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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  • Suzi Marshall says on

    Thank you. I feel my plight as the Pastor’s Wife is validated in this blog. I have looked at all of the links and pray that there would be a safe place for a Presbyterian Pastors Wife too. I love my Call from God however I find myself in that pit of dispair entirely too often in the church we serve. I would love to find a wives retreat to go away to. Thank you all for all of your words in response to Thom’s great blog.

  • Dabria Luchtenberg says on

    I am marrying a full-time youth pastor in the next year and I have already begun to face these realities. We have had to face the difficulties that come with #7 head-on these past six months as we were deciding when to marry. These issues are not easy!

    What I seek the most is mentorship or a support group dedicated to the uplifting and encouragement of women in pastor’s wives positions (#9 & #11). I have yet to come across anything.

    Thank you for posting this… it’s encouraging to know it’s not just me!

  • The Wife of an Evangelist says on

    I believe the Lord gave you a word and a gift. This is right on. I’m not a pastor wife yet. but, we are evangelist and this is what i go through and have gone through as wife of a Husband who is a a strong leader and a man of God. I would suggest every wife to have a strong spiritual friend to turn to. One who will pray with you and remind you who to keep your focus on when the enemy tries to attack. When Enlisted Wives Group we had a thing called “key Volunteer” the responsibility consists of being their for the wives day or night. We had to take a class and at the end we received a pin shapped like a Key. In the class we learned what it meant to be a key wife and our responsibilities. Everything was confidential unless someone was a threat to themselves or others. Kind of like a counselor. Maybe churches need to have support groups like this where their are more support groups. But always let the Lord lead you. My spiritual friend did not attend my church. In fact my husband and I always say we are all the church and we share the Gospel anywhere and with everyone does not matter your church. We believe Jesus is the only way.

  • Tanks tom iv learnt alot

  • Thom,
    Thank you for this! I agree whole-heartedly!
    I married into the ministry and until I found a trusted mentor who has walked in my shoes, I too felt alone and isolated in my circumstances and feelings.
    One lesson I learned for sure, my role is to please God and no one else…I have to remind myself of that often! I can feel secure in that!

  • Carol Hinton says on

    Dear Mr. Rainer,
    Your list is right on spot. I have been a pastors wife since 2003. The only thing I would add is Ethics. A Pastor’s wife does not realize that she falls under the same guidelines as her husband. People will come to her in confidence with problems. I always let them know upfront that the only way I will ever say anything that is discussed, is if it is threatening to them or someone else. Then I only go to my husband and let him take over. Mostly the people in the church want to be loved and know that they can trust you and you are just like them, a sinner in a pew!

  • With the number of women now in ministry, why do you assume that the pastor’s spouse is a “wife” — i.e. a woman?

  • How do you deal with your husband working close to attractive single women in the ministry? My insecurities are killing me.

  • There is a blog/ministry for pastors’ wives you can find at http://www.isleepwiththepastor.com It has great encouragement for pastors’ wives and can be applied to anyone in ministry.

    Great post by the way. I agree with all of it.

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