NOTE: This article originally appeared here on the Shattered Magazine site.
The pastor’s wife is always there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes with a welcoming smile up front, sometimes noticed and appreciated, sometimes being silently judged. Your pastor’s wife: the powerful force behind most church leaders often perceived as a mystery by the rest of the church. It doesn’t have to be that way.
What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously, share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?
I posed a simple, open-ended question to a panel of pastors’ wives in different states, from different denominations, with various years of service: “If you could tell the church a few things about your role as a pastor’s wife, what would you say?”
The women selected are the wives of music ministers, children’s leaders, senior pastors and youth pastors. Some of them serve in churches with large staff and even larger budgets, others in newer church plants, and even some from old and barely surviving congregations. Despite such different backgrounds, their responses were strangely similar and in several cases, almost identical.
I’ve sat for coffee, exchanged emails and had lengthy conversations with many who freely shared their secrets with me in exchange for the promise of anonymity. What follows is a condensed collection of their words.
1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”
There was one common response that I received from every single pastor’s wife. Every. Single. One. Over and over again, many pastors’ wives shared numerous occasions where planned vacations had been cut short (wouldn’t that be hard?). They told me tales of family evenings being rearranged for crises of church members, middle of the night emergencies and regular interruptions. A true day off is rare; even on scheduled days off, their husbands are essentially on call 24/7.
2) “Almost every day, I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”
They don’t have it all together. They battle many of the same issues every other woman battles: marriage issues, extended-family difficulties, sickness, finances, children who make poor decisions, fear and insecurities. Some seasons of life are obviously harder than others; but remember, ministry wives are not Wonder Woman with special powers. Please have a little mercy and extend grace.
3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”
Personally, I think this is surprising to many (it was to me). Several ladies shared the difficulties of finding friendships that are safe, being looked at (or treated) differently, and even the desire to be invited for an occasional ladies night out. One woman shared, “Invite us to something just to get to know us. We like being known.” People in the church often assume that the pastor’s wife is always invited and popular. In reality, for whatever reason, many ladies fear befriending them. On Sunday mornings, pastors’ wives are often sitting solo, and those with children are essentially single parenting.
4) “It is OK and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”
They have a variety of interests. Believe it or not, many pastor’s wives went to college and had full-time careers before becoming “Mrs. Pastor’s Wife.” They have hobbies, likes and dislikes, and though they often serve beside their husband, they are individuals with their own unique gifts. Do not make the mistake of assuming your pastor’s wife has the same personality as her husband. One wife shared that as newly weds when they announced their engagement, people regularly commented on how good of a singer she must be (because her husband-to-be was a music minister). When she shared that she sounded more like a dying cat than an elegant song bird, the shock on their faces was evident.
5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait—am I allowed to say that?”
Sundays are hard. And long. And there is no rest. To a pastor’s wife, Sunday means an early morning of rushing around to have the family ready in their “Sunday Best.” Although you may not see your pastor’s wife on the platform, rest assured, Sunday is equally tiring for most (all) of them.