11 Things I Learned from Pastors’ Wives

Several months ago, I wrote a post about pastors’ wives. The responses and comments were numerous and incredible. One of the greatest blessings about this blog for me is how much I learn from others. As I read the comments and the interactions, I came away with a greater appreciation for pastors’ wives, as well as a greater concern for these ladies.

I have attempted to summarize the primary issues the pastors’ wives discussed. I am sure I’ve missed something. For now, here are eleven things I learned from pastors’ wives.

  1. The number one challenge for pastors’ wives is loneliness. That issue arose again and again. Many of these ladies have no true confidants. Some have scars from bad relationships. More than a few have experienced depression. Some still are.
  2. These ladies need to know they have the love and support of their husbands. Some frankly feel that their husbands have a mistress – the local congregation he serves. A pastor’s wife can endure much if she knows of her husband’s unwavering and repeatedly articulated love.
  3. A pastor’s wife does not want a church member to tell her what her “job” at the church is. She would rather serve the church according to her gifts and calling, not according to some false sense of expectations.
  4. She would like church members to understand that neither she nor her family is perfect. Allow her to make mistakes. Let her children be “normal” children. Don’t call out family members every time one of them does not quite reach perfection.
  5. The pastor’s wife does not want to field complaints from church members about her husband. She is not a conduit or a complaint desk. She loves her husband, and it breaks her heart to hear negative things about him. 
  6. The pastors’ wives who entered ministry with no forewarning about the issues they would face were the ones who stressed the most. It’s not only the issues themselves, it’s the surprise factor they often bring. Many of these pastors’ wives had no idea what some members would say, what some expectations would be, or how much the glass house syndrome is a hard reality.
  7. She does not want to be told she needs to work to support her husband and family. If she chooses to do so, that is fine. But she does not want church members paying her husband minimally with the expectation that she will make up the shortfall in income.
  8. While most pastors’ wives affirm their identity as a wife in ministry, they do not want that to be their only identity. Many of these women spoke about their ministry, work, and gifts well beyond that of a pastor’s wife. They would like to feel free to express their own identities.
  9. Many pastors’ wives believe they need training for their roles. They have been both surprised and ill prepared for the issues that came their way. They needed either formal training or an informal mentorship to face all the challenges that are common with a pastor’s wife.
  10. These ladies want to be reminded again and again to keep their focus on Christ.  Of course, this reminder is something we all need. But as one pastor’s wife expressed, only by remembering what Christ did for her could she face the challenges of her role.
  11. Many pastors’ wives want a means where they can support one another. Some of them longed for a mentor or someone they could mentor. Others said they would like a forum like my blog where they can share with each other without the fear of reprisal. I wonder if I can do something with the resources I have available to make this request a reality. Let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you. I learn more from the readers than I could ever give back. Thank you.


photo credit: girish_suryawanshi via photopin cc

Posted on January 15, 2014

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114 Comments

  • This is so great! It is spurring me of ways to make sure our leadership team wives know they are loved and appreciated!

  • These are all excellent points! Thank you so much for this. I am privileged to belong to a Convention of churches that hosts an annual retreat for Ministry Wives here in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. It’s called Refresh- a perfect name. It’s a gift to be able to meet together with other wives who “get” this unique life. I hope similar retreats are available to others.

  • Sharon Enright says on

    I’ve been a pastor’s wife for twenty years and have learned more about resources for counsel and encouragement by reading your blog than I have in all the time I’ve spent in ministry. Thank you so much, Thom! My very busy husband has me read your articles to him as he moves about the house. Many have made him sit down and take notice. It’s been like “water out of the rock” for the spiritual place we are right now. Thanks again!

  • Possibly a blog by area or state would be good for those that would like to meet or form support groups for pastor’s wives in their area. It’s great to meet and form friendships especially with those pastor’s wives who are dealing with or have come through difficult situations.

  • Stephanie says on

    Thank you Thom! I appreciate this post so much as a future pastors wife. My fiance and I are both in seminary pursuing MDIV’s. Your article a few months back and this one are eye opening for me. It’s nice to hear it all and know what to expect.

    I do however have a concern and questions. Is every single church like this? Is it always this bad every single week or Sunday? Do pastor’s wives have anything positive to share about serving as a pastor’s wife? It’s a little disheartening to read posts like this but to never see the other side. Surely, its not always bad all of the time.

    Also, I love the idea of number 11. Having some place for pastor’s wives to write out what is on their hearts in a safe, protected place. Maybe it could be a password protected website that you must fill out something (some kind of online form that asks for identification and such stuff) and be given approval before granted access. Maybe that’s silly. Just something running through my mind. Anyway, thanks for your posts!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Stephanie –

      Every local congregation is different. Some are largely very loving; others not so much so. But even in the best of churches there will be an occasional negative experience for the pastor’s wife. My counsel is to expect the best but don’t be surprised when something negative takes place. And thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be looking at different possibilities shortly.

    • Stephanie,
      It’s not bad all of the time. 🙂 I’m a pastor’s wife, and I would say that most of the time it is wonderful. Sure, there are rough seasons of ministry and tough issues to work through, but it is such an honor and privilege to be on “this” side of church. It is an honor to serve by my husband’s side – to be called to be a pastor’s wife. It’s a humbling thing. It is a privilege that no one else has – to be the wife to my pastor. Just knowing ahead of time that Christians don’t always act like Christians can get you through a lot. I keep in mind that there are believers in this world who have faced and are facing true persecution. And even though it is not fun and can hurt my feelings to have church people not like me or my husband, I’m in ministry to glorify God and because He called me to it. If you keep your eyes on Jesus, you can survive, and even flourish as a pastor’s wife.

      • Elisabeth, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

      • Stephanie says on

        Elisabeth, thank you for your reply!! Everyone else’s comments are most helpful along with Thom’s post. My fiancé and I both look forward to graduating and serving somewhere. Thanks again for sharing !

      • Simply new says on

        I have been dating the most amazing man I’ve ever met in my life for almost 2 years now who just happens to be a young successful pastor. I realize because he is a man of God, I have been blessed with a genuineness and sincerity with an understanding for how I live my life when dating that other guys could not accept. As we contemplate marriage and prepare to be married I have found myself questioning our lived as one. The loneliness along with the needs of the church not to mention he works as a professor in the local university have shown me that my life as his wife would be difficult in certain areas. Nothing can prepare you for this but having others with experience and insight help. I thought I was selfish for feeling this way but I see I’m not the only one. Thank you so much and God bless each and every one of you.

    • In my personal experience of 32 years in ministry with my husband, yes every single church has had some element of this. Not everyone. But there is just about always someone.
      I’ve been told what I should be doing in the church, what I should be doing outside the church.
      I’ve not been told, but others have at times, and there is even a woman in our community who carries an email she sent about me to others in our community (but not to me) that lists everything I ever did to fail and offend her. This was 6 years ago, and every once in awhile she pulls it out of her purse and reads it to someone that has contact with me.
      Is she crazy? Yes. Is it hard to deal with and hurtful? Unfortunately, my skin is not thick enough and it still hurts.
      What to do? I don’t know. I think the true believers in God who are walking in relationship with Him and are committed to the Body of Christ, merely recognizing the needs of pastor’s wives and pastor’s families is huge for us who live through this stuff. Having someone understand, address these people when they can, encourage, pray and support makes a huge difference in ministry and family life for us.
      I have a wonderful group of 20 women who I share with in a facebook group that encourage and pray for me. We are interdenominational, all over forty, cross denominational lines, and met through a large pastor’s wife forum. We’ve been sharing our lives for ten years now, some of us! And we have even gotten together with our husbands for a week in the summer on a mule ranch of all things! It was a blast.
      There are wonderful things about being a pw even with all the hard stuff. God is ALWAYS good. And I would not trade my journey with anyone for an “easier” life.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Thanks for the good word Jan.

      • We all need Jesus and a degree to practice psychiatry

      • I will always recommend the works of Merlin Carothers; Praising God for ALL things, even the bad things- or especially the bad things- this is a way to “let go and let God- and we have found it works better than if we tried to reason with unreasonable people. Stephen the Martyre preached while he was being stoned, and prayed forgiveness for his tormentors- Saul the Christian killer was there, and later he was saved and became Paul the Apostle, later Paul and Silas were beaten and in chains in jail, they sang hymns and praised God, their chains fell off and the jailor was saved. No room to explain what we have seen here, but if nothing else works , this does work. Eph 5:19,20, 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

        20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

        1 Thess 5:16-19 16 Rejoice evermore.
        17 Pray without ceasing.
        18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
        19 Quench not the Spirit.

    • I have served along side my husband for over 20 yrs now. We have had our ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change anything! God placed a calling on our lives and I find complete joy in fulfilling my calling. I will say this…find yourself! Know who you are, what your talents and gifts are, and use them to the fullest. Learn to say “no” or you will be worn out. If you focus on pleasing Christ, then you will no longer care about pleasing your congregation and you will alleviate the challenges that come with trying to please everyone. When you stand firm in your walk with the Lord, then you can stand firm among your people and they will respect you for it. Most of all, love…love them as Jesus would love them and your joy will overflow!

    • Mom of six says on

      By all means, there are wonderful congregations. We happen to be at one of them. Is it perfect? No, but as a whole the congregations has been very good to us. I am now a pastor’s wife and was terrified of being a pastor’s wife, until lady at seminary told me “to love the people, that there are so many people who are hurting, that what they really need is someone to love them.” I remember thinking, “That I can do.” and that is what I try to do, love the people. Remember that everyone has a story, a past and if you can discover what it is, it can go a long way in understanding that person. Difficult people can become your best allies when they are loved.

  • Scott Newman says on

    A word of advice to younger pastors from a guy who’s been a pastor for some time now: Protect your wife. When a church member steps over the line and mistreats your wife (or kids) then don’t wimp out. Confront the offender diligently and with an appropriate level of disgust. I know anger is tough to hold in check, but listen guys, you can let a lot of silliness role off your back when it is directed towards you. But, when your wife and kids are involved, then you have to be the one to step up to the plate on their behalf. Involve your elder team if need be. But address the issue. Put a stop to it. Don’t put up with it.

  • Leadingandlovingit.com an amazing place of encouragement and connections for pastors wives all over the world!

  • Jill York says on

    Thank you Thom. I will be sharing the link to this article. You’ve captured the feedback very well. I wish that I had been part of a conversation like this 20 years ago.

  • There is a protected online forum/safe place for ministers’ wives called contagious joy. Started by ministers wives. It’s full of articles, support, places to vent and find encouragement/advice! It is wonderful!!!!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks for the resource Kelley.

    • Sharon Enright says on

      Kelly Strom, is it possible to share the contagious joy website with me? It would be a God-send.

    • Thank you Kelly for recommending our site. We have taken a break for the past month but are gearing up for a new and important year. The one thing that we have discovered about all other sites including Facebook is that while you might be posting on a private, membership site, most if not all that we have tested DO NOT have the back door closed. In other words, as a ministry wife anything that you post via Facebook or in other venues can be captured by search engines. While many and most wives have nothing that they do not mind being “captured” some of you need to be aware that when you are sharing your personal information and intimate details on other sites you are at risk for discovery. Our Forum is unique in that we have CLOSED the back door and work diligently, regularly to maintain the security of our site. Our site has a certified, licensed counselor – who just happens to be a church planters wife – watching and ready to answer and to pray with you. BUT maybe what most ministry wives need is community of other like minded ministry wives where they can share their victories, struggles, fears and even express doubts, frustrations, anger, loneliness with other women who either are on the same path or have traveled the road already and have invaluable wisdom that is only gleaned from the school of experience.

      The purpose of Contagious Joy is to connect ministry wives around the globe for the purpose of prayer, encouragement, awareness, accountability, bible study and friendship.

      We are actively planning a Bible study for the ministry wife taught by a seasoned pastor’s wife in the coming weeks in our forum. You will be able to log in and then join us and participate weekly for a study in the area of “spiritual warfare” and your need for readiness and maturity in this area.

      When signing up for membership. Please create a username that is unique to you.
      Our membership coordinator and myself are the only one’s that have access to your information. We will verify your information and if necessary contact you to make certain that the integrity of our site is maintained. When you are verified and approved you will need to sign in and change your password from the temporary one we assign you. After this you can go to the forum and start a new topic or post comments.

      In addition we have 15 writers who are ministry wives across the nation – literally from the East to West Coast and Canada. We send out a weekly newsletter and desire to bless the ministry wife tangibly. We do this by giving the ministry wives opportunity to win prizes throughout the year.

      In 2014 we will be meeting four times this year in small groups with a maximum of 10 wives. Face to face ministering to the wife for encouragement and empowerment.

      I hope to see you there and please know that we are praying for ministry wives daily!

      • Thanks to Kelley’s post I just registered with Contagious Joy! I serve as the wife of the Student Pastor and work part-time with Children’s Ministry at our church. So excited for this resource!

  • My mother and grandmother were pastor’s wives, they could have written this decades ago.
    This spoke to my heart as a pk.

  • Being a part of my states ministers’ wives network has been a blessing to me. We meet a couple of times a year, but social media is where we get to know each other better. We have a private Facebook page where we can vent about what is happening in our church or give praise for how God is working. We also have a blog written by ministers’ wives for ministers’ wives. Floruish.me. is an excellent blog for ministers’ wives, Kathy Litton is an excellent resource for Southern Baptist wives.

  • So good, Thom. Especially #3. Can’t tell you how many times someone has invited my wife to lunch so they could tell her what she’s doing wrong–in a role that has no job description or support!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks Lawrence.

      • So many points hit home for me as a pastor’s wife. The complaints, the expectations, giving your time talents, money, and feeling dismissed in the process by the congregation. I came in expecting a totally different experience. I prize my relationship that I have with Christ it is what keeps me getting back up and doing what I do while supporting my husband.

      • My husband just became a pastor and I have made a decision not to be pushed around by any church member.

      • Jouli Brown says on

        Hello. Did you ever have a problem with female’s in the church and outside the church wanting private counseling session with your husband/the pastor. How did you handle this as his wife.

      • Pastor Tatenda says on

        0ur church rules forbids private one on oneconsultation with the opposite sex. My husband and I are one.. There fore we do consultations together unless if it is a male who wants to see the pastor in private. If it’s a female then I do consultation in private with her. That’s why it is very important to be trained as a lady pastor to avoid such incidents of private consultations of females with my husband in my absence.. I will never let that happen hahaha

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