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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  • Alot of these things would be helpful for female pastors. That is a very lonely place too.

  • Thank you for posting this! I have been a student pastor’s wife for 15 years and we are currently in LAUNCH church planting training. I think the biggest key is to remember we are not alone.

    • Nancy Hillard says on

      you are not alone as we also trained in chuch planting. It is an awesome experience and one that you will never forget. But I think I must forget that they hired my husband not me as I have been called down for doing to much. Good luvk in your work. God is the one you will please.

  • All of the points you make are on point. It is an honor to be a Pastor’s Wife. It comes with many blessings and a few not so pleasant moments. Flourish is a great BLOG; not a forum where Pastor’s Wives can connect and discuss an issue they may be facing. Or, find a new ministry friend who lives close by. I think it would be wonderful is each state convention had a ‘Ministry Wives Consultant.’ I would like to see this person organize small events in each region of the state so that we can connect and build relationships among ourselves. I would personally be happy to work in my region to get something like this started if I knew I had support and if the ladies would be willing to attend.

  • Having been a FORMER Pastor’s Wife, I would have to say you are right on. EXCEPT, I would take it much more seriously had a REAL pastor’s wife written it. Still feels like a man, the husband is tell us what to think of your wife.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      You’re probably right.

      • It is nice when you hear from a woman who actually has gone through this; however, where we are right now, I am glad a man took notice of what we as pastors wives experience. Some husbands need to hear it from a man or they draw the conclusion that we, as women, are crying, complaining, nagging or simply overreacting. Many times I feel slighted. I stay in my prayer closet so that even when someone deliberately does something to me I can still walk in love and not cringe when I see that person. Prayer also helps my heart to forgive. How people could do some of the things I’ve experienced or read about I can’t understand. Thank you for the resources. For years I felt alone in my experiences. I almost convinced myself they did not exist. Now I have ways to safely vent without being judged or have it tucked away to be thrown back in my face at a later time. If I had a hashtag it would read #ihavefeelingstoo thank you Thom for posting this.

  • Another helpful resource for pastors’ wives that was founded with the encouragement of Vonette Bright, co-founder of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) is the Global Pastors’ Wives Network

  • He seguido su sitio hace algún tiempo y es excelente felicidades.Los mejores parabienes para que continuE su gran labor.Mis oraciones con usted Osnaya+

  • Thank you for this post & the follow-up comments. It is encouraging to know that I am not alone. I am still a rookie pastor’s wife (just 4 short years into our first church assignment after seminary), and this month has been one of the hardest yet. It is clear the honeymoon is over. Someone in the church has recently been sending my pastor-hubby anonymous notes in the mail to our home. It absolutely breaks my heart to watch someone intentionally plant seeds of doubt or criticism in such an unhealthy way. I witness firsthand my husband’s devotion to prayer, studying God’s Word & loving the flock. While it seems that anonymous notes to pastors are not all that uncommon, it has been like a punch in the gut to me. I am angry and hurt, and all of this is compounded by the fact that I was already feeling the weight of the loneliness & financial burden of being a ministry wife.

    • Patsy Chacon says on

      Zan, I just wanted to respond to your comment and let you know you are in my prayers. I have had first hand experience with this type of abusive harassment. I’m so sorry and continue to look to GOD. I know you may feel alone but as long as you and your husband are there for one another and have your TRUST in the Lord you will overcome this. I have always reminded myself and I always tell my kids GOD’S heart is broken because of the choices people make and the way they handle situations. Just remember GOD is GOD and people are people they make horrible decisions and mistakes. God bless you

  • All sounds about right. I also think people/ congregation forgets that the pastor’s family – wife and kids have him as a pastor as well as a family member. I know that I go to church to get forgiveness of sins just like everyone else there and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sinner and no hypocrite. lol My family needs to be there just like everyone else.

    On another note, I formed a private Facebook group just for pastor wives in our denomination. We give support to each other and can all related to the same issues. I encourage pastor wives of other denominations to do the same. If you know of anyone who is a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Pastor Wife you can send them to our FB group and request an invite. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LCMSWivesofPastors/

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Wife to the Pastor says on

    I agree with many of your points. However, I do not believe that I as a clergy spouse should need to take a class in how to be a pastor’s wife. I married my husband for richer or poorer, etc. long before he changed careers to follow God’s Calling to attend seminary and enter the ministry. That is HIS Calling, not mine. I have my own career and Calling. Congregations need to respect that the spouse is not their free pastoral assistant.I married a man, not a profession. If I were a surgeon’s wife would I be expected to take classes on how to remove a spleen? No. Perhaps we could just end all of these expectations by having all clergy spouse belong to a different denomination or church than the one the clergy-person serves in.

    • A Minister's Wife says on

      Thank you so much for posting this comment! I agree with you – it is HIS calling and not mine. The church did not hire me – they hired him. Because I love my husband, I will stand by his side and support him, but I have my own full time job. I believe I do have a calling to serve God to the best of my ability, just like every other Christian who sits in the pews with me.
      I have heard friends say they were called to be a minister’s wife – and wonder how that affects their marriage when the husband leaves the ministry (as has happened with someone I know.)

    • Great minds ditto. The same thoughts have crossed my mind more often within the last few years of our 31 yr ministry. Sometimes I sneak away and go visit another church where no one knows I’m a Pastor’s wife. Very refreshing.
      I sometime sit and wonder what it would be like to be an active member of a different church and enjoy being me.

  • I became a pastor’s wife AFTER we’d been married over 10 years. So, when my husband answered the call, I , too, answered it along side him. I had basically no formal knowledge of how or what a pastor’s wife should be. My husband is not a senior pastor at our church, but one of several. He counsels with people of our congregation and some that are not. As pastor’s wives, we become privileged to some private knowledge, but not all (I would not want to know all of everything that goes on it our church. It would probably skew my judgement of some things and change my views not matter how unbiased I try to remain). With this being said, I must remain confidential with most everything that goes on. It is very hard to have close friends in this situation (#1). Also, as “pastor’s wives” , we, too, have issues within our own lives that we may need counsel without being judged. No! We aren’t perfect, nor do we claim to be. But, who do we turn to? (Yes, I turn to God)

    • This is an issue I have dealt with over and over in the past 30 yrs in ministry. Lately the loneliness and emotional exhaustion of sharing the burdens of our beloved church members, not to mention my over-stressed husband has weighed very heavy on my spirit. It is encouraging to hear that other pastor wives understand this as well. As mentioned in previous comments I so wish there were a support group or something nearby. I know there are some regional conferences but,wow , the expense!

  • Wonderful post! Thank you for your concern and appreciation for pastor’s wives like me! I also wanted to throw it out there that I write a blog for ministry-minded women (www.GraceCoversMe.com) and have written a book for church planting wives that many pastor’s wives have told me also speaks to their role. It’s called The Church Planting Wife.

    The resources mentioned already like Flourish and Leading and Loving It are trying to meet the needs of ministry wives. I’ve found that many wives don’t know about these and even more pastors don’t know about them. I think it is most helpful when PASTORS share these resources with their wives and with each other. Pastors are often the ones who attend conferences and network with each other, but I feel sometimes like pastor’s wives are left out of that process, often because of logistics. They stay home with the kids, etc. while their husbands go to learn and network. I believe most pastors strongly value their wife’s role and want her to be cared for by the church, but are men talking with each other about how to do this best? I think this would help bring resources and training for ministry wives.

    Online, pastors and denomination leaders can invite women’s voices, hear what they’re saying, try to learn about their unique experiences as pastor’s wives, show value to these women (as you’ve done here), and encourage them to connect using the resources available.

  • For all who are interested in education and preparation for pastor’s wives, Concordia Seminary St Louis has a class called Partnership in the Gospel. My friends and I found it incredibly helpful. I encourage anyone who wants to have a program at your seminary, or have a class with your local wives, to contact Concordia.

    • Heather, my husband graduated a few years from CSL! We never had Partnership in the Gospel. Sounds like a wonderful class for wives! I would love to hear more. This article has been a blessing. Thanks so much!

      • Heidi – my husband graduated in 2011, so you must have missed the announcement. It was part of the Tuesday night classes for wives, only offered in the spring quarter. When I took it Diane Meyer and Renee Gibbs led it. Two wonderful women! I’m sure either one would send you the outlines if you ask. My last name is McCoy if you want to find me on Facebook. I’m in a couple LCMS wives groups there 🙂

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