3 Challenges of Being a Pastor’s Wife

Ministry can be hard on families. The constant burden of loving and leading a local church is taxing, and the pressure a pastor feels inevitably impacts his wife. In recent years, my wife has frequently facilitated groups for pastor’s wives. As she has interacted with them, she has found the three most common challenges to be:

1. Dealing with criticism of my husband.

In most professions, the wife doesn’t show up at the office or job site to hear random comments about her husband’s leadership. People from her husband’s work don’t approach her with a complaint about a decision or to “put a bug in your ear” with hopes she will pass along the information to her husband. Thus a pastor’s wife is constantly faced with the challenge of loving people who are disappointed in her husband, of deciding what to tell her husband, and casting the burden on the Lord so that she can worship and learn when she comes to a worship or group gathering.

Pastors, to help your wife with this tension, encourage her to ask those with a struggle to bring concerns to you (or the leader of that ministry). Assure her that she does not need to carry the burden of carrying messages to you. Kaye often responded, “You will have to talk about that with Eric. We don’t have church staff meetings at home.”

2. Dealing with expectations.

There are a few people who sensed they were “called to be a pastor’s wife,” but most (like my wife) simply sensed the Lord leading them into a relationship with their husband — whether the husband is a pastor or not. Kaye didn’t study or prepare to be a pastor’s wife; she was (thankfully) just excited to be my wife. Yet in some ministry contexts, there are implicit expectations placed on a pastor’s wife. She senses them, and she wrestles with if she should or how she should fulfill them.

Pastors, encourage your wife to plug into the church as the Lord leads her. To find a place of service that fits her, to engage with a group of people that encourage her, and to worship at the service she most enjoys. Don’t place expectations on her that you don’t put on another church member. If there are those in the church who believe “a church should get two for one” or “a defacto women’s ministry leader/piano player/ children’s Sunday school teacher/etc.,” kindly but firmly share you will not allow those expectations to be placed on your wife.

3. Time with my husband.

Sadly, many wives in ministry are neglected. They long to have more time with their husband, but often feel guilty asking for it because by asking they feel that they are insinuating that an important ministry priority be neglected.

Men — we must love and lead our wives before we love and lead the church. You will always disappoint someone; so choose to disappoint others and not the wife of your youth. The others will come and go. They will soon forget the disappointment you caused. They will likely one day forget about you, too. Your marriage is very different — it is “till death do us part.”


This year, we are doing something special for Ministers’ Wives, and I want to challenge you to find a way for your wife (and other ministers’ wives at your church) to be a part of what God is doing. Between Us: Called, Equipped, and Encouraged is a conference just for Ministers’ Wives. It’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, September 26-27 and is a fantastic opportunity for your wife to spend time around other women who walk in the same shoes. Beth Moore will be one of the special guests with a message just for this group of women, and all of the other platform speakers and breakout leaders are ministers’ wives themselves. Once Between Us is over, your wife can also register to attend Living Proof Live with Beth Moore September 27-28.

My wife will be there, and yours is invited too. See if you can find a way to bless your wife with this unique opportunity.

Comments

  1. Patty says

    Wanted to say that I have been blessed, and while it hasn’t always been an easy road to travel, I couldn’t imagine life differently. I am thankful to say that my husband always defers to me on where I choose to serve within the church. Over the years of ministry that we’ve had, church members have also learned that I am not the person to ask on things as they quickly learned that my husband doesn’t come home and tell me everything (for which I am grateful) when my typical response is that I don’t know or hadn’t heard.

  2. John Michael Hauck says

    Thom,

    Scripture does a wonderful job contrasting how one can attend to the Lord without distraction vs. being married. That you are writing about these difficulties illustrates the timeless truth of what Paul penned:

    1Co 7:32-38 But I desire you to be without anxiety. The one who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how to please the Lord. (33) But the one who is married cares for the things of the world, how to please his wife. (34) The wife and the virgin are different. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (35) And this I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare on you, but for that which is right, and that you may attend on the Lord without distraction. (36) But if anyone thinks it behaving himself indecently toward his virgin (if she is past her prime, and so it ought to be) let him do what he will; he does not sin; let them marry. (37) But he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but who has authority over his own will (and has so judged in his heart that he will keep his virginity) he does well. (38) So then he who gives in marriage does well. But he who does not give in marriage does better.

  3. says

    My mom was one of those called to be a pastor’s wife. I think today pastors get that their families should come first. That their ministry doesn’t equal Gox and sometimes they have to just say no. It’s like any job. The workaholic will have a neglected wife. The guy who protects his wife will be the leader that everyone needs.

  4. says

    Eric,
    Great insights. Being a pastor (church planter first then existing church pastor) we have wrestled with these challenges. Tears came to my eyes as I recalled how overburdened and over involved I allowed my wife to be. I am the only pastor of our churhc for now. She has a great ministry mind and servants heart so it’s tough. But God is helping me make good corrections–we are talking and praying through things. God is leading and helping us understand that knowing and following Jesus as a family is our first priority. The church stuff comes second.
    Thanks

  5. Elizabeth Bird says

    I would like to start over in the ministry with my husband. have made some mistakes. like your title here…Speak your mind…well I do speak my mind, thus my problem. I have been frustrated, angry, sadden, shocked by the believers in our Church. had great expectations. I remember tho, Psalm 139 God knows and loves us anyway.

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