Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives

Thanks to the good folks at WordPress, I can view the site stats for this blog. My favorite thing to check is the list of search terms that send people here. They’ll type a phrase into their Google search bar like “Rattlesnake Saloon restaurant in cave” and be sent to my blog post. How fun is that? I get a good laugh at some of the search terms. One poor guy typed in “pictures of girls running in the rain” and wound up reading my Color Run post, severely disappointed, I’m sure! It’s always interesting to see what people search for that leads them to my blog. But then, every few days, I read search terms that break my heart:

“I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife anymore”

“When a pastor’s wife hates church”

“Struggles of a pastor’s wife”

“Pastor’s wife leaving the church”

“Preacher’s wife can’t take it anymore”

“Pastor’s wife who doesn’t attend church”

I’m not sure how these search terms lead people to my blog, but they do. Frequently. I’ve been honest about the hard parts of being a pastor’s wife, but it’s a position and a privilege I love! My feelings on this matter definitely don’t echo the sentiments in those search terms. I hate that these women find my site but don’t find the answers they are looking for, and I wish I could do something about it. I wish that I could email each of them, let them know that someone cares about their struggles, and encourage them. But since I can’t do that, maybe I can write a post to them. Maybe the next time a discouraged pastor’s wife turns to Google to find advice, she can stumble across this blog post and be encouraged. At least, that’s my prayer in writing this.

Let me be clear that I do not have this pastor’s wife thing all figured out. I’ve been married to a minister for 7 1/2 years, but my husband has only been a Senior Pastor for a year and a half. I humbly acknowledge that I still have decades worth of lessons to learn about supporting him in his ministry and being the wife and mother God has called me to be. But today, I feel like He is calling me to share a few of the lessons I’ve already learned in the hope of encouraging other women in my position.

In scripture, there is much teaching about the qualifications of pastors and how they are to lead their lives. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays this out clearly, as does Titus 1:6-9. Nowhere in the Bible, however, can you find a list of do’s and don’t’s for pastors’ wives. There is no list of qualifying character traits, no guidelines for behavior, no model for the perfect minister’s wife, no expectations the church should have for her — nothing. And you know what? That’s freeing! There isn’t a perfect personality type, an ideal background and upbringing, or a certain “type” of woman who makes a good pastor’s wife. It’s not a gift that you either have or don’t have. The pressure is off! God isn’t calling us to be perfect pastors’ wives — He only wants us to be growing, godly women and good wives to our husbands.

How can we be good wives to our pastor-husbands? Thankfully, there is scripture to help us with that. Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-6, and Proverbs 31 are good places to start. But after you consult the Word, ask your husband. What does he need from you? How can you better show him your love and respect? Your husband needs you to be a good wife to him more than he needs you to be a good pastor’s wife to your congregation. He needs you at home more than he needs you at church. Be careful not to spend all of your time and energy working in the church only to come home empty with no energy or time left for your husband. He needs to know that he, not the ministry, is your main priority. Your service at home, to your family, is so much more important than your service in the church, to your church family.

Our main job, as pastors’ wives, is to support our husbands as they minister, and that support will look different for every couple. What my husband needs from me may be different than what your husband needs from you. Personally, I try to keep up with what texts and topics he is preaching on, and ask questions and initiate conversations about his sermon preparation and plans. I may not be able to contribute much to this process, but he knows I’m interested and available if there is anything he would like to talk through. I also support him with my presence. Every time he preaches, I’m sitting in the front, listening and taking notes. I laugh at the jokes that other people may not get. I nod and smile if he looks my way. No matter how the rest of the church is reacting or responding, he can know that his biggest fan is listening and supporting him. Lastly, I try to verbally encourage him and let him know that I think he is doing a great job. (Which, for me, is easy because he IS doing a great job.)

After we make sure we are serving our husbands at home and supporting their ministry at church, we can begin thinking about how we serve in the church. Should a pastor’s wife attend church regularly? Absolutely. Does she have to be at every single church function, program, meeting, or event? No. Should she serve in the church in some capacity? Of course. But does she have to be the “first lady” of the church, heading up every ministry? Definitely not. I think this is where many pastors’ wives get burned out and discouraged. Many churches have unreasonable expectations of what a pastor’s wife’s role should be. By the same measure, many of us have a hard time saying no.

Fellow pastors’ wives, you do not have to play the piano every Sunday. You do not have to lead the women’s ministry and head up the children’s programs. You do not have to make a meal for every church member who is sick, has a baby, or experiences a death in the family. There is no scriptural mandate for how or when you should serve in the church! Any service I do in the church is my choice, not my obligation. Currently, I choose to serve by teaching youth Sunday School and teaching the toddlers on Wednesday nights. There are seasons, however, (like in a few months when I’ll have a new baby) when I cannot give the church as much of my time, and that’s okay, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out, maybe you need a season of rest. Maybe you need to cut back on your service at church. Maybe you need to say no every now and then. And if you do, it will be okay.

Jesus calls us to love his church, and sometimes that’s not the easiest task for a pastor’s wife. Sometimes churches do not treat pastors or their families well. Sometimes there are people in the church that are very difficult to love. I’ve been there in the past, and I get it. It’s difficult not to take every comment and criticism personally. In these situations, I think it is important to be able to escape for a few days, a couple of hours, or even for a long conversation. While I love having friendships and strong relationships in our church, in hard times I realize the value of having a few close friends outside of the church. Every pastor’s wife needs a confidant to vent to about church drama. We need a friend who can encourage us and give us perspective from an outside point of view. Our husbands need friends who are not in their “flock” or under their spiritual authority. If you are lacking these relationships outside of the church and are always surrounded by your congregation, it will be easier to lose your love for your church and harder to serve them joyfully. Is there an outside friendship you can invest in? Another pastor’s wife who can give you advice and perspective? Seek these relationships, because we, as pastors’ wives, need them dearly.

Fellow pastors’ wives, there is so much more I want to say to you. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be writing on this topic again soon. In the meantime, please know that you are not alone. Your position is not always easy, and every woman in this position struggles from time to time. I would love to hear about your struggles so I can pray with you. I would love to know what advice you would give your fellow pastors’ wives. Leave a comment so we can encourage one another and pray for each other!