Twelve Reasons Pastors’ Wives Are Lonely

Church Answers began as a source of information for pastors, staff, and other Christian leaders. I have been incredibly blessed to discover a subgroup of my readership that has much to offer: pastors’ wives. Many in this group have also shared a common plight: they are very lonely.

Indeed the transparency of these pastors’ wives is amazing. Many have shared with each other on this blog about their battles with depression. My desire to offer help to pastors’ wives has increased greatly. My respect and admiration for them has also grown significantly.

For this article, I assimilated the hundreds of blog comments, Twitter and Facebook messages, and general conversations I’ve had with pastors’ wives. My focus was on the number one challenge they have shared: loneliness.

Here are the twelve most common reasons pastors’ wives have offered to explain their loneliness.

  1. Superficial relationships in the church. “No one ever sees me as my own person. I am the pastor’s wife. No one tries to get close to me.”
  2. A busy pastor/husband. “My husband is on 24/7 call all the time. I just get leftovers.”
  3. Mean church members. “I guess I’ve isolated myself to some extent. I just don’t want to keep hearing those awful things they say about my husband and me.”
  4. A conduit for complaints about her husband. “Last week someone told me their family was leaving the church because my husband is a lousy preacher. Do they have any idea how that makes me feel?”
  5. Broken confidences. “I’ve given up trying to get close to church members. I thought I had a close friend until I found out she was sharing everything I told her. That killed me emotionally.”
  6. Frequent moves. “I’m scared to get close to anybody now. Every time I develop a close relationship, we move again.”
  7. Viewed as a second-class person. “One church member introduced me to a guest visiting the church by saying I’m ‘just the pastor’s wife.’”
  8. Lack of support groups. “I’ve heard that some wives have support groups that really help. I’ve never been able to find one.”
  9. No date nights. “I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together.”
  10. Complaints about children. “I really don’t try to get close to church members anymore. I’m tired of so many of them telling me how perfect our children should be.”
  11. Husband does not give the wife priority. “Frankly, the church is like a mistress to my husband. He has abandoned me for someone else.”
  12. Financial struggles. “My husband makes so much less money than most of the members. I just can’t afford to do the things they do socially.”

While many pastors’ wives share that there are blessings in their role, many do suffer severe loneliness. I would love to hear from more of these wives. And I would love to hear from others about them. The words I have heard from these women have prompted me to be more intentional about praying for them.


Posted on February 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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

174 Comments

  • A.B., a minister's wife says on

    I just wanted to second the recommendation for Leading and Loving It as a ministry by and for ministers’ wives. I came across it a year or so ago, and God has used it to help me start to heal from a few years of church-wide turmoil. I encourage other ministers’ wives to at least check it out.

  • Minister's Wife in MO says on

    Although my husband is not a pastor, he is still a licensed minister and was a campus minister to International Students for over 13 years. I have struggled for years with the fact that we have no real “friends” locally, and just a handful that live out of town. It’s really hard to feel supported when you don’t “see” that support. It has left a bitter taste in my mouth and I have asked God for guidance and forgiveness. However, even through those lonely years, I DO thank God for the International students that we have reached for Christ and who still keep in contact with us. Although my husband now has a secular job, we still minister to those students every chance we get.

  • One issue I’ve encountered is being made to feel like an outsider because we aren’t well established in the community, as in we didn’t grow up in the church, we weren’t members of the community who chose this church above the others, rather, we just “showed up to get paid.” In my presence, a member of the church, discouraging people from leaving the church over disagreements or distaste for leadership, told my Sunday School class, “Pastors come and go, but this is our church. This is our family.” My takeaway was that because I’m the youth pastor’s wife, we are excluding from being included as part of the family because my husband is hired help, I’m just along for the ride, and this we are disposable, a dime a dozen.

    • I have been in a church where people didn’t want to get to know us, because pastors (and family) just came and went. Hired help. It was hard to deal with. I feel your pain!

  • I appreciate the article and having been a Pastor’s Wife for over 25 years ( and a Pastor’s daughter) I can relate to each issue at different times in my life. One of the most resonating things ever said to me is this: “Ministry provides the greatest joys, but it also provides the greatest hurts, because we give it all!” There have been times that I have longed to just be someone’s friend without being the “Pastor’s Wife”. Years ago I was invited to a Christmas party at a lady’s house where she invited many co-workers, life-long friends, etc. I was excited about my invitation and thought that I had been invited as a friend, not the Pastor’s Wife. I must confess that I was disappointed to continually be introduced by the hostess to her “friends”, but I was never referred to as a friend, only the “Pastor’s wife”. I am thankful for my opportunity to be in ministry and invest in people, but I will admit that it is a very lonely position at times. I’ve been at gatherings of hundreds of people (our church people) and been one of the loneliest people there. The most important things for me to realize is that I’m under attack and to realize where the attack comes from. Satan is my enemy and knows my weak spots and that is where he attacks!
    Mr. Ranier, Thank you for your continual encouragement to the Pastor and his wife.

    • SavedbyGrace says on

      I have always thought being “the pastor’s wife” was a title worthy of respect and admiration. I never knew it could seem like an insult to a pastor’s wife. I will keep that in mind.

      • Allen Calkins says on

        I believe the rub might be being introduced as the pastors wife first instead of after sharing your name. So it would be better to say to a guest in church ‘I want you to meet Gerri, our pastor’s wife’ vs. ‘And this is our pastor’s wife’.

      • Pastor's Wife says on

        I do believe that the reason some people introduce you as the pastor’s wife is a type of way of warning people to be careful of what you talk about in front of this person. For the sake of respect and sometimes because she might tell what you say to her husband or it could just be a way of saying, please don’t say anything embarrassing in front of her, she’s my pastor’s wife. I believe these maybe a few of the reasons why the pastor’s wife is treated like she lives on the isle of patmos.

      • For me, I don’t mind being called the “Pastor’s wife” but loathe “preacher’s wife” or if people add “JUST A” in front of the title makes it more demeaning.

      • I do think for the most part the “Title” is a respectable one. I think it’s when it’s said like, “JUST the Pastor’s wife”. Just like I LOVE being called mom… but when said, “your JUST a mom” it’s disrespectful.

  • My situation is unique in that when we were hired in we were hired in as a team. And though I have more credentials than my husband, I’m still seen as the pastor’s wife. This doesn’t bother me at all. However, 2013 was a particularly difficult year for me.

    Because I released a fiction book that year, prominent members wrote a letter stating they believed they shouldn’t pay me as much of a salary because they shouldn’t have to pay for my “extracurricular activities” of writing books. !!! Mind you, I have gone in the hole with this book (as it was my first fiction release), and haven’t made a dime. Also, I did not neglect any of my church duties! I do write books, but not on church time. This acknowledgment of their view of me wounded me to the core.

    In reflection, I wonder how I could have handled talking about the book (which I did very little of) better. I’m not sure anything I could have said would have mattered. Ignorance is ignorance and often ignorance is not something that can be reasoned with.

    I was extremely hurt last year for many of the reasons you listed. I can’t share confidences with anyone and the church HAS had a negative affect on my children who are all grown now. My oldest son resents the church for many valid reasons. He turned to drugs and is now incarcerated. (I acknowledge this is not the church’s fault but his own.) The deep pain his incarceration has caused him, his three daughters, his marriage (broken), and our own family is one thing, but the judgment of the church women is entirely another. There are some things you simply do not say to a mother of a prisoner.

    Bottom line, there is PAIN in ministry and we can’t expect it NOT to be painful when Christ’s ministry was as well. The fact is, we are targets of the enemy. Both as women and as ministers. Whatever we value most the devil will target. Usually that’s our family. And my family has been buffeted in countless ways.

    When reasoning with my adult children I remind them that many kids — not just pastor’s kids — have it a little more rough than the average family. Politician’s kids, public leader’s kids, school teacher’s/administrator’s kids. Preacher’s kids aren’t the only ones. But what makes it harder, I suppose, is that people who purport to be full of the saved and filled with the Holy Spirit produce fruit (of their lips) that state otherwise. And I think that’s one reason that the hurt is deeper. It’s a Pharisee thing, perhaps? I’m not sure.

    I am looking again for the joy in ministry. I lost it last year. I did take a month off, for which I’m grateful. I am in mourning for my son. I know that in time, my Loving Heavenly Father will turn my mourning into dancing. I eagerly await the other side. My future is bright because I’m being refined like gold. I am determined to shine.

    — Karla Akins, in ministry for 32+ years

  • church planter's wife says on

    I am a church-planter’s wife and have been a pastor’s wife for about 9 years or so. While there are many joys in this role, I find I have many hats to wear: wife, mother, nurse, friend, hostess, pastor to my husband’s heart, etc… I am seeking concealing this year particularly for the reason of loneliness so i find it interesting that you are wanting more insight on this issue. I do feel very lonely but never realized it really until recently as I haven’t been able to place some of these feelings until now. Some of those reasons you posted do not apply to me, but some do. Church planting has been especially hard for reasons of getting close to people, starting something from nothing, and then having people leave. Sometimes they tell you why and other times one is left guessing. Other times I get excited about people visiting, but then they find out we don’t have a certain “program” in the church they are looking for, so they leave. I don’t believe church should be “al a carte”. This attitude is disheartening as we should be about making disciples, living on mission, and about being the church as the book of Acts describes it. I live as a missionary where we are at, but definitely struggle with opening up my heart to others for REAL for fear of being left out in the open – hung to dry… I am working on letting those I think really care about me and my struggles hear my heart; letting them know am lonely. Not in a needy way, but in a real way. So, I would be interested in continuing to follow your postings on this issue and how pastor’s wives could help one another as we struggle with loneliness. Thanks again for caring about our hearts too.

  • New to Full Time Ministry in MO says on

    Great article.
    Being called “just a preachers wife” is one of my most disliked title. “Preacher” sounds like my husband only works one hour a week from the pulpit on Sunday. And it devalues me as a person. Since when am I title because of my husband occupation? We don’t go around calling over wives “just a doctors wife” or “just a plumbers wife” why is that label okay for us? but…
    For any Pastor’s wives out there reading this and need a support group, there is a ministry called Leading and Loving It. It connects ministry wives through webinars, Facebook, and GoogleChat. Go to leadingandlovingit.com and check it out. My group has helped me share personal struggles and issues with no judgement, but lots of love, support, and encouragement from other pastors wives. It has been a HUGE blessing in my life!

  • Paul R. Jones says on

    Our pastor’s wife has a earned a good income with her own career. Our pastor has a total package of over six figures. We have a few members with six figure incomes, but most of us are in the mid 50’s for combined income. Our pastor made it clear that his wife had her own career goals and that she was not part of the package.
    All of this was ironed out before he was called and it has worked out very well. Any disgruntled members must ask the question ” am I past of the problem, or am I a part of the solution.” Find a place of service in the church that uses your spiritual gifts and you will not have time to complain about what others are doing.

  • James Paul says on

    Thank you for the loving concern expressed in this article for women married to pastors. I am going to share an opinion based on 40 years of observation within the church. It is a minority view.

    While there are many causes of lonliness, all 12 causes mentioned in this article can easily be traced to an unhealthy, unbiblical clergy/laity distinction. One commenter shared that she could never share her struggles because it would damage the persona attached to her husband’s office. This isn’t an anomaly. It is unfortunately, ubiquitous. Let’s ask why. Let’s courageously slay this dragon (clergy/laity) before it detroys more marriages, families and churches.

    • James Paul says on

      My previous comment was writtten via smartphone (very tedious) and I wanted to elaborate a bit from my laptop.

      I’m not aware of one New Testament scholar who endorses the current ubiquitous church phenomenon known as the clergy/laity distinction. This is where we take valid, NT gifts (i.e. pastor, evangelist, teacher etc.) and create man-made offices, elevating these “special clergy” above the “common laity.” Nowhere in the NT do we find one man monopolizing the regular gatherings of God’s people with 30 minute monologues. The best picture we DO have in the NT portrays each member coming to the gathering with vital contributions (a hymn, a teaching, an exhortation etc.).

      We’ve created a franchise of churches (denominational & non-denominational) where, instead of allowing each body member (hand, foot, ear, eye) to contribute their vital gift, we’ve become passive consumers of the gifts of one member, the “pastor.” By charging one member (the pastor) do a disproportional amount of ministry, we create a co-dependent culture where laity need to be led and clergy need to be needed. Isolation and loneliness for pastors and their wives becomes the logical innevitability. “If people in my church knew my real struggles, doubts, fears, lonliness – they wouldn’t listen to my weekly homily with the same sense of urgency.” The pastor becomes the NT “Moses” – going up to the mountain to get a “word” from God to bring back down to the common man. Jesus died and rose for much more than this. He rent the veil, giving every body member direct access to the very presence of God. But we’re afraid to go up. We’d rather have our pastor go up for us.

      I’m not suggesting that the lonliness expressed in these comments is completely due to an unbiblical ecclesiology. I’m also not trying to make light of the real suffering and felt needs of the women who wrote. However, I’m confident that if we addressed this issue (unbiblical clergy/laity distinction) we would strike a significant blow to the loneliness felt by many. A pastor is a brother in Christ with a gift from Christ. Nothing more. When we elevate them through church strutures and systems into a higher class of Christian, we isolate them from the gift of fellowship within their churches, forcing them to look outside their own church bodies, usually to clergy in other churches, for support. If we fail to courageously address this sin in the body, the loneliness felt by pastor’s wives will only continue to get worse.

  • Thank you! I wish people from church can read this and understand that pastor’s wife are also humans. I’ve tried not to complain or feel left out about certain things that goes on in the church circle. As a pastor’s wife I’ve had felt the loneliness so many times, and believe me is not a pretty side. I try not to get close to church members because I am afraid that when they are not agreeing with us in certain subjects, they will use whatever we’ve share with them against us. I have had the experienced of sharing something personal with a church member just because I saw in this person that I could confide in them, to find out later that it was shared with others. I have had people from the church said to our faces that in the years they’ve been with us they have not learned anything (at least they’ve learned how to be mean and hateful). I heard all kinds of mean comments towards the pastor’s family. Its hard to be a pastor’s wife where everyone expect for you to be everywhere, to be available every time they call and on and on. Just because we are pastor’s wife doesn’t mean we are perfect. For this reason I have tried to be myself and not let them rule my life with their ways. I understand that I will have to be accountable before God for my actions and that is why I have taken into consideration that no matter what I do or not do, people in church will always have something to criticize you about. It doesn’t matter how much you do or say, they will always see the bad in you and never the goodness in your heart. I will say though that serving the Lord is the most wonderful thing I’ve done and I also understand that to serve the Lord and please Him I don’t have to be a pastor’s wife. But since I am in this ministry I have to make the best out of it…and believe me there is also joy in being a pastor’s wife, the Lord is the only one that never forsake or leave us stranded when everyone does. I do have something to say, I do not want to be seen like an ungrateful person, or be seen with pity because people treat me one way or another. I’ve like to be seen as a person that is serving the Lord and trying to do what I am supposed to do to please Him no matter what others think about it. We need to be ourselves and stand firm in our believes even when others tried to change our ways (taking into consideration they are good ways) or even when they don’t think you have it in you. If you as a pastor’s wife feel you are pleasing God in your ways, doing everything on your power to obey His word, then enjoy serving where the Lord has place you and He will see you through in any situation. Being a pastor’s wife is not easy, but its not impossible either.

  • This is such a timely post. My husband has been pastoring for 6 years and I’ve felt each one of these at times. It’s like your not a real person. I’m proud of my husband and honored to be the “preachers wife” but I’m also just another woman longing for relationships that aren’t all about church. I think people don’t want to get too close b/c they’re afraid the preacher will know everything about them. But really we’re just real ordinary people too that God has called. I struggle often with loneliness and depression. It’s so hard to have a close girlfriend b/c people either think you’re playing favorites or they don’t want to get to know you. We have 4 children as well. It’s tough to care for them alone at church and build relationships wih people while keeping up with little ones. People forget that a pastors wide is like a single mother on Sundays in many ways. People also expect my children to be perfect. This drives me crazy b/coco never expect that of theirs. I expect mine to be respectful and obey but they are children and will act like it at times. My husband gets invited to lots of outings. Seems like the wives are often forgotten though. People just assume you’re busy. I love my church family and they are for the most part very loving but many don’t allow you to get close. Thanks for your prayers!

  • Thank you do much for writing this article. My husband showed it to me because he knows my struggle at times. My husband has only been a pastor for one year so we have not experienced everything you talk about just yet. We are very thankful for a very generous, supportive, and loving church family. My loneliness stems mostly from my husband’s business and the superficial relationships of the women in the church. The age gap is also a huge factor. My husband is a pastor of a small country church that is full of only elderly people. All our conversations are about who is sick and dying. And when it comes to talking about personal matters some women think it’s ungodly to discuss any struggles and others only want to talk to me so they can spill their problems. There’s never a mutual bearing of one another’s burdens. My husband’s business is due to the fact that this is a revitalization ministry and at this point he has to do it alone. Something that has encouraged me this year is a study we did on heaven. As we talked about the perfect fellowship we will have with our Lord and with one another after His return reminded me that on this side of heaven we won’t have that. This is battle time. Right now we are called to go out and point others to Christ so they may have the same hope. Any sweet fellowship we have on this earth is God’s grace. Meanwhile, my husband and I are praying about how we can reach out and make friendships with other couples and praying the Lord would send someone to help carry the load of ministry. I’ve also started writing letters of encouragement to the ladies in my church and contacting other pastor’s wives to encourage one another. God has sustained us this far by His grace and we are thankful. But we also know it is wise to have godly friends. Thank you again for writing this. My husband and I have talked about how we wish we could go back and be more of an encouragement to our previous pastors and their wives. Now we understand the huge burden they carried.

1 2 3 4 9