“So, your wife plays the piano, right?”
As a worship pastor, I have learned that some people just assume my wife is a pianist. Does she have to be?
One of the most important roles in the church is that of a woman who is married to a pastor. She is in a unique position to encourage, pray with, and support the man entrusted to lead and shepherd a congregation. Her work is often thankless and carried out behind the scenes, but it is meaningful, and its effect is felt throughout the community.
The Bible is very clear about the requirements for pastors and elders in a church, but there are no specific requirements for a “pastor’s wife.” I have become quite familiar with the ups-and-downs of being a pastor’s wife, because I happen to be married to one!
The pastor’s wife is likely a very special and gifted woman, and is uniquely positioned to have a very effective ministry in the church, if she is given the freedom to do it in the way she has been gifted and equipped.
What Is the Role of a Pastor's Wife?
Think for a moment about whatever it is that you do for a living. Would your employer ever expect your spouse to know what you know, or go to work with you? Would your spouse be called upon to do what you do? In ministry, this is often the expectation, even if it is unspoken.
Vocational ministry is a unique profession in that it is the only one where the pastor’s spouse is scrutinized and evaluated almost as much as the pastor himself. Maybe more. In spite of this, there is no Biblical mandate for the pastor’s wife to be a “co-pastor.” It is ultimately unfair and robs the couple of fulfilling their ministry together.
The role of a pastor’s wife is the same as that of any other wife in a believing household: to love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love and support her husband as he follows God.
Is the Pastor’s Wife Required to Do Anything?
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
Over the years, I have interviewed for several ministry positions in churches. Every church wanted to informally interview my wife in order to learn more about her and understand her commitment to ministry. Although she has a beautiful voice, her skills and giftings in the body of Christ are not the same as mine. My wife is a nurse, not a pastor, and while her gifts complement me and my ministry, she is not an expert in my field, nor I in hers.
When a man interviews for any other job, such as a teacher, an accountant, or anything else really, it would not only be unusual to interview his wife before hiring him, it would be illegal. Ministry is unique in that the church considers the pastor’s wife of such importance in the role of the pastor. When a pastor takes a job at a church, he is taking his entire family along with him, and we as believers need to remember the uniqueness of what the pastor’s entire family has taken on.
The curious thing is that while the Bible doesn’t say anything specifically about the pastor’s wife, or what her role is, she is among the most important people in your church. The Bible doesn’t necessarily specify that pastors must be married.
For those who are, each marriage and each ministry is different – some wives may serve right alongside their husbands, fully engaged in the visible, public work of ministry, while others may excel in supporting her husband in prayer, raising their family, and doing a different and less visible kind of ministry. Neither is wrong, and we must extend grace and friendship regardless of the situation or what we think in our own mind what her role should look like.
You will find that most pastor’s wives are amazing people who love their husbands, love their church, love their family, and love the Lord Jesus Christ with all of their hearts.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Kadirdemir
The Wife’s Role as a Church Member
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).
A ministry job, like any other job, comes with a contract, a salary, and a job description. Unless it is stipulated somewhere in the contract that the pastor's wife has signed up for any particular duties, she has no more obligations than anyone else in the church. However, considering she decided to marry a pastor, there is a good chance she will want to be involved in serving in an area that fits her call and gifting, and that she is uniquely called and gifted in ways that will benefit the body of Christ. Allow her to do that! Trying to force her into an area of service that is not her calling, just because “someone needs to do it and her husband works here,” is discouraging and can bring long-term damage for all involved.
As I said earlier, my wife is a nurse, and as such she has occasionally had to work Sundays at a hospital. While I was on staff, most people in the congregation understood this type of schedule, and the need for healthcare even on Sundays. Yet some complained that she was “skipping church.”
Do not treat your pastor’s wife like this! This kind of attitude has no place in the church, is not grounded in anything Biblical, and will do significant damage to the pastor’s family and the church overall. While these kinds of things are not the norm, they do indeed happen.
The best things church member can do is to realize that she is also a church member who also needs friendships and a place to serve, connect, and feel at home. Just because her husband signed up for a public role doesn’t mean she also needs to be in the front pew every week if this is not her calling and place of service.
How Can We Support Our Pastors' Wife?
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Remember that being yoked in ministry is not a calling to be taken lightly. As we celebrate with our congregations, and as we walk through mourning with them, ministry carries with it some of the most joyful and most painful of human emotions. A pastor’s wife likely did not go to seminary or learn to counsel others, yet she is put into these situations and in the grace of God will be there for other people.
Remember that she is not a staff member, although she is married to one. Like all church members, she needs relationships. Encourage her by inviting her out, but going out of your way to talk with her and let her know you are thankful for her and her gifting. Show her love and respect and grace and make sure she is accepted as a member of the body.
And if her husband happens to be the worship pastor, let her know it is okay that she does not play the piano.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Joshua Adam Nolette
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.