We’re all vulnerable.
Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt in what happens during the next hour. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, oldtimer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.
No one in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor’s wife.
She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure. (Note: I am fully aware that in some churches the pastor is a woman. In such cases, what follows would hardly pertain to her household.)
And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.
She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.
You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.
The pastor’s wife can be hurt in a hundred ways—through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.
She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor’s children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium.
She has to take it in silence, most of the time.
It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor’s wife and pull it off. And that’s the problem: In most cases, she’s pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.
The pastor’s wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.
That’s why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor’s wife, and will try to envision whether they would “fit” in “our” church.
The pastor’s wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than she.