One of the toughest jobs in the church is being the spouse of a pastor. It has been called the loneliest job in the church.
No doubt I had one of the best pastor’s wives in Cheryl. By trade, Cheryl is an accountant, an excellent mom and wife, but the demands on her as my wife were some of the most overwhelming to her in the 16 years I served in the pastorate.
Still, she always handled her role with grace and a smile. And, if you knew her, with a hug. (In full disclosure, Sunday was actually Cheryl’s favorite day of the week and she has grieved the absence of her role.)
In this post, I want to help churches know how to honor and protect your pastor’s spouse.
Thankfully, we were mostly in a good church environments, as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated. Plus, we came out of the business world into ministry. We were older and more seasoned by life, so we’ve always approached things differently. We protected our personal time more. We knew we had to, because the church wouldn’t.
I know, however, because of my work with pastors that many pastors’ spouses are facing burnout, a sense of loneliness, and some even struggle to come to church. This should not be.
I will speak from my perspective, as having a pastor’s wife, but these would also apply if the pastor or minister was a female.
Seven ways to honor your pastor’s spouse:
Do not put too many expectations on her.
Regardless of the church size, she cannot be everywhere, at everything, and know everyone’s name and family situation and still carry out her role in her family. She simply can’t. Don’t expect her to be super-human.
Do not expect her to oppose her husband.
She will be protective of her spouse. (Hopefully, you understand as you would equally protect your spouse.) If you bad mouth her husband she’s likely to respond in a way you don’t want her to, but should expect her to. Don’t put her in a situation of having to defend her spouse. That’s never a fair predicament and causes unhealthy tensions.
Protect her from gossip.
Check your motives in what you share with her. Don’t share what you don’t have permission to share. Don’t pit her in the middle of drama. She likely does not need to know the “prayer concerns,” which are really just shared as a way of spreading rumors.
Help her protect family time.
The pastor is pulled in many directions. The family understands the nature of the job. Life doesn’t happen on a schedule. But, in reality, there are often unreasonable demands on the pastor and they always impact the family. If you can, limit your demands to normal working hours for the church and the pastor. Send an email rather than calling at home if it’s not an immediate concern. It will help the pastor have a family life.
Include her without placing demands or expectations on her.
That’s the delicate balance. The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church. She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times, which are “just for fun.”