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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  • There’s no such thing as a “typical pastor’s wife”, but I hear all these heart cries on a regular basis. For a soul care retreat with wonderful, genuine women who understand life in the ministry, check out Psalm One: http://www.psalmone.org/pastors–wives-retreats.html

  • The older I get the more I agree with #11. Pastor’s wives need a safe, real place to vent and unload. Sometimes networking with other pastor’s wives is a great way to get things off your chest and receive encouragement and prayer support. But SOMETIMES…we need a little more. I am a huge advocate for encouraging pastor’s wives to pay someone godly, safe and trusted to pour their hearts out to. Finding a good, godly female counselor in your area may take a few attempts, but is totally worth the money and time spent. Just having someone you can vent to about your church or church goers, or about your husband is huge and takes the pressure off your husband. Plus, she is paid to keep her mouth firmly closed. (see sweet smile on my face) Seeking this avenue of self care allows me to be a better wife, mother and pastor’s wife.

    I am also blessed to be a part of our church planting organization’s ministry to planter’s wives called: Bloom. We have a closed Facebook page, newsletter and yearly retreat. Making friendships with these women all over the country who are in similiar ministry positions has been invaluable. I have written a book specifically for pastor’s and planter’s wives called, “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bloom-Where-Youre-Planted-Planting/dp/1484043073

    The second book is coming out in April at Exponential the National New Church Planting Conference. I will be hosting a workshop there that week as well.

    Blessings to all of you ladies and thank you Thom!

  • vincent louie says on

    Don’t forget us husbands of children’s pastors!!!

  • Dr. Rainer,

    Thank you for touching this needful issue once again. With one year complete in the MBTS DMin program, I am considering pastor’s wives related topics for my project & dissertation. Are you aware of anyone who has done any similar work to this point?

    I’ve also considered the idea of pastor peer mentoring groups. Both ideas are rooted in my presupposition that healthy pastors are necessary for healthy churches.


  • Thank you very much for this post.I obeyed the Lord and launched a local church about 3.5years.ago. Although it is still young in yeara of existence, by God’s grace it has grown in membership. I daily concern myself with the impact its having on my children and my wife. She ia fully supportive but I try to make sure I do not place unrealistic expectations not allow the people to do ao either.

  • I think this list applies to wives of worship leaders as well, and most likely, anyone else highly VISIBLE in church ministry. We do need a safe place to share our concerns. For now, Jesus is my refuge.

  • I am sad to read how many family members of people in ministry suffer from crude and dysfunctional churches. As a Family Therapist I train Pastors in family dynamics and am stunned that so few a bible schools and Seminaries prepare their people so poorly and denominations have no good training for leaders on these topics. The support groups mentioned are wonderful and I hope church leaders will step up and bring in people like me to train their families.

    I am still offering free materials to any Pastor or family member.

  • Carol Meier says on

    So true! Thanks for the reminder!
    We just need to be reminded – they are also human beings and women, just like us- except their calling!
    We are called to love and carry one another’s burdens as body!

  • what about “most pastor’s wives secretly wish their husband’s would do ANYTHING else but be a pastor:) i know i do:)

  • Nancy Hillard says on

    Thank you for your post as I have read the last 2. Everything you said is true but I, as my husband started a multiple campus out of a trailer and setting up and tearing down a church in one day is the hardest thing one can do but we did it for 9 months until we found a building. Well that church has become our home as we do everything there. We do not pay for janitoral services, we ask for volunteers and I feel that I have to be there to get people to volunteer or they won’t show up. I get so tired sometimes and emotionally drained that it takes me days to recover. I have several health problems and I will serve the Lord until I can not serve him anymore. I am the hands on Pastor’s wife..I feel that these people come to learn the word of God and also to find peace and tranquility and love from the congregation. I am not sitting in a corner, I am up meeting, greeting, loving and praying over these people. Maybe I am over the top but I don’t understand how wives can just not do these things and I know alot that do nothing but go to church. I guess I need to go back to church planting for more than a week to find out what I am doing wrong as I feel that I am letting God down.

  • I am not a pastor’s wife, but I am the friend of a pastor’s wife. Maybe as a word to other laypeople out there–I never repeat anything my friend has told me (unless it’s something like what time a meeting is or other basic information). If she’s called me to share a prayer request about her family as a friend, I never tell anyone else–just pray for it on my own. My friend is very discreet, but if she’s ever needed to vent about something I haven’t told a soul, not even my own husband. It’s a good idea to make sure we can be trusted and not betray our pastor’s wife, even inadvertently. I need friends, why wouldn’t my pastor’s wife?

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