In Her Shoes – The Pastor’s Wife

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”
I Thessalonians 5:12-13
My first memory of a pastor’s wife is of Mrs. Ben Strohbehn who was helping me in my duty as a five-year-old flower girl.  She gently instructed me: “Stand tall, like there is a string on the top of your head pulling you up.”  Undoubtedly, helping children in a wedding was just one small item on her list of countless responsibilities (most of them never formally listed in a job description).


While growing up, I never guessed that a woman married to a pastor had a life any different from my mother who was married to a realtor.  A pastor’s wife was always at church, always dressed nicely, and always smiling.  That’s about all I knew of her.   I took every pastor’s wife for granted until both of my sisters married pastors, and then I began to have a far greater appreciation for those in full-time ministry.



Since women married to pastors often face things we never realize and carry unique burdens about which they never complain, it would be difficult for them to share publicly without causing offense and possibly hindering their ministry (or that of their husband).  Therefore, I proposed a venue where they could share anonymously from their hearts.



Seven friends of mine who are married to pastors volunteered to contribute to this article.  Two of these dear women have been my pastor’s wife at some point in my life.  I am extremely grateful for the impact they have had and continue to have in my life.  Thank you, Ladies!  Your gifts of time and transparency are priceless.


To you who are married to a pastor:  Thank you for your faithful service!  I hope you will be encouraged as you read these testimonies.  You are not alone!  There are many women like you who understand and care about you.  And there are many of us who are not married to a pastor who want to minister to you and be a true friend.  Please feel free to add your comments below!  We would love to hear from you.

To you who are not married to a pastor:  Thank you for being willing to learn how to better encourage your pastor’s wife.  As you read, ask God to help you grow in your understanding of how to bless your pastor and his wife.  There are wonderful ideas below, many of which you can easily implement right away in your local church body.  You can be an incredible encouragement to your pastor’s wife today!


Alabama
1.  I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife. In fact, I really never felt qualified to be one. But when God called my husband to be a pastor, guess what!? He called me, too. Pastors and their wives are just real people being obedient to God’s direction.
2.  I really do need a close friend or two. The whole concept that I can’t  have best friends or I’m playing favorites is not realistic. I try very hard to love everyone, but I really do need to be able to have a friend I can just hang out with once in a while.

3.  My husband says it’s harder to be the pastor’s wife than the pastor. He can choose to address or confront criticisms or negative remarks if he thinks it is biblically right to do so. I don’t always have the freedom he does. I think he’s right. Oh, and I know my kids will also do something wrong. (My 5-year-old really did stick her tongue out at the head deacon and then run into the girls bathroom.)

4.  When you get mad at me, it hurts.  I’m not superhuman.

5.  Being the wife of the shepherd means I get to help carry the responsibility that God has given him. While it often comes with some (large) challenges, it is the greatest privilege I could ever imagine. Though I never aspired to it, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am so thankful God knew what was best for me. I pray that I will be a blessing to our church family and sensitive and obedient to my loving heavenly Father.


Colorado
 

I had the joy and privilege of being a Pastor’s wife back when we still lived in the Midwest 10 years ago, and also an Associates Pastor’s wife of a Native American church back in 98, so, my experience isn’t “recent” but hopefully, still valuable. 😉 Both experiences also unfortunately weren’t very long and both were stressful, since my husband was bi-vocational! (Very tough, when also raising a family and going to school, along with a 50 hour work week on top of it, and small churches, where the Pastor is expected to be everything to everyone! Tough….but we learned soooo much!)


Loved being the Pastor’s wife and getting to help encourage everyone and pray for everyone, and listen to their hearts, and help motivate them and cheer them on, so to speak, and help wherever I was needed and then some. Being in ministry has always been my heart’s desire, along with being a wife and mother, so it was truly a blessing!


However, being involved in smaller churches in both situations, I was also expected to be and do everything, along with raising our children and supporting my husband, etc. It can be fun and also very lonely at the same time. Who does the Pastor or his wife go to when they have a problem and are in need of counsel? Since every one’s expectations are so high of you, it’s hard to let them down, so you just continue “doing it all” and it’s hard sometimes to just be honest and admit, you really can’t do it all and are in need of help and encouragement yourself! Ya know what I mean? We were still human! But felt sometimes that we had to be “super human”!

All these years later, God has grown me in soooo many ways and I am NOT the same person I was then…thankfully…and I am still hoping that God allows us to be back in the ministry again…full time…not bi-vocational this time!!! And I will definitely do things differently and with my new perspective and all that God has done to change me over the years, it will be even more joyous this next time around I believe!

I would soooo encourage a new young pastor’s wife to just be herself…be totally honest from the start, with love and grace of course. But to also let everyone know she will do her best by the power of the Holy Spirit, but is still human, so please remember to extend grace to her (me) as well. Let’s work together in this ministry…everyone using their gifts to edify the saints, and not being “territorial” about certain ministries, etc…love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another…be about “one another”…

Pastors and their wives need encouragement and prayer more than anyone can even begin to realize! They need to be lifted up and appreciated, because it is such a thankless “job” sometimes and the hours are long and hard, and no one realizes just how much time they do put in and how many sacrifices they do make!
In both of my experiences, I was able to let people in to really get to know me and that was a huge positive…they knew that I absolutely LOVED purple, I collected tea-pots, and loved relationships and getting together with women to talk over a cup of coffee…in my case…tea. 😉I was vulnerable and transparent and they loved that about me…that was especially interesting with the Native American women! lol!

Get to know your pastor’s wife…know her favorite color and favorite flower or favorite Starbucks drink and then surprise her one day by bringing her a bouquet of flowers, along with her favorite coffee/tea drink! Or her favorite movie or book or take her out to lunch at her favorite place…offer to watch her children, if they are younger, so she and her husband can go on a date and just have some beautiful, uninterrupted time, just the 2 of them! Send her a card, an email or a text telling her just how special she is and how much you appreciate her! Soooo many things you can do to just let her know you care and love her and are glad she is your pastor’s wife!


The bottom line is…as women especially…we all need to feel loved and accepted and your pastor’s wife is no exception!!! Love on her and pray for her every day all the time!!! Ask God to bless her bountifully! Treat her like a queen! Most that I know, unfortunately, are treated like everything else but this…so sad…and ministry is just plain hard, no matter how you look at it, but it can also be the biggest blessing in your life and bring you such overwhelming joy that you can’t even contain it!!! I would rather be the “joy” to my Pastor and wife and NOT the “burden!”


Iowa
 


A few things I meditate on to be put into practice:  Count it all joy! Give thanks in all things! If any of you lack wisdom…ask!  Count my things as rubbish! Will it matter in eternity?

Feel like you live in a fish bowl? If people see me at home not dressed up, with no make up, in work clothes cleaning cupboards, laundry on the couch … good! I am normal and have a real family life. They will be more comfortable with me and not afraid of what I expect at their homes.  The Lord sees me all the time! He is more important!

Feel like you live in a fish bowl… Praise the Lord. People need to see that real life happens to pastors families and how we handle it. Paul said Watch me and do as I do.

Practical Tips:

Expect and be ready for unexpected dinner and house guests and last minute surprises or needs!  Come up with a couple of simple meals, dishes that you can keep supplies on hand. Dishes that take little prep. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Even a can of slices peaches with some Tang sprinkled in it is a treat for those who are hurting.

Keep a supply of sample toiletries on hand. If you can have a set of clean sheet, towels and a basket of basic needs handy.

Make those surprises easy on your self by thinking ahead and be as ready as you can for the unexpected. People will be more at ease if they are made to feel that you are not put out by there arrival or need.

My time: It is NOT my time it is the Lord’s.
  I must keep Titus 2 in mind.  The Lord tells me to teach the younger women to love their husband, be discreet, sober how to care for children and the home.

Also, I am to obey MY husband and the Lord.  If I keep that in mind it will help keep me from becoming overwhelmed by tasks and time users that take me away from what the Lord and my husband say I am to do.

I can even put pressure on myself to do things believing that it is from the Lord but if my husband does not agree then it is not the time.  I am my husband’s wife just as other wives. I am not the assistant pastor.  My life will be easier if I keep this in mind and remember that every request for me to do something does not have to be done by me. 



Iowa


 


When I was seven years old, as I was seated on a comfy chair in our church’s fellowship lounge, my pastor, his wife and their two children walked past me in Mother Goose order, just like a Norman Rockwell painting. Mrs. Mark was young, beautiful, and wore a pillbox hat and matching gloves. Pastor Mark was neat, gentle and strong. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. 


 


The life in a pastor’s household seems, well, glamorous, fulfilling, happy; but you already know what’s coming to the naïve seven-year-old when she grows up and becomes one. Leadership Life always looks glamorous from the outside. It looks entirely different from within.


 


After over 25 years in the ministry, I can tell you that Leadership Life is a lonely life. After all, the sheep interact with one another, eat together, rest together, play together. The shepherd watches, feeds, guides and corrects. They do not look at their shepherd the same way they look at each other. And do you think that they would look at the shepherd’s wife as one with the sheep or one with the shepherd? The “pillbox hat and matching gloves” that you see on your pastor’s wife cover someone who is just like you ~ a dirty, filthy rotten forgiven sinner trying to handle the same challenges, temptations and stresses as you are.


 


Pastors and teachers are to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God…”  (Ephesians 4:12,13). That’s a tall order. Leadership Life is a life full of endless, hard work. Being limited by time and the overwhelming pull of various responsibilities, you can make sure your pastor and his wife are not fulfilling this particular function alone by a) participating in the training that God asks your pastor to give you, b) by helping them “visit the orphans and widows in their trouble… “ (James 1:27), and c) make sure that you are actively using the spiritual gift God has given you to contribute to the health and profit of the local body (I Corinthians 12:4-31).


 


Leadership Life is a serious life (Hebrews 13:17). If you think that the man responsible for “watching for your souls, as they that must give account” is a happy-go-lucky guy, you need to adjust the focus on that microscope of yours. You can do much to contribute to your pastor’s ability to watch over the souls of your congregation with “joy, and not with grief.” That should be the caveat when you are ministering to your pastor’s wife. After all, they are “one flesh,” so if you minister to her, you are ministering to him, and vice versa.


 


The following are some tips for increasing your pastor and his wife’s joy:


 


1.) When you introduce her to others, do not introduce her as your “pastor’s wife.” Introduce her as your friend. The title “pastor’s wife” does not imply any amount of intimacy, which is the exact thing that your pastor’s wife desires. If you must refer to her as your pastor’s wife (being proud of her and the role she has in your life), be sure to include the lovely, complimentary term of “friend.


 


2.) It is always a surprise to me when I am speaking one-on-one with an individual that acts stiff or unnatural. Then my heart falls when I remember why. I am the pastor’s wife. Please, do not walk on eggshells in the presence of your pastor’s wife. Forget her “title” and see a woman who has a similar story to your own. Get to know her as a real person who can be a kindred spirit as you both learn and grow in the Lord.


 


3.) There have been days when all I wanted was to go out for lunch with a friend and be a normal person without me being the one to do the inviting. Without me being the one to lead in a prayer of thanks before eating. It is a dream-come-true for a pastor’s wife to laugh, to enjoy a tête-à-tête, to roll her eyes… to feel comfortable and to be someone with whom a friend can be comfortable.


 


4.) One of the best things you can do for your pastor’s wife is to ease the work load of your pastor. As a family, go into your pastor’s office and say, “Pastor, we love you and appreciate you as our spiritual shepherd. We see that you are working really hard. What can we do with you or for you that can ease your load in ministry? Can we pray together about how we can aid you and what ministries God would have us be involved in here at church?”

 


5.) Do not expect to have a personal relationship with your pastor. Fulfill that desire by having a personal relationship with a) your pastor’s wife and/or b) your husband. Your pastor and his wife hold the same views and she knows her husband’s heart, but if a friendship with his wife is not enough, your connection with your pastor is through your husband. If you want to know your pastor’s opinion about work you have done, work you will do, or share dreams you may have for the church, etc., talk to your husband first. Go to your pastor together (either with your husband or with your pastor’s wife) to receive guidance or affirmation. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Your pastor is working hard to remain pure in his thought life and in his daily decisions. Help him in that endeavor.


 


6.) Your pastor and his wife know when you and/or your family are missing from activities and services. Your absence never goes unnoticed. Your presence is always a morale-booster. If you are not able to attend occasional activities, let your pastor know so he will not misunderstand your absence as misplaced priorities. If you cannot regularly attend any of the services, have a meeting with your pastor to discuss it so he will not take your absence as a personal aversion to his ministry


 


7.) Please remember this, a pastor’s wife desires that her children are treated no differently than any other children in your local church. Expectations should be the same across the board. Did you know that the pastor’s family is a dysfunctional family? We are ALL dysfunctional families because ALL our families are filled with sinners, every one, at different stages of spiritual maturity. The descriptive word “impeccable” belongs to the Lord only. Also, what you expect from the pastor’s family, you must also expect from yourself and your family. “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).


 


8.) Your pastor and his wife are in the ministry to impact lives spiritually. If they have impacted your life or the life of someone you love, tell them. That may be the one thing that God uses to keep your pastor from resigning come Monday morning. Your husband, brother, father, could give your pastor a phone call to give him a big “thank you” when something specific is especially appreciated. Have the pastor’s family over to dinner and tell them so as well. Often.



It is usually the pastor’s wife that determines the tenor of relationships between her and the people in her local church. The congregation tends to watch, wait and then respond; but that is a different topic to discuss altogether. This article is for you. Not your pastor’s wife. Take it upon yourself to “do what you can” as Mary did when she anointed the feet of Jesus. She went out of her way and made a sacrifice to minister to Him (Matthew 14:8). When you take care of the needs of your pastor’s wife, you are ministering to the Lord (Matthew 25:45).

Maryland
I met my husband in graduate school, and we dated a little, but I didn’t think that the timing was right. He graduated and moved on, but we kept in touch a very little. About 6 years later, he stopped to see me as he was traveling to Oregon to take his first church as a pastor. We talked, and we began “dating” long distance. We were married 8 months later and I became an instant pastor’s wife!
 
I don’t feel like my life changed drastically as far as ministry goes, because I grew up in a ministry family, and I was teaching in a Christian school. But I have gained a new perspective that I never had before, of the heartaches and joys that a pastor experiences.
 
I learned that Mondays are often “down” days for pastors because of all that they expend on Sundays. Funny story–Often on Mondays, my husband would bemoan that he was inadequate, ineffective, incompetent, and any other “i” word he could think of! I would always try to cheer him up and encourage him–like a good pastor’s wife should do, right? Well, after some months, I guess I was also having a “down” day, too, and when he started with his “i” words, I replied, “Yes, you are”! He surely wasn’t expecting that! I learned that I always need to be careful of how (and when) I “encourage” him that way!
 
For those ladies who are going to be pastors’ wives . . . 
 
1. Prepare yourself by being a student of the Bible. Learn how to use the Word of God to solve your problems and how to teach/counsel/disciple others to do the same. But first the Word of God must be at home in your own heart and life.
 
2. TALK with your husband or husband-to-be. My husband has always given me the freedom to say “No” to a ministry, even if he is the one who asks me. He lets the church know up front that my primary ministry is as his wife, and he does not expect more of me than he does of any other church member. You do not need to do every ministry or fill in every hole in your church. And you are not the Assistant Pastor. You are/will be the pastor’s WIFE–first and foremost you are his wife, and then perhaps a mother. Don’t lose your family at the expense of the ministry. On the other hand, involve your children in ministry as often as you can–but teach them to minister out of a heart of love.
 
I wish that the women in the churches we have ministered in would have known how to care for a pastor and his family.
 
For church ladies . . .
 
1. The new (or even old) pastor’s wife will likely be hesitant about forcing herself on you and your friendships, but she will need friends too. As much as you may tell her she is welcome to drop in or call, YOU still need to invite her or call her, so she will know that she really is welcome. Don’t expect her to make the first move into your established family and friendships.



2. Realize that the pastor really does work more than just on Sundays and Wednesdays. You will not ever know how much time and energy he puts into his “job” because it is his calling, and he can’t get away from it. Even on vacations, he will be thinking about your church and praying for your family and studying the Word of God so that God can minister to him and then he can minister to you. My husband seriously had someone ask him what he did all day–didn’t he have all his sermons done? Really?


3. Also, please remember special days–not just birthdays and anniversaries, but also anniversary of his ordination, or anniversary of his service to your church, and October Pastor Appreciation. And do it up BIG! Make a big deal of your pastor and his family.


4. And whatever your heartaches, struggles, disappointments are–remember that your pastor’s wife has those same heartaches, struggles, and disappointments, perhaps multiplied because she also carries the burdens of her church family.



Minnesota
 

I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 6 years now.  God lead us here through the leading of His people connecting with us. it is really a long story. I really didn’t know what to expect as a pastor’s wife, but I love being one.

My advice to other women married to a pastor: connect yourself with as many pastor’s wives as you can and ask lots of questions. Attend seminars, and if in college or seminary with your husband attend the student wives meetings. They were very helpful to me. Be open to God and His leading.

My advice to church women: I’m just like you, no better, and I need your prayers.  Just letting me know you love me and pray for me is the most encouraging.  Don’t be afraid to be close friends with your pastor’s wife, she needs friends she can turn to.


Oregon

Many pastor’s wives are lonely and conflicted about friendship with women in their own congregation.  They are known by all, yet known by no one.  They are present and yet distant.  They give their lives but reserve their complete openness to protect themselves, their husbands and church leadership.  Women are often curious and sometimes critical of the woman who has the heart of their pastor.  Unspoken expectations exist and are usually expressed when building a negative campaign against the pastor or his leadership.  I have been blessed with a few special ladies in our twenty years of ministry who really looked beyond the stigma and expectations and did what it took to get to know my heart and love me, the sinner that I am.  


To have a friendship with a pastor’s wife requires a unique and purposeful relationship.  I would like to share a few of the ways that my dearest friends have endeared themselves to me. 

1. They understand my public ministry to all the ladies in the church. 

My closest friend understands that our friendship is built in the one-on-one moments outside church functions.  Sunday mornings, church activities, ladies meetings are all times when I have the freedom to make connections with visitors, ladies on the fringe, and ladies who are hurting or need counsel.  My friends adjust their expectations of spending time with me at church and know that I may not be able to “give” them any more than a passing smile.  They are the friends who call on Sunday afternoon to ask about my ministry that morning.  They know and expect me to be unavailable to talk, chat or connect with them at church, but it sure is fun when we can find a moment for a quick hug or greeting, knowing that we will talk later. 

2. They are sensitive to my schedule. 

I had one dear friend who would look at her bulletin for events and then check with me later to see if I needed help with the children, refreshments, or transportation so that I could be a part of the scheduled event.  She knew that I loved music ministry so she came early with me every week to watch my babies so that I could practice with the orchestra.  She made ministry possible because she knew my heartbeat.


She also understood that just because I was married to the pastor doesn’t mean that I was all knowing about church activities etc.  Many assume that the pastor comes home and tells his wife about every detail of his day.  But in reality, they are just like your husband.   When they get home from a long day at work, they just want to relax.  The last thing they want to talk about is “work.”  My friends talk with me about church events not assuming that I know any more about them than they do. 




3.  They don’t allow me to “vent” about people or circumstances, but rather encourage me to communicate my feelings. 

This is possibly the most important and valuable aspect of my closest relationships.    It seems like every friendship requires trust and the ability to be completely transparent and tell each other everything without the threat of betrayal or judgment.  The truth is, when you are married to a pastor, you are exposed to some very dark times of personal despair that can be confusing, frustrating, and lonely.  The only thing that can make that worse is to expose others to the darkness of human error among people in their own congregation who they may respect or have a lifetime of experience with and who will remain if the Lord chooses to move you on to another ministry. True friends are aware of your hurt but unaware of the people or circumstances that caused it.  On the occasions when I truly need to express details, I call my dad, sister or someone who has no knowledge or experience with that congregation.  True friends can encourage you through loneliness or despair without knowing the details because they know your heart and your motives.   They can remind you of God’s promises, your calling, and His great mercy and love.  They don’t ask for details or names and stop discussions that might lead to unwanted or unneeded disclosure.  This is extremely difficult yet such a precious gift.

4. They are supportive of your decision to go wherever God leads you. 
True friendship survives geographical distance.  My dearest friends know that to be my friend they took a risk that I may be asked to move to another ministry, yet continue communication knowing that I am investing my life into a new group of ladies.  They are not threatened by new relationships and embrace others who are reaching out to me.

What a wonderful opportunity God has given to me to serve Him full-time.  He has provided me with the gift of true friendship to get through the difficult times and to celebrate the fulfilling and exciting times in His service.
 

 




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