5 Things Your Pastor's Wife Needs from You
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2014 3 Sep
Imagine a job acquired through marriage. One without pay, where you had to be on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. What if your performance wasn’t measured solely on your performance but rather, on how well you managed EVERY other area of your life—your home, your finances, your budget. Add to this volunteering in every ministry, watching other people’s children, and providing meals to those in need.
In October, churches nationwide are honoring their pastors, as they should, but let’s not forget their wives. They say behind every successful man is an encouraging and supportive woman. This is true ten times over when it comes to those involved in ministry. And yet, if you asked the wives, most would tell you they’re happy to do what they do—what they feel led to do.
Most would tell you they consider their role as a pastor’s wife a calling.
But they’re human, and even those who are called need support and encouragement once in a while.
Actually, a lot and often. Wanting to find out how we as congregants could best support these sweet women of the faith, I asked them to share some things they most need from us. Here’s what they said, and they all have asked to remain anonymous:
Be a Friend
You might be surprised to learn loneliness is a huge issue for pastor’s wives. Some of this is due to trust concerns, having been hurt or betrayed in the past. Other times it stems from false expectations or assumptions made by the congregants. But whatever the reason, it’s a common problem.
“As a new pastor’s wife, I was very much alone,” shares one PW. “It was so overwhelming after having such a supportive community at the seminary. But now, I’ve gotten used to it. Even so, the lack of close friends can be trying.”
Many times, we assume everyone else is socializing with the PW. We don’t want to burden them with yet another invitation, and yet, the truth is, many times they go uninvited. Then, when they are invited, they’re often treated more like a sounding board or counselor than a true friend.
But one can only give so much before their emotional reserves run dry. Our pastor’s wives need someone to minister to them. Someone who will engage them as unique individuals, and simply be a friend.
“I am not an extension of my husband,” one PW shared. “We don’t hold all the same views on parenting, theology, or a lot of things.”
A true friend won’t allow opinions regarding a sermon, church decision, or even her husband to harm the friendship or view of her. This also means guarding the friendship and the relationship and refusing to listen to or engage in gossip.
Especially gossip about her husband.
“How would you feel if someone made a point of saying your husband’s sale’s presentation was sub-par?” asked another PW. “How would it feel to hear through the grapevine that your husband is a lousy doctor because he misdiagnosed an ear infection?”
In other words, keep the criticism to yourself and be ready to counter it when you hear others spouting off negativity.
Part of protecting the friendship means calling others out when they’re playing the role of gossip. When we lived in Southern California, our church went through a major split, and ripples of disunity weakened our congregation. Though our pastor handled it very well, I still remember the pain on his—and his wife’s—face as he addressed the issue one Sunday morning.
As I listened, as I watched him, I had a deep sense that God’s heart was breaking, for one of his servants was being torn apart during a time when he and his wife most needed support.
Disunity and gossip hurts. Deeply.
Not long after, a friend began “venting” about the pastor and the church, and everything in me cringed. Though it bothered me to potentially damage the friendship, I knew if I didn’t confront this woman regarding her behavior I would be just as culpable. More than that, I knew as part of the church family and the PW’s sister in Christ, I needed to help protect our unity.
Which leads me to PW’s next request:
There was only one Jesus. Only one man who always said the right thing, always responded appropriately, never acted selfishly. Your pastor’s wife isn’t him. This means she’s going to do and say things that will hurt and offend you, as you also will do and say things that will hurt and offend her.
But it’s always easier to offer ourselves grace, isn’t it? We often make justifications for our behavior. We were stressed, or tired, or caught off guard. Yet somehow we believe our leaders and their families are above such things. As if they are instantly and always more righteous ... then everyone else on the planet. True, leadership comes with a certain amount of expectations and responsibilities, but even the best of us have bad days. Pastor’s wives included. When they do, we need to practice Paul’s words in Colossians:
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Make allowances for, rather than judgments against, one another’s faults. In other words, assume the best rather than the worst. And when your PW does indeed offend you, forgive her. Let the offense go. Don’t bring it up again, rehash it a million times, tell the entire choir about it, and hold it against her for eternity.
Throw Out False All Expectations
Have you noticed how much we like others to be like us? To reach the same conclusions we do, to face the same trials. In fact, we empathize most with those going through something we ourselves have experienced.
But what about someone who is walking a step behind us an area? What if that someone is our pastor’s wife? Do we allow her the same grace and patience Christ gave to us?
“Though my congregation doesn’t expect me to be perfect, they expect me not to struggle in areas where they themselves have achieved victory,” says one PW. “The problem, of course, is that 300 people have achieved victory in vastly different areas, and I’m only one person.”
This might not be a problem exclusive to PWs, but I suspect these expectations fall heaviest on them.
Accept Them For Who They Are, Not Who You Want Them to Be
Some PWs like a large number of friends, want to be part of every social gathering, and are the first to organize the ladies potluck. That doesn’t make them shallow and flighty. Others would rather stay home with a great book. That doesn’t make them aloof and elusive. Neither activity makes them more or less spiritual than the other. Rather, it makes them unique women of God, created by him, to do a work he planned long before she ever came to your church.
That work, believe it or not, is to honor God and take care of their families. It’s not to attend to everyone’s needs and desires in the church. First and foremost, your PW is called to be a wife and mother.
“My God-given role as pastor’s wife is to be the wife of the pastor,” one PW says. “It’s not to volunteer in the nursery or to play the piano during service. I share my husband’s burdens and joys. I keep the family calendar and make sure he gets to our kids’ soccer games and choir performances. I have only so much tolerance for those who are filled with criticism and complaints. I am my husband’s wife and I adore him.”
Don’t Worry How They Spend Their Money
This is a big one, isn’t it? After all, we, the congregants, are paying their husband’s salary. Shouldn’t they be good stewards of the tithe?
Yep. The church as a whole should be very forthright and honorable in how it handles it finances. And yes, the pastor and his wife, as children of God, should seek to honor God with all they are and have. (As should each of us.) But what makes you think you know what that stewardship looks like for them? Because truly, they aren’t accountable to you. And there’s not much you can wisdom you can gauge from appearances.
Besides, don’t we all have better things to do, like supporting and loving on our leaders? Their jobs are hard enough. Why not help make it a little easier and their day a little brighter?
There are numerous things we, as congregants, can do to love and support our pastor’s wives. I’ve named a few, but really, they all boil down to living out Jesus’ words in Luke 6:31, which says, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” NLT).
Show your pastor’s wife the love, admiration, grace, acceptance, and respect you yourself want to receive, not only during pastor’s appreciation month but year round. Always remember, she’s only human, a human with very real needs, real emotions, and real faults. But more than that, she’s a child of God called to a very difficult task. Let’s do all we can to make that role a little easier.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the midwest with her husband and their teenage daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Cafe Devotions, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and compilation projects, and currently writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers.
Publication date: September 3, 2014