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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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


  • I try to remind myself that I am my husband’s wife first and foremost. Unrealistic expectations of other pastors/pastors wives can also steal your joy. You kinda expect those “in ministry” to do the right thing, but many times that is not the case. Authority in the church just compounds the effects of their sin and complicates matters. God has taught us many lessons and whether we continue in ministry or not, I am thankful that my husband wants me to focus on our kids and making sure they are okay. 🙂

  • Thank you for writing about this. I knew about all the warnings. Even still, loneliness is definitely my biggest struggle. I think it has developed into depression. I am a Westerner, my husband is Asian, & we moved to his home country to take his first pastorate after the founding (& dearly beloved) pastor died. I was a new mother of a four month old, moving into a different culture (& initially living with my in-laws because of sky-high cost of living) at the same time as taking this first pastorate. We’ve been there four years now. It’s a tiny church of affluent members, so we are financially supported (though his salary is much lower than the average layperson’s), but there’s not much other support. In fact, there was a time I felt that the women were afraid I would influence my husband to leave, so I felt that the big gift they gave me was to keep us at their church. My husband & I struggle most with the elders’ & their wives’ judgementalism. In their culture everything is intended to be read between the lines — there’s no real evidence — so I’ve learned to trust what I feel.

    After 4 yrs I still feel like an outsider. I feel pressure to “be” the PW and live up to their unspoken expectations, but at the same time, I try to be involved in simple things but I’m not given the chance. I still feel like they are treating me as the guest and not as one of them. It doesn’t help that my skin is different and in ages past was seen as superior.

    I can’t find kindred spirits in other pastor’s wives here. Most of them are of my husband’s ethnicity, and their churches have a different culture, so they will not understand my needs. If a person has a struggle here, they are seen as weak. Not surprisingly, citizens of this country were recently ranked the most emotionless of all countries surveyed.

    Through it all, I have been myself and said “no” to some things that were their sacred cow traditions but not biblical mandates. (My husband says this makes it easier for the next pastor and PW.) And boy have I felt the pressure then. It’s getting too much for my body to handle. If I go along with their sacred cow, I don’t enjoy myself. In fact, I panic. But if I draw a line & say “no”, my chest is literally tight from anxiety. These church members form most of my world here. There have been so many days & nights of tears. I am miserable here (partly because of the country & culture shock, even after 4yrs!) &, honestly, I’m sticking it out because I love my husband. He is a *very* gifted preacher, so I feel terrible wanting to get out of the ministry. If we leave it will be my fault. I’m doomed if we stay, but I’m doomed if we go.

    Just a few moments ago my husband read me some portions of the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”, and for the first time I’m realizing that my experiences are being validated. I already knew that manipulation is a part of this church, but now my husband is saying that I (we) have likely been somewhat spiritually abused by key members.

    Something that I wish was told to seminarians more often is this: Listen to your wife’s needs. Yes, Christ is ahead of your wife in your personal relationships. But your marriage covenant should ultimately take priority over your ministry calling. Pastors do not always have the same calling for life. But they will never be “called” to a different marriage covenant while their wife is still alive. That is a sacred covenant, and it IS for life!

    One final thing I wish was advised to pastors and PWs ministering in Asian contexts: If you are a young pastor & family looking at a church with a significant amount of people older than you (even by just one year!), please think twice — no thrice — better yet ten times! — before committing to shepherd them. They will grow & be open to growing MUCH more from a pastor older than them.

  • Wow, I can really relate to these issues! My husband has not been in active ministry for several years, but I have led ministries, and found out that some churches do have really mean people. I have received nasty emails at times. It seems that the people who don’t want to take the time to lead a ministry are the ones who complain the most. Somebody always thinks they know how to run things better, but they don’t want to actually do the work. Having been on the receiving end of complaints, I have been trying to encourage people in ministry, rather than critique. It is a lot more fun to be encouraging, and puts me in a better mood too.

  • Kimberly Joy says on

    I wish someone would have told me that not only are there mean people in church but your husband may also have other minister’s and their own staff against them. And wow, if I as a pastor’s wife steps up the gossip will be now that I am taking over! They don’t want to do anything but they don’t want you to do it either because then it looks like they are not doing their job. I can also say as a pastor’s wife and a mother of teens that someone should have told me that my children may be called to support dad in a church that has nothing for them. This is breaking my heart and making me question God’s plan for me and my family. Why would God want my husband to serve somewhere that my kids could not be fed or have the encouragement of other teens who were believers?

  • I love it when people get together and share views.
    Great site, continue the good work!

  • Bev Sarver says on

    Ideally, the pastor will love his wife as Jesus loves the church. And his love will not allow others to continue to mistreat her or use her, and in fact will not allow others to be mistreated in the church either. He will know how to best resolve issues with the love and honesty of Jesus. He is able to speak confidently and kindly with correction to anyone in the church. And requiring his wife to fill all kinds of roles is making a big assumption that all those things are required to “do church”. I’ve been in churches that allow for giftings to surface and be encouraged, rather than assuming all the things you “have to have”. People are attracted to a church where the pastor loves his wife.

  • yes me and my husband have been in ministry for close to 16 years now in Kenya Africa,. though of late i have had to deal with a lot of lonlines where people are concerned. most tend to keep a distance and i sort of feel lonely. maybe because i like to please them and a time comes when i cant do that . i pray that God will help us all in this. actually I am familiar with the seven things mentioned above but somehow i never used to think its an issue most pastors wives go through.

  • I have been a Pastor’s wife for 35 years and can relate to all 7 of those things I wish someone had told me, plus many more I am sure. That is why my husband and I started a ministry for Pastors and their spouses several years ago and it’s called Care for Pastors. We recently launched our initiative for Pastor’s wives and it’s called “The Confidante” and that is what we want to be for the wives, is the safest place they can turn to when they are dealing with these issues and are lonely and have no one they can trust. We are that place for them to be themselves and unload.

  • My husband and I are in our 50’s. I am so lonely. An outsider. The church parsonage in outside of town, also. I thrive in the monthly Ladies Meetings that I’ve held in our home. We came to the church when it was a few decades-old and the mindset has been odd, here. The “we hired your husband to fill the pulpit and that’s it” syndrome! The church ladies tolerate me. Please understand that I suuport my husband and am giving all I have and more. I play the piano when needed, have BIble and Prayer with my hubby every morning, have published a book, menter the young adults, cook for the sick, send cards, make visits, volunteer in town twice a week, it’s amazing how they simply want me to “look good” but are not interested in spiritual growth! It must be the end times. The silence is deafening towards me…before my husband took position as a Pastor, we were Director Missions in a church for 10 years, and he was the Choir Director, I spoke at Ladies Meetings, taught SS School. Any advice out there? God has truly been good to us! I am astounded at the position we’re in at this point!

  • This is a wonderful list and I could relate with almost all of them. My husband and I minister in Canada (originally from the States). As a pastor and pastor’s wife, we’ve been shocked by a lot of things as well, and have had our share of the ‘really mean people in the church.” That was probably the biggest surprise for us- how hateful and spiteful professing believers can be. It takes a special grace to bear the attacks and loneliness. As a result of what we’ve been through, God has given me a burden to encourage pastor’s wives. I do this through prayer and my blog ( About a month ago I wrote an article called “20 things every pastor’s wife wants you to know about her” and the response was overwhelming- it went viral. It grieved me to receive the comments and emails that I did- to hear what pastor’s wives are going through. But it also handed me a ministry that I’m passionate about. Thank you for ministering to pastors and wives- it is so needed!!

  • Excellent article. I note that by the number of posts after the article, a nerve must have been hit! As a youth pastor/pastor of 27 years, I just say Amen and Amen. I would also add one more Amen to the repetitive theme of loneliness listed in a number of the posts.

  • Glen Robinson says on

    I accepted a pastor position in 1997 without discussing it with my wife. 10 years later we were still pastoring in churches in rural KY that no one else would move to. My wife got hurt by members with mean spirits and she quit going to church. After another 6.5 years passing without going to church, she has lost ground with God. If the Lord doesnt move soon, she will be leaving me April 26. I continue to go to church and evangelize alone. I gave God the best years of my life and now I’m losing my wife. I know that fails in comparision to early and modern day martyrs, but for me and our sons it has hurt.

1 3 4 5 6 7 15