Seven Things Pastors’ Wives Wish They Had Been Told Before They Became Pastors’ Wives

I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to hear from pastors’ wives since much of my focus is on pastors. In an informal survey, I simply asked the open-ended question: “What do you wish you had been told before you became a minister’s wife?”

Thank you to the pastors’ wives who were willing to give us such great feedback. And thanks to Chris Adams for doing the survey and to Amy Jordan for assembling the data.

The responses are in order of frequency. A representative comment follows each response.

  1. I wish someone had told me just to be myself. “I am a people-pleaser by nature, so for me, not being prepared to handle being a pastor’s wife with my personality was a heavy burden to carry early in our ministry.”
  2. I wish someone had prepared me to deal with criticism of my husband and me. “It was hard to deal with negative experiences, conflicts, or criticisms, especially in relation to my husband and our area of ministry. So I would harbor feelings of resentment when it came to ministry and my man.”
  3. I wish someone had reminded me that my husband is human. “I wish someone had told me that my husband could not be God for me. I was disillusioned at first to find out that he indeed is just a man.”
  4. I wish someone had told me that others were watching us (the glass house syndrome). “Even though they are watching us, we don’t need to be controlled by what they expect of us.”
  5. I wish someone had told me there are some really mean people in the church. “I was really surprised. I had to learn not to pay too much attention to them or they would get me down.”
  6. I wish someone had told me how much my husband needs me to build him up. “I need to be his cheerleader. Dealing with critics in the church is difficult. He needs to hear that I respect him now more than ever.”
  7. I wish someone had told me that my schedule will never be normal again. “Your husband will be very busy. Expect that. But come alongside him in the areas of time management and organization.”

One pastor’s wife told us that her role was like getting a job for which she never applied. She wrote this funny script in her response:

Husband: “Honey, I got you a job today.”

Wife: “Really? Okay, but I wasn’t looking for a job. I have plenty to do here running the household and raising the kids. That was our plan, right? Me stay home with the kids so you could fully dedicate yourself to the ministry.”

Husband: “Yeah, yeah. But I really need you take this job for me.”

Wife: “Well, okay, just tell me what to do and when it needs to be done by, and I will do everything I can to make it happen.”

Husband: “Well, right now there are no specific responsibilities. Basically, it’s just doing anything at church that no one else steps up to do or wants to do.”

Wife: “Oh my, that is a tall order. Okay, I’ll do it. I guess we could use the extra money anyway. Things are always tight around here on a pastor’s salary.

Husband: “Well, actually honey, there is no salary . . .”

What do you think of these seven responses? What would you add?


Posted on April 6, 2013

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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  • Thank you for this post and to all of those who’ve commented. I’m newly engaged to a youth pastor (6 days to be exact) and I’ve already gotten negativity thrown at me. Praying that I can love them through it. Thanks again to everyone for providing wisdom!

  • Lisa Nugeny says on

    Loneliness is the one thing I never expected. My husband has severed in the ministry full time for the last 10 years. I never dreamed I’d be so lonely. I am thankful how God has used it to drawn me closer to Him. I wonder if I had known, if I would have jumped into the ministry so fast…… And just that thought makes my heart heavy.

  • I really appreciate your blog. I have been a minister’s wife for 12 years and have learned a lot. I have a heart for helping younger minister’s wives and letting them know that they are not alone. Thank you for addressing these topics for pastors, their wives, and families.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you for your servant spirit Laura.

    • What a great ministry! I am a newbie and there are several women just here commenting that are very new to the ministry role of Pastor’s Wife. Perhaps you have a blog we can go to and learn more of your wisdom 🙂 I’m a nursing mother so I’m up reading blogs at all hours of the night. I’d love to here more from you about your advice for young wives!

      • hi Kristina,
        as i’m reading the replies from this post, i saw that you asked about a blog for wives. i have one i’ve been doing for about 4 months.
        leading and loving it is a good one for pastors wives, too.
        hope you find what you’re looking for!!

  • Bill Perkins says on

    My wife has put up with so much and sacrificed so much to be a preacher’s wife. Others have already mentioned how lonely the job is and I really hate that for her. But the one thing that seems to bug my wife the most is that she has lost her identify. She is no longer Elayne, she is “The Preacher’s Wife”.

  • We planted a church in Olympia, WA in 2003. At first, it was very difficult for my wife (and children), but I’m amazed at the wisdom God has given her. In spite of all the hardships we’ve been through, and as a pastor’s wife, she has learned a lot from others. She is a friend to everyone and a friend to no one. She’ll never repeat what people share with her. She knows how to involve other ladies when they don’t “feel” like doing something in church. I can honestly say that our ministry has been greatly blessed because of her.

    My wife was in the hospital last night, and I sent out a text to our leaders asking for prayers. Their response has been so encouraging, and she woke up this meaning feeling so much better.

    To all the pastor’s wives out there, thank you for ALL that you do. Thank you for putting up with all the stuff that happens in ministry. God chose you because no one else could handle this great calling. It’s great to know that we have our own cheer leading section. God bless!

    • Michelle S says on

      In a way I’m a bit late to this blog but still right on time! I’m a Pastor’s wife of 10 yrs and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that kind of a straightforward thank you from a pastor to pastors’ wives because we sooo need to feel appreciated first and foremost by our husbands. We do want to be their biggest cheerleaders but so often, in their being individual visionaries, they look right past the one who’s always there for them – that’s us…and it becomes “his” work and “his” ministry…. and we continue to cheer because, yes, as you rightly said, Gabriel, that is what we are called to do. In being so strong for him, our children & then ourselves, we still need the reassurance that it’s all worth it and for their appreciation to be shown to us.

      • What-doess-he-expect-of-me says on

        It’s still lonely when my husband can tell me how much I do not meet “pastor’s wife” expectations (his and/or theirs???) & that I don’t know what the congregation is saying to him to somehow confirm this… after ten years, I have now resolved to not trust anybody. It seems as if he is siding with “his” congregation & encouraging them to… he does not appreciate me – as if I’m not worth it. Yet we still cheer them on……

      • This is an issue I would have a problem with. I always told my husband if he had wanted or God had wanted him to have a mousy, piano playing, people pleaser as a wife that is what he should have married. Your husband should never side with the congregation or anyone in the church over his wife. I don’t know about you but I work a full time job because the pastor salary will not provide for our whole family. We live in an area that has a high cost of living and we need the second paycheck. Therefore I cannot do all that is expected of a lot of pastors’ wives because I refuse to put that over my family. We cheer them on and stand behind them and they should stand behind us. I have had my husband volunteer for things when I did not have the time or energy to do them. I had to address that with him. At one time I was leading a parent bible study on Wednesday nights, Sunday School class on Sunday morning and then a Ladies bible on Sunday nights and all that that time am working full time outside of the home. I had enough and had to scale back for my sanity. You can only do so much and the congregation and your husband should understand that and love you for who you are in Christ. But sometimes you have to demand that people treat you in that manner.

  • Being a pastors wife for over 30 years I have come to realize that most women and not just pastor wives are lonely with not many friends. You have to be the one to seek out friends and not just wait for someone to invite you to do something. Plan something fun or ask someone to walk or run with you . There are many women out there waiting for your call.

  • I think a lot of these issues can be avoided if the pastor steps up and reminds the spouse that his/her “job” as a pastor’s spouse is NOT to fill all the gaps of service no one else will.

    I do ask my wife to do things from time to time, but I try my best to let her know I am only asking, and that it is OK to say no.

  • Connie davis says on

    Love this! I wish I had known how lonely it is. My husband has close friends in the church but I have none. It is almost as if the women are afraid to get close to me. I am a reserved person to begin with but finding it extra hard in this church , even after 5 years, to make friends. Depression is also an issue.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Connie –

      I am praying for you right now.

    • Connie, I want to encourage you to reach out to the women. I prayed for a long time on how to reach out to the women and God answered my prayer. I have to say and it is all thanks to God, I am friends with each women and know them as my friend. I have learned not to separate who I am as a pastor’s wife and who they are as the congregation. I am a member of the church just as they are and we need each other. When women want to be friends with me because I am the Pastor’s wife, I tell them to get involved in serving so we can hang out, it continues to work, but they also become friends with the other women as well. Praying for you Connie that you will be able to have close friends in your congregation.

    • Connie,
      You are not alone. I bet the majority of pastor’s wives would say they’ve dealt with depression and loneliness. I know I have. Praying for you.

  • It’s interesting, I think the responses would also apply to missionary’s wives or even missionaries in general. I was out in Turkey for a long time, first as an MK and then as a worker and I would probably add this to the responses:

    “I wish someone had told me (earlier) that it is your relationship with Christ that comes above all else, not what you are seen to be doing.”

  • I met my husband when he was a youth Pastor. I am grateful for his wisdom and direction in leading me before we got married.I had lots of opposition but my husband always stepped in and cleared the air. I also had pastor’s wives who gave me good advice before we got married. Ministry hurts and everyone got to put in their two cents but having a husband who protects his wife is very important. Our first four year of marriage was tough and I resented being a pastor’s wife but my husband ministered to me and I learned to rest in the Lord. God remained faithful. The church we are in now is his first as senior Pastor and we have been here for 15years. God heals and restores the hurt so we can minister to those who is now walking where we once walked.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you for testimony Ambica.

    • Thanks Ambica for your words of encouragement. My husband forward me this email. We have been married almost 2yrs and it hasn’t been very easy. I relate to a lot of what you said. But thank you for sharing that healing and restoration will come.

      • Sheree, if you ever need to talk or for someone to listen, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. We need each other and have to remember that we are on the same side. You are very welcome. Also know that conflicts will never stop but as we grow, we learn to deal with it better. Praying for you Sheree.

    • Hmmm… Well, my story is a probably a little premature but has the potential to be complicated. I could do with hearing your views. A pastor (man in ministry) is expressing marriage intentions towards me. He is not a preaching pastor but is on the payroll at a large church. He is in charge of initiatives that the church runs in the community- you know, feeding the homeless, foodbanks, caring for the elderly etc.
      Second, this man is divorced with children, and there is still acrimony between he and his ex wife. I, on the other hand, have never been married and have no children.
      Third, I am a career woman. It goes without saying that I am earning significantly more than he is.
      Where do I start to begin to pray about this? Should I just run a mile?
      He is a lovely, kind and God fearing man. I feel comfortable around him – but his baggage and his ministry make him a very scary prospect. Any advice please? Anyone else been here?

  • This is the first “pastor’s wives” post that comes close to also being applicable to HUSBANDS of pastor’s! If I were to have to add one thing from their perspective as a woman youth pastor who also takes up the senior pastor’s responsibilities when he’s out of town, it would be this: Husbands of women pastors will be constantly asked by people from other churches or outside the church if they are a pastor too. I don’t know why, but that’s the question that comes up when I introduce myself as a minister. I would love to read some more inclusive posts about being the husbands of women in ministry! (my husband is a very private man something I praise him for, but it means he isn’t likely to be the one to write it.). I am alsp surprised that most of the “pastor’s wives” articles uve read have been written by men, but that’s anither issue for another time. Still- Thanks for this post!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Meg –

      Female ministers and pastors are welcome on this blog. My doctrinal
      position is complementarianism, which holds that the lead or senior
      pastor office is reserved for males. I, therefore, speak and write true to my
      doctrinal beliefs.

      This blog has Christians from many doctrinal nuances participating. I
      hold to perseverance of the saints, for example, that, in simple
      terms, means a true believer can not lose his or her salvation. There
      are many on this blog who disagree with me on both doctrinal issues,
      but feel the freedom to interact with other brothers and sisters in
      Christ. Likewise, my view of baptism by immersion will not be held by all who visit my blog.

      That is one of the major reasons I love hearing from Christians of
      many backgrounds. We don’t abandon our convictions, but we do our best
      to come together where we can make a positive difference for the

      Thanks for asking the question. It is a fair question to ask in light
      of my responses.

      • Thanks for your example of conviction with grace in response to this lady. Good article too. I confess I often feel paralyzed and completely incompetent to help my wife deal with the stresses of being my “complement” in ministry. Great will be her reward in Heaven.

  • Donna Williams says on

    As a pastor’s widow, one of my ongoing goals is to support and encourage the pastor’s wife and “inform” the pastor about the challenges of being a pastor’s wife. Though every experience varies, the path is common to all. I just had a conversation with a young, first time PW and the first thing I told her was to continue to be herself. The PW needs a mature mentor who has “been there, done that.”

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Donna –

      You have an incredible ministry! Thank you for serving others.

      • Hello Pastor, how can I get in contact with Mrs.Donna Williams. I would love to communicate with her more in depth. Thanks, Michelle

    • Michelle says on

      Hello Mrs. Williams, I was surfing the website and praying to God to lead me to someone that I could just express my thoughts and feelings to. I saw your picture and comment so I decided to reply back. I heard the spirit say this is your spiritual mother. I said Ok lord! I am not one that trust very easy and have a hard time with getting close to people because of all the hurt church people put you through. My husband have been pastoring for about 7 months now. The church we have started are one of the best church’s you could ever want to pastor. I have learned through pastoring that it can ecome very lonely. I have never been the type to do alot of talking and sharing but sometime you do need a lot of guidance, encouragement and rebukes from someone that cares for you and want to see you succeed in your ministry. I just don’t have anyone in my life that has taken me under their wings to do that. I long for a spiritual mother and true friend. My husband is my bestfriend and my rebuker but some time I feel like something is still missing. I have never talk with my mom about my loneliness because I don’t want her to worry about me. I am a mental health case mgt. and I am constantly helping people with their issues and problems but no one never knows and sees how much pain I’m in or suffering from needing a spiritual mother to help me. I have three beautiful children that works and support the ministry. My husband was the assistant pastor of our former church for about 18 teen years. We are well equipped to continue with our ministry but I need some spiritual guidance quick and in a hurry. I am so sorry for the passing of your husband and pray that you are doing well. If you have time please e-mail me back!!!! Michelle

      • Michelle,

        Our ministry Care for Pastors has a program for Pastors’ Wives call The Confidante and that is exactly what we are, a safe place to talk as a Pastors’ wife. I would love to hear from you and make a connection. We also have a facebook private group of pastors’ wives that is a great place to chat back and forth in a safe place. Please email me and let’s talk.

        Rodetta Cook

    • I really need mentorship. Im struggling to find my place as a pastor’s wife and I seem to be tagging along everywhere with my husband but I really dont qualify according to many

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