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 here, 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 pastor’s 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.
7 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 wit 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”. Cheryl always knew when someone had an agenda they wanted to push rather than simply wanting to be her friend. Don’t be afraid to treat her as a normal human being. If she says no to your invitation don’t hold it against her either.
Never repeat what she says without permission.
Ever. If the pastor’s wife happens to share personal information with you about the church or her life, keep it to yourself. Always. There will be temptation to share her words as “juicy news”, but you will honor her by remaining silent. And, over time, you will build her trust and her friendship. Most pastor’s spouses have been burned many times by what they thought they were saying in confidence.
Pray for your pastor’s family.
Daily would be awesome, but certainly as much as needed or they come to your mind. There really is no better way to bless a pastor’s family than to pray for them.
As a bonus suggestion, if your church really wants to honor the pastor’s wife, find ways to give her time away with her husband and/or family. This is probably what she needs most.
Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor’s spouse here and share practical ways you can honor your pastor’s spouse. If you are a pastor or pastor’s spouse, I would love to hear your thoughts.
(Closing note: I’ve been told numerous times, since I first posted about this issue, that in certain churches the pastor’s wife IS the problem in the church. Or that she stirs or keeps stirred the problems in the church That’s the subject of another post, but I do understand and recognize that there are times this is the problem. It is very difficult for a pastor to be effective without a supportive spouse.)