October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month, and as we celebrate the shepherds that God has blessed us with, we also have the opportunity to celebrate and encourage the woman who serves alongside him. We all have different roles and titles that we are known for.
Some of us are CEOs, some stay at home moms, some coaches, and others of us are caregivers and teachers. Out of all the different seasons of life and titles I’ve had, none get quite the reaction as to when I share that I am a “Pastor’s Wife.”
As a pastor’s wife of almost 20 years I have learned the unique privilege and weight that comes with being married to a minister and pastor. It truly is one of my deepest joys and yet there comes with it a unique struggle as I see God grow and deepen His bride and my own walk with Him.
I surveyed a group of pastor’s wives for their thoughts on ministry and marriage in their unique experiences. Whether they serve in a rural context or an urban sprawl or live in the hills of California or high rise of New York, their responses are marked with similarity and most importantly a heart for the Lord.
What Your Pastor’s Wife Wish You Knew:
1) I often feel inadequate and I’m the first to tell you I’m not perfect.
The fish bowl is a real part of ministry which means that our lives are on display, both the good and the not so pretty. Help remind her of the abundant grace that God has for her in her successes and her failures.
“I’m just like you! My house isn’t spotless, my kids are wild, and my shoes may or may not match — each other or my outfit. Invite me anyways! I wanna get to know y’all outside of these walls. Here’s a front seat to my crazy, and I want a front row seat to yours. I wanna cheer you on when you’re rocking it, and I want to lift you up when it’s all falling apart. I truly want to be a part of your village!”
“I may or may not be like your previous pastor’s wife. Allow me to find ‘my place of service’ using the desires, talents, and abilities God has given me.”
“I struggle with discouragement. I smile, love, and encourage others while deep down I am more discouraged than ever. But through the prayers for someone else, God himself encourages me.”
“I wish you knew that I’m not my husband’s secretary and that I will probably forget to tell him something. And that you have no idea how hard it is to live in a fishbowl, much less parent in one.”
2) I’ve been hurt by the Church, and still deeply love her.
Some of my deepest wounds have come from people in my church. Gossip, conflict, and even betrayal have all been deeply painful experiences of ministry. For a minister their friends, jobs, and church are all tied to the same people, and this can often lead to deep feelings of loss and the feeling of being discarded or expendable. Help to protect her, encourage her, and be a safe place for her to heal.
“When someone leaves our church it is hard not to take it personally. It stings when you leave and leaves me questioning my value and relationships.”
“It is heavy to carry or watch my husband carry your burdens and sins, but it truly is a great joy and honor for me to pray for you and celebrate God’s victories in your life. I love to hear how sermons, classes, events, or other Christians have encouraged and helped you grow in your faith.”
“The pastor and his wife love every single person in the church; God fills us with love for these people. This isn’t just a job. It is a lifestyle of looking at this group of people, helping them grow, get through life, and love Christ.”
“I wish you knew how much I love each one of you. I pray for you. I love hearing about your grandchild’s birthday and your son’s new job. It brings me joy to have the opportunity to encourage you.”
3) My sole identity isn’t being a pastor’s wife, but your sister in Christ.
Your pastor’s wife is your sister in Christ and a volunteer church member. She doesn’t have all the answers to what is going on, and she is probably serving in many ways both behind the scenes and out front. Make sure to not add a list of expectations that you wouldn’t place on any other church member. Champion how God is using her in your church family.
“I’m just one person, I can’t do it all. I’m lonely. Sundays are the most exhausting day of the week. When you leave the church, it hurts every time.”
“I wish people knew how much I wish I could minister beside my husband on days other than Sundays. I hold down a full-time job and I am not available for ladies Bible study on Tuesday mornings or to make hospital visits during the week. I provide our insurance through my job and cannot quit to be his ministry partner full time. I only get 2 weeks of time off a year including sick time. I can’t be in every meeting or on every team. My plate is so full, but I do wish I could!
“When you hire a new pastor, remember — you hired him, not me. I want to serve you too, but 1) I must serve my husband and children first or he will not be able to serve you; 2) I might not be gifted in serving the same way your last pastor’s wife served.”
4) The isolation I feel is often the hardest.
Even after almost 20 years of serving in ministry, this one is the hardest still. Relationships are hard. I’ve often felt like I am helping to create the community and safe place for everyone else, while never getting to have it for myself. Know that your pastor’s wife struggles with what to share, who is safe, and how to trust those around her.
“I struggle most on holidays when I see you all gathered with your families while I am far from mine because of our obligation to the church. It has been years since we spent a Christmas Eve or Easter with our families.”
“I’m often overlooked or it is assumed that I have many friendships. I would love to join in on a girls night. It means so much if you ask and include me, and even if I can’t make it, please try again next time.”
“The loneliness is so true. So many keep you at arms length, not allowing you to get too close for fear you might judge the “real” them. In reality, most of us just want friendship like any other woman.”
5) When you intentionally love my husband and kids, I feel loved.
The encouraging notes, text messages with prayers, and the lobby conversations asking my kids how their sports game went and telling them that you are proud of them mean the WORLD to us. Yes, ministry is hard sometimes, but there are so many ways that our family gets to see God working and moving in and through you. Being the hands and feet of Jesus to the pastor’s family helps to remind us of God’s care and faithfulness in our own lives.
“I wish people knew that ministry life for our kids can often be isolating. When your kids exclude my kids it hurts. This can lead to them always feeling “in between” and never feeling as though they belong.”
“Please adopt my children, it’s hard being far away from family.”
“I wish the church knew how relieved I am when kindness and love is shown towards my child.”
“I so appreciate the words of encouragement; I appreciate it even more when you take the time to encourage my husband.”
“You are our family too and so your kind words, sharing a meal, and honoring our time together as a family makes us feel seen, valued, and appreciated.”
I’m sure there are other things your pastor’s wife could add to this list and so why not use this as a springboard to ask her how you can best encourage her in this season? Write a note of encouragement, find out her favorite dessert and swing it by her house, watch her kids for a date night, or buy her a cup of coffee. Your intentionality and encouragement will be a balm and fresh breath to weary hearts.
Jacki C. King is a respected and popular Bible teacher, conference speaker, and ministry leader. She has a passion for seeing women fall in love with Jesus and His Word while challenging them to be on mission in their homes, workplaces, and communities. This article was originally published at churchanswers.com on September 2. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer