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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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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I’ve enjoyed reading the 7 things and also the comments. I’ve been a PW for 37 years and I’ve often said to my husband “they never told us this when you were in seminary”. Life in the fishbowl as I call it has it’s many ups and downs, and I’ve often said if I had to do it over again, I’m not sure I would. But, then in that same breath I say I wouldn’t have it any other way because being a PW has shaped me and made me who I am today. It’s a challenging life, especially when you are a people pleaser like I am and one that believes and trusts everyone-after all these are people in the church! But, I’ve also learned to make lemons out of lemonade and that this is what God has called me to do and to be! There have been many,many blessings coming out of being a PW- one of which is this life must not have damaged our family too bad since both of our sons have Masters’s degrees from seminary and our oldest is graduating from Yale Divinity School next month. And now as we look towards my husband retiring he will retire out of the church- but not out of ministry for we have embarked on a new adventure that God is calling us to- http://www.venturehope.org. I’d also like to put a plug in for a group for Pastor’s spouses that I belong to- Leading and Loving It- http://www.leadingandlovingit.com – I’d encourage any PW reading this to check it out.
I would suggest not taking it personal (the criticism – fair or not), and to understand that some people will think that you’re there just because your family is paid to be there. You can combat both by serving out of love, taking time to share with your family (vacation), and by finding another family who is in ministry to have talks that no one else but a family in ministry will understand.
I enjoyed reading the comments as much as the article! My husband has been in full-time ministry for 16 years. At first I bucked against the idea of being a pastor’s wife. To me they were always meek and mild, and that was so far from my personality. Being myself and being who God wants me to be are a constant struggle because I’m continuing to be transformed by the Him. Putting my foot in my mouth happened more often than not when I spoke. Being willing to ask for forgiveness when I was quick to speak was a hard lesson, but ultimately, living a transparent life has been freedom! Don’t try to hide who you and your family really is! The best thing a congregation can see is that, just like them, you also have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now I love the role of “past it’s wife”. I cannot imagine life any other way! The church can be a blessing far greater than I had imagined.
I’ve been married to a pastor’s spouse for 22 years! I wish someone had told ME how isolating being married to a youth pastor could be. I wish someone had told ME that my spouse needed to be who God wanted her to be in ministry, not who I NEEDED her to be. I wish someone had told me how all-together amazing she is…well, actually, I already knew that! That’s why I married her. 🙂
Pastors spouses – thank you. You make or break it!! My wife answers questions about being married to pastors at glasshousespouse.com. Know that we intercede for your families regularly – and thank you for serving God in a role that very few people can understand!
Thank you so much for this! I am engaged to be married (25 days!) to a wonderful man who will also be graduating from seminary in May. This is very useful information and I have bookmarked it to come back to on the trying days! I am hoping to find mentors in our ministry to help both of us through the next few years.
Blessings to you Abby.
Blessings to you Abby. 37 years ago I was in the same position as you are! I’ve often said I wish I had someone to mentor me and help me through the ministry years. About 2 years ago I found just that group. It’s called Leading and Loving It. You should check it out! http://www.leadingandlovingit.com. Good luck and welcome to the fishbowl!!! Keep you chin up and keep a journal- you’ll laugh at thing in a few years!
I have been around the ministry all of my life! I was a missionary kid, who went to being a missionary wife, to now being a Pastor’s wife in my 38 years of life! I have experienced everything on your list as some point or another in my life, but I have learned through it all that the Best Friend to have is Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior! Life is not easy in the ministry but I wouldn’t want to be living any other life! My husband Pastor’s a Church of about 500 in a small town. I’ve never made friends real easy but my husband has always been my best friend and never felt the need to have any other outside of him. I have learned recently in our marriage and ministry that it’s important to not vent your frustrations on your husband who is the Pastor – He has enough frustrations of his own!! He makes mistakes just like everyone else does and it’s okay! God is still doing a work in us and I’m still learning to be the Woman, Wife, Mother and Pastor’s wife that God wants me to be! Thank you for sharing this with us!
I think that what was most surprising to me as a youth past it’s wife was how hard it is to make friends at church. I’m so involved in youth stuff that I don’t get the opportunity to make friends my age. Also, our church’s set up has the youth in a completely different building, so there are really not even familiar faces. It’s weird to feel so connected with the kids but not the rest of the church family.
Oh this is good. You left one off, though: you’ll never go on a date again without “dropping by the hospital as long as we’re in town.”
Seriously, the thing I wish people had told me was to remember to look for the beauty in the body. I know there are toxic churches out there and that there are a lot of pastors and pastor’s wives suffering from sheep bites. Sometimes we get wounded in the ministry. Yet we also have to remember that Christ died for the church to make her holy and present her to himself as his radiant bride. It’s good to remind ourselves to look and see what God is doing in his people and doing through the church. When we are wounded sometimes our temptation is to look for the warts. We also need to remember to look for the beauty in the bride.
Love that perspective Leigh.
I really like this! Thanks for the advice!
Thank you so much for posting this article !!! All of this is so true ,,,, I grew up as a missionary kid. So I was spared much of the negativity . Then the Lord called me to be pastor / missionary wife. Lets just say , it was not easy to say the least. Several times my husband (the pastor ) had to say do not ever do mind games with my wife again !! When we started , we were 22 years old . Lets just say we were the youngest ADULTS in the church . I also am very blessed !!! My parents are missionaries in the same counrty !! So I able to confirm and talk about things with my Mom .Lord has blessed me and my husband in so many ways!!! We have no children ,,.., Every child I teach and take care of are part of my family !!! I forgot to say how long we have been in the ministry , we started nine years ago in May . We got married in May and on our honeymoon the church voted my husband in as pastor.So as soon as we came back we were it.The church we took over was a church my parents started .Whoever reads this , please don’t give up !!!! It is worth all the heartache !!!! Do not keep stuff from your husband , he will have a better idea to help you !!! I know you get tired and cranky !!!!!! Dont forget that God loves you and he WILL take care of you guys through anything !!!
Good advice 🙂
My dear husband and I have been in full time ministry 18 years & have experienced a lot…financial…health issues…people attacking us falsley…lonliness… people wanting us to do it all…our children going through things in their lives…and yet the Lord helped us through SOOOO much…the Lord providing through friends, family & strangers…clinging to His word…praying when all we could say was “help Lord”…..learning to forgive and still love people …believe me I could write a book,there still is more to tell…as my dear husband says “People will disappoint you but the Lord hasn’t…we may ask why…but He never changes …We have been shaped…molded..squeezed to where it was so painful…bit yet I can say Praise His name.God’s been good…
Thank you for your reply. It is so true>
My husband took his first church in June and we were married in December. We’re both young and still getting things figured out. I was talking to him about how I never got to figure how to just be a wife but instead had to learn how to be a “pastor’s wife” right out of the gate. Praying that I can learn from the wisdom of others before me. Praying that God guides me.
My husband just turned 30 and we are having our 1yr ministry anniversary as pastor in May. We got married when he was 19, I was 20, and we have a 6yr old, 4 yr old, and twin 1yr olds. I have had such a blessed experience this first year as Pastor’s wife but I am like you, I need wisdom and guidance. I am a people-pleaser (which I ate about myself) and I place that pressure on my husband and children too (which I hate about myself even more!) And I think Good has shown me recently that I really need to focus more on gentleness. That my husband doesn’t need critics so much as he needs a gentle voice that offers him reassurance. That my children don’t need a drill instructor but need a gentle vice offering them grace when they are disobedient and helping them grow in their love for the Lord. Other than that, I have no answers. I pray God will bless your ministry and you’re marriage greatly!
Woops, lots of typos there. Please forgive my tired eyes at 3am, I’ve been up with the babies 🙂
I’ve been a minister wife for 17 yrs a pastor wife for 3 yrs. The first 17 yrs of our marriage we wonderful even in the bad times. The 3 yrs, since my husband has been pastoring, he’s all about the church and members . 99% of his mind is on them. 8 months ago I’ve been having mixed emotions. I feel like I’m in a marriage all by myself. My love for him has left my heart and when he tells me he loves me, I cannot respond it back to him. I’m not happy in my marriage anymore. What can I do?
I will be praying for you and your husband. There definitely needs to be some boundaries set and you need to talk about this together. We are here to help in anyway we can http://www.careforpastors.org. Please let us help.
First, I would tell him that you’re feeling neglected and see how he responds. But, regardless of how that goes I would say counseling, counseling, counseling! If he’s willing to go with you that’s awesome… but if he’s not then go yourself. I feel like this should be a requirement for all of us. 🙂 Just prayed for you and your husband’s relationship.