Research Reveals Realities of Being a Pastor’s Spouse

Research Reveals Realities of Being a Pastor’s Spouse

Halloween is not the only national day in October…

October 7th is National Frappe Day (as in the drink).

October 8th is National Clergy Appreciation Day.

October 9th is National Moldy Cheese Day.

October 10th is National Handbag Day.

October 11th is National Sausage Pizza Day.

To some people, clergy appreciation day sounds like it is correctly placed on a long list of special days. A shrug it off, no big deal type of day. However, Christians should have a different view. Christians in a local church should care that their pastor is appreciated, loved and honored. It is biblical to do so:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) 

The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17) 

Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Honoring your pastors surely includes honoring their spouses. LifeWay Research recently completed and published a research project sponsored by the North American Mission Board on spouses of pastors. More than 700 pastors’ spouses were interviewed and the results reveal both the blessings and burdens of their lives. The research is published here, and below are five of my observations:

1. Your pastor’s spouse is likely fulfilled and happy.

The vast majority of pastors’ spouses (88 percent) feel their work is valuable and worthwhile and are satisfied with their lives (84 percent). The most encouraging stat to me is that 90 percent of pastors’ spouses feel ministry has positively impacted their families. As the writer of Hebrews clearly articulated, it is not profitable to the people in a congregation if the pastor serves without joy, so it is great gain for the church and the pastor when ministry positively impacts the pastor’s family.

2. Your pastor’s spouse is likely happily married.

Marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and His people, so a pastor’s healthy marriage preaches a loud sermon to the congregation. Good news from the research is that the vast majority of spouses (80 percent) are extremely or very satisfied in their marriage. Churches are wise to care deeply about the marriages of those in leadership, to invest in them, to pray for them and to make it possible for the couple in ministry to spend focused time together.

3. Your pastor’s spouse likely feels disconnected in the church.

There is some discouraging news in the research. I have heard people say many times about a pastor’s wife, “She seems to have a wall up.” The research reminds us that there is a reason. Being the spouse of a pastor can result in feeling disconnected from others in the church. Of pastors’ spouses, 69 percent said they have very few people they can confide in, and 50 percent expressed an unwillingness to confide in people in the church because “confidence has been betrayed too many times.”

4. Your pastor’s spouse is likely hurting.

Can you be happy in the midst of pain and hurt? Absolutely. And the research on the spouses of pastors illustrates this point well. Half of the spouses surveyed (49 percent) still feel pain from previous conflicts in ministry, and half (51 percent) have experienced personal attacks at their current church. So if you love Jesus, encourage your pastor’s spouse. There is often pain beneath the surface.

5. Your pastor’s spouse likely worries about money.

More than half of pastors’ spouses (54 percent) do not believe that the salary from the church provides a strong enough financial base for the family. And right at half (49 percent) feel the income is not sufficient to provide the same standard of living for the children as their peers have. Churches must do better here. I am not advocating for preachers in mansions, but I am advocating that churches will benefit when their leaders are well supported to live in the context where the church is.

This article originally appeared here.

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Eric Geiger
Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, Eric served local churches, most recently investing eight years as the executive pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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