Being a pastor’s wife is a difficult job. It’s an experience like no other. While I feel honored to live a life of ministry and serve alongside my husband, life for a pastor’s family can be challenging, lonely, and trying.
Our family is in a fishbowl – with all eyes on our parenting, our children (and their behavior), our marriage, our interactions with churchgoers…the list goes on and on. We are expected to behave, perform, think, and speak in certain ways. We’re often sought after for just about every ministry, expected to attend every church function, participate in all events, throw the baby showers, speak at retreats, and never waiver in our spirit, demeanor, or faith. Some churches see us as our husband’s “sidekick” and/or take into account whether or not he should be hired based on what WE have to offer the church. I’m guessing not many dentists or mechanics’s wives are asked to come along to their job interviews -but I’ve been interviewed for almost every church we’ve served at. They’re paying our husbands, but in a sense, they hired us too.
Don’t get me wrong. We are BLESSED. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the community and support my husband in his ministry. (Plus, I LOVE my church!)
Each of the things listed below are struggles nearly every pastor’s wife faces. I’ve spent nearly 12 years as a pastor’s wife and have spoken with hundreds of other women across the country, serving alongside their husbands. Love on your pastor’s wife. Pray for her. Support her. Encourage her. Be slow to judge and even slower to criticize. Your words have the power to bless her or wound her. The way you treat her husband affects her.
She’s real. She’s human. She’s beautifully imperfect – just like you. Love her. She needs it.
Where Can I Order a Thicker Skin?
People in the church are not always going to approve of everything the pastors do and say. While some people are able to disagree in a respectful way, many people are not (or choose not to!) When you are in the ministry, you inevitably hear hurtful words, gossip, slander, and malicious criticism of your husband.
I won’t lie – it’s very hard to be gracious and polite to people who have put my husband down. It is a constant exercise in patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
Many men are criticized by those in their work environment. Customers complain all the time at various places of work. But for the pastor’s wife, the “customers” are people we’re in community with. We know these people. It hurts. It stings. It feels like betrayal.
My skin is not thick. While I am learning to “let it go”, negative comments, criticism, and rude behavior don’t roll off my back -especially when those things are directed at the man I love and respect.
Love Her By: Speak words of grace to and about her husband. Love her by respecting your pastor.
We Don’t Control Our Husbands
It’s a pet peeve of mine when someone from church will approach me and say, “Can you make your husband XYZ?” Pastors are not robots controlled by their wives on the whims of church-goers. The church didn’t hire me to do his job. I don’t want to do his job. I want to allow him to do the best work he can, as he follows after God and seeks His will for the church.
But, so often we are asked to manipulate, control, or direct our husband. “Could you just mention to your husband that it was a tad too loud in service today?” “Let your husband know that topical sermons are getting old. Why doesn’t he preach on XYZ.” “Make your husband make me the head of such and such ministry.”
Many people see the pastor’s wife as the go-between, the middle-man, the human suggestion box. We’re not. So often these
demands suggestions, feel a lot like disrespect for our husband. If you have something to suggest or question, please talk directly to him.
Love Her By: If you have an issue with your pastor, please speak to him directly. (And see above for how to speak to him!)
We Go to Church Alone
Every Sunday I get myself and four kids ready for church -alone. I drive across town to church by myself. I drop the kids off in Sunday school alone, and wrangle them from all corners of the church when it’s time to go home. I sit by myself – and jokingly call myself a pew widow. While many men and women attend church without their spouse, it’s difficult knowing it’s never going to be an option for our family.
Though we see my husband while at church, we know that on Sunday mornings, he does not belong to us. It’s his job to meet and greet visitors, attend to morning details, and prepare to teach. We’ll never experience riding home as a family, chattering about what we learned. We won’t get to worship together. My husband can’t put his arm around me during the sermon. Our church experience is simply different from that of other families, and at times, can be waring, lonely, and difficult.
Love Her By: Sit by your pastor’s wife during service. Don’t judge the outfits of her kids or her mental state upon arrival on Sunday mornings. =) (Those van rides can be rough!)
It’s Hard to Be Yourself
A lot of expectations surround a pastor and his family. People expect you to speak, behave, and live in very specific ways. Many people are shocked to discover that pastors and their families watch tv, listen to secular music, go wine tasting, and experience the full range of human emotions. We’re normal – but many people don’t want us to be.
Some people want us to sit on the pedestal of holiness and perfection. We’re to be sweet, gracious, involved, loving, and outgoing. Others want us to be private – who wants to know about the struggles of their leaders? It makes people uncomfortable to know that we are flawed. Towards that end, we often go through life with walls up, never allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Few people get to know the “real” us.
People are always surprised to learn we don’t spend all of our free time studying the Bible. While I spend time in the Word daily, I also devour YA dystopian lit, have an affinity for indie punk/folk music, and experience frustration, anger, pride, jealousy, and other unpleasant emotions. But the “real” us is often left a mystery to most.
When we’re having a hard time with one of our kids,have a fight with our husband, or experience financial hardship, we don’t always have the freedom to talk about it. Likewise, if we struggle with depression, anxiety, or sin, sharing those burdens is rarely safe. Information about a leader can spread like wildfire. To protect our family from gossip or “information sharing”, pastor’s wives often feel the need to keep their human struggles private. Discretion and privacy are important for everyone, but when we feel as if we don’t have a safe outlet or place to share our struggles, problems, or life details, we can begin to feel isolated and frustrated. We often don’t have the freedom to vent, cry, become flustered, or take off our “I have it all together” masks. When really, we’re human – flawed, imperfect, and in need of support.
Love Her By: Allow your pastor’s wife to be REAL. Give her grace and allow her to be her perfectly imperfect self. She’s human – just like you.
Think about how you can tangibly love the wives of your pastors this week. Buy her a coffee. Write her a note of encouragement. Pray for her. Give grace to her. Hold back your negative comments. Speak kindly about her husband and children. Allow her to be herself. Let her be real. Show her love.