of them or both of them are in full-time ministry?
You have to recognize early in your marriage that if one or both are involved in ministry, that it’s part of the cost that you are sharing your lives with a lot of other people.
Through my experience, I want to encourage couples who are entering the ministry, maybe at the beginning of married life, to put in their ministry schedules time away to engage in something that they love to do together, without the distraction of the ministry and the church. Somewhere far or near, it doesn’t matter. The challenge is understanding that you do have a life that’s given away and shared with others, but you must find the time, first of all for each other, and then for your children.
What is your secret to building a strong family life while juggling ministry?
Try and keep with all the responsibilities; try and keep a happy home life. Keep it light. Don’t try and get heavy with the kids, or place a lot of religious expectations on them. I think that one thing we’ve tried to communicate is that the ministry is fun. We’ve always included our kids in the ministry. You have to be very organized—you organize fun. I’m a kindergarten teacher by ex-profession, so I’ve found that it’s important to always provide a place at home where kids can bring their friends.
Also, we made church fun. That was always a part of our vision: that we would have great kids, that it would be instructive, but also fun and colorful, and have lots of music, and happy songs. Anything that looks spontaneous is actually quite highly organized. We have always made an effort to be involved: we always went to the kids’ sport matches, and got involved in what they were doing. I think there’s no doubt about it, it is a juggle, but you can learn to be organized, and make it fun for kids as they grow up. Like now, our three children are adults, and all of them love the house of God. They are all involved in some creative element.
I’ve shared through the Sacred Kiss message that family is very important and I do try and teach our younger families that you don’t need to sacrifice either. You can actually marry the two—ministry and family. You can make your marriage work. And I think there’s no one method. You have to take the personality of the husband and the wife, and the children, and the size of the church—and it can all work together.
Some young couples go, “We are so involved in the ministry, we haven’t got time to have a baby,” and I go, “Tsk. That’s just so all back-to-front.” I always believed that if I was called to be alongside the ministry with Phil, that the Lord would give me helpers around my life. I know that’s not uncommon in Singaporean culture, but in ours, it was kind of a new thing. But as I prayed, all through my parenting years and ministry life, women and families have been beside me and helping me with the kids. They’re not blood family, but like, extended family. I feel that the Lord always provides in that way, if we can see it and believe it. You can do it through prayer, and be creative, and believe God.
What kinds of financial dilemmas do you and Phil experience and how do you resolve them?
I think that’s something that couples need to sit down and talk about and work out together. Certainly a lot of struggles seem to happen when there’s a two-wage household and the wife gets pregnant, because maybe she’s not able to continue to earn. You have to believe God for provision, but live within your means.
The very first thing a couple should decide to never waver on is to give the tithe into the house of God. We’ve done that all our married lives, even during times when it’s been tight. I think that there’s a lot more pressure on married couples, and young families today, to have it all. My husband came out of a very wealthy household, but he always worked for his money. He was taught that if you wanted money, you worked for it. I was raised by my mother who was a widow, and it was the same thing. She said, “Chris, if you want money, you have to work for it.”
So when we entered ministry life, we had what I call some poor expectations, even though we were believing God to prosper us. I think as we’ve grown in faith, we’ve stepped out more in financial investments, believing God. But no matter where you’re at, whether you have little, or whether you’re beginning to receive more in your income, you still believe God.
We’ve always believed that God has blessed us to give, and to keep sowing, and to not withhold. That spirit of generosity, and that faithfulness with the tithe, is an anchor to a couple’s financial future. I think that couples should never veer away from getting financial advice if they are in trouble. This is far more common today than in our early married life. That way, you’re going to be sowing wisely and saving and looking to a good financial life. I also think that couples should try not to feel that pressure of keeping up with somebody. Just thank God for health, that you have a job and that you are faithful to look after your children. As you’re faithful with the little, down the line, the Lord will give you a bit more, because He’s wanting to see that you’re faithful to Him. We’ve seen young couples get themselves into terrible debt to keep up, beginning with the wedding. For the marriage’s sake, think long term.
As the saying goes, “The husband is the head of the household, the wife is the neck that turns the head.” Do you agree?
We are helpmates for each other. When I think of Phil and I out at sea, there has to be one captain. For me, my husband’s the captain but I’m his first mate. So he needs me to tack, and unwind the ropes. If husbands and wives can learn to work together as a team, like I said, to find something in common outside of ministry, it doesn’t become top heavy and heavy-handed. I do feel sorry for the husband and wife when Scriptures are used, like “I’m the head of the household, you’re to submit to me.” That’s a terrible argument to start with.
I’ve always loved the fact that Phil’s stayed on fire. He’s a man of prayer throughout our married lives, and when the kids were growing up, they could hear Phil praying early in the morning for us, and in fellowship with the Lord. If the husband is wanting to be the head of the home, then the first way that he can actually win the respect of his wife is to really love the Lord. If he does, then he’s going to cherish his wife, and want to bless her and not be heavy-handed with her. There’s going to be a loving relationship between the husband and wife, and the kids will feel it. And others will see it too.
So there’s got to be mutual love and respect. There’s got to be a good understanding between husband and wife, and that takes a lifetime of working together, learning, making mistakes, having arguments.
Next year, we celebrate 40 years of marriage and being in the ministry together. I think as long as you still laugh together, you’ll work it out. Keep loving the Lord, keep a good sense of humor, keep the joy of the Lord as your strength. Then all those other things will work themselves out.
Most women give up dressing up after a while into their marriage when things get comfortable. How do you find time to dress up and keep yourself looking good?
I’ve always loved colors and art, and I think it’s not just because you’re seen by others, but it’s taking a joy in life and a pride in your appearance, and that makes it fun. Fashion should be fun! I think that there are seasons in your life, like when a mum’s just had her baby and she’s got the milk coming in, and her tummy hasn’t gone down, I think you need a good gang of girlfriends. Get together and help each other to look good. Ask for help. Many years ago, I had my colors done up, to see what colors suited my skin tone. You don’t have to be spending a fortune, but to know the colors that look good on you and accessorize accordingly. It doesn’t take a lot, just a scarf or a necklace.
Name one man and one woman that you hold in high regard.
I look up to my pastor who led us to Christ. He’s just retired in New Zealand; he’s in his 80s. I definitely admire Pastor Dennis Barton and his wife Barbara. This is what we learned from them: that when somebody comes through the doors of the house of God, even if they are not like you, even if they look like they are from another planet (which Phil and I did, and they were conservative English pastors), the love of Christ is bigger than any cultural differences. And he loved us, accepted us, led us to Christ, showed us unconditional love.
The one woman who changed my life before Pastor Barton’s wife was the woman who led us to Christ. Her name is May Hancock. We were in the hippie lifestyle and we were getting a bit freaked out, things were going a bit bad. And we rang up a girlfriend from art college, her name was Dorothy Hancock and she was this cool, hippie artist and clairvoyant. We thought she could help us. She was advising us to go to these different spiritualist societies and her mum was listening to the conversation. She had become a Christian three weeks earlier and she said to her daughter, “Who were they?” and her daughter said, “Oh, just some friends who were freaking out.” She asked, “May I call them back? I know someone who could really help them.” And very quietly, she put us in touch with Pastor Barton. And on that Sunday night, we didn’t even know we were going to a church. I had no idea what a pastor was, I thought it was a dairy farmer. This little lady was standing on the steps and she said, “Hi, you must be the young couple in trouble” and she showed us the love of Christ as well. We were getting married after we got saved. She made my wedding dress, she made the wedding cake, and she never said anything about her needs, or that her husband was dying of cancer.
May Hancock changed my world, I’ll never forget her. She’s not a great evangelist, she never preached. Probably a book will never be written about her, unless I do it, and one day I will.
What are your personal mottos on friendship and family?
My personal motto, if I’ve got one, is that marriage and family and friendship are sacred, and they should never be taken for granted. They are precious gifts and should be valued above all else.
O Sacred Kiss, O Sacred Call is available on DVD at Attributes Bookstore. www.attributes.com.sg.