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

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Sandy Bowers says on

    I totally agree with these points! Especially #9 & #11. Definitely going to check out some of the resources in the comments. Thank you!

  • Great post, Thom. As a young pastor (34 years old) with a young wife (also 34), I have thought that the idea of training for future minister’s wives would be very good. I am surprised that there has not been more training and materials for pastors wives up to this point. Thanks for raising the point.

  • Might be able to add another to the list. For some strange reason many of our people treat my wife as a mobile Q&A. Lots of questions about events, the calendar, and her husbands thoughts and plans. This is frustrating for her because she doesn’t want to be thought of as, or treated like, an information go-to person. She serves in other ways. I suspect other pastor’s wives are treated this way so I thought maybe this would be helpful.


  • I have often said I wish someone would write a book about the life of a pastors wife. It’s def one of the hardest things I have ever done. You hit the nail in the head with these!!

  • Pastor Paul Wilkes says on

    It is clear that you have enabled pastors wives to have a place to share. I think it would be good for them to have a forum where they can share with each other so that they know they are not alone.I am not sure how this can be done but you have started the process. Thanks! I know that my wife appreciates having a place to share! It does seem that there is insufficient support. I praise God fro your boldness to share. As a pastor I know that I need to hear and be aware of the pressures on my wife.

  • Wow this really spoke to me! All the things I felt yet couldn’t or was afraid to put into words. Thank you for understanding what pastor’s wives go through. I always wanted the church to see me for who I was, not the title of pastor’s wife. That seemed to make them put on blinders to who I was or what I could do. Often other pastor’s wives wanted a place of power. Not even in my wildest dream would I want that! What I really wanted was the opportunity to serve along side, not from above. The loneliness and depression follow me, even though my husband is leaving the pulpet for a secular job. The trust issues are hard to handle at times. I long for a real friend. Believing in time that God will heal my heart.

  • I’m a pastor who’s going to be retiring soon. It happens that my wife is the pianist at the church, too. Several of these items really resonate with us. My church is in for “sticker shock” when they begin looking for a new pastor, not only because they have not kept up with inflation at all during the last seven years, but because they have not had to pay for health insurance, life insurance, etc. because we have received those through my wife’s full-time work. The church definitely does not realize the time, cost and effort it took for my wife to become a good pianist, nor do they realize the hours outside of the worship service that she spends in practice, music planning, mentoring young worship leaders at our church, etc. All this is time that she COULD be spending resting from her full-time work as a middle school teacher., or other activities.

  • Thank you so much, Thom. Without getting lost in all the juicy details, let’s just say THIS WAS VERY TIMELY… 🙂 I also want to give a shout out to http://www.flourish.me. The goal of this site is to help ministry wives flourish and love their calling…to thrive, not just survive. Being a pastor’s wife comes with such a unique set of issues and I know we all crave for our context to be addressed directly. This has been such a great resource that reminds me I’m not alone!

  • Tammy Meadows says on

    http://pastorswives.proboards.com/ is a wonderful message board where pastors wives can go and talk with other ministry wives of all ages, denominations, and levels of experience. It’s a wonderful place with lots of information and support. To participate you have to register and give information showing you are a ministry wife. Please feel free to pass on the link.

    I appreciate your blog and the things you are bringing attention to! Thank you!

  • GREAT article!! Thank you!!!

  • Patsy Chacon says on

    Thank you for posting all the responses. My mother was a Pastor’s wife and I knew first hand what to expect when I took on the roll. I will admit I didn’t want to because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. But even knowing what to expect it still is lonely and hurts at times especially when you see your children suffer because of people. If it wasn’t for my relationship with GOD and the love and communication I have with my understanding husband I think I would of fallen into a major depression. I would love for you to put a blog out for Pastors wives it’s nice to hear and see that you are not alone. Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world. God bless you

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