My husband has been preaching since 1983. We’ve spent 18 years in the pastorate, six years in itinerate evangelism. The first seven years after his call were spent in college, seminary, pulpit supply, church planting and revival meetings. Sometimes we feel like we have gained a wealth of knowledge from our experiences, and at others it seems we are back at square one. Yet, in another way, we have been in the ministry long enough to experience the ups and downs and observe those of other ministry families.
When we entered our first pastorate, we were so excited. We just thought that our experience in the ministry would be like what we observed from our pastor. The church we were saved in was a vibrant church where someone was saved just about every Sunday. Everybody respected the pastor just because he was the pastor. Oh he could cut up and joke and have fun with us when he was not in the pulpit, but when he preached and taught the Bible we listened and heeded. And when he said the Lord was leading him to direct the church in a certain way, we just followed him. Oh, we had business meetings, and we voted on things, but we didn’t get upset and start a riot if we didn’t get our way. All in all things seemed to go pretty smooth and the ministry was a desirable vocation. Of course we didn’t volunteer, we were drafted. You see we are of the old-fashioned mindset that God calls the man of God into full time ministry. Anyway, we entered our first pastorate with great expectations.
Some of the things that I wish I had known as a young pastor’s wife:
- Pray daily for your husband. He is your pastor, too. He needs the prayers of all of God's people. But who better can pray for him than the woman who sees him at his best and worst. Lift him up to the Lord, and you will be amazed and encouraged by the answered prayer.
- Remember to look at the positive things in the ministry. There are some people in church that will encourage you, have your family over for meals and include you as part of their family. Don't forget them when someone is mean and you start to generalize.
- Not all church members and not even all leadership are saved, and some that are saved are carnal.
- If Jesus experienced rejection and persecution, so will we.
- It is not unusual for a church to have a pecking order and operate more like a social club than a New Testament church.
- The pastor’s wife should pray and seek the Lord about positions she is asked to fill. God does not expect you to run yourself ragged so that you have nothing left to give your husband and children.
- There are people in churches who will try to befriend the pastor and family with an ulterior motive so they can influence them.
- The pastor’s wife must be friendly to everyone and make an effort not to show partiality. There will be some church members that are easier to love than others, but you must try to treat them all with the same kindness even if they seem unreceptive. That does not mean that you cannot accept invitations to socialize with individuals outside church services.
- When there is conflict in the church, even if it is a complaint about your husband, remember it is not personal. It is usually either about disobedience to the Word of God or it is a power struggle. Try not to take everything personal.
- Remember, you are not the only pastor’s family that has been criticized or persecuted.
- The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. If your husband leaves a church because of problems hoping to find a better church to pastor, you will only find disillusionment because you will deal with identical problems at the new church.
- The longer a pastor stays at one church, the more respect he gains and many of the little petty problems and personality clashes will dissipate. The Lord will probably remove the trouble makers one way or another.
- If there is personal conflict between two church members, you must not take sides.
- The pastor's wife is one of the most influential people in the church. No other member of the church has as much power to help or hurt the ministry as the preacher’s wife. A dedicated pastor without a dedicated wife will be greatly hindered. However, a pastor with a wife who feels it is her calling to help him in the ministry will benefit greatly. There are great pressures in the ministry, and the man of God is still a man. He will need encouragement. Sure he can get that from the Lord, but he will need a friend and confidante in his wife. She will be his encourager when he comes home from a deacons meeting gone awry. If her heart is with his in the ministry, she will be a great supporter.
- The pastor's wife must learn to be very frugal and train her children to be so. Working a secular job might bring in some much needed supplementary income, but will pull her away from her primary position of being helpmeet to the pastor. God will supplement the income in other ways. Just ask Him and trust Him.
- There must be an attitude of sacrifice. She must not be jealous of her husband’s time and she must recognize there will be many sacrifices necessary in the process of building a church. There will be sacrifices of the husband’s time with the family and there will be sacrifices concerning finances, along with many other things, so that there can be no place for self-centeredness.
- There will be the occasional call for help in the middle of the night.
- There will be a few times when you are on that much needed vacation when the call comes that a church member has died or is gravely ill and the vacation is abruptly ended.
- The preacher’s wife need not do everything but there will be many things the preacher’s wife must do. Perhaps she will be the first secretary, play the piano, teach a Sunday school class, or organize a ladies meeting. She must be willing to do whatever is needed to be a help in the ministry. But, her most important job is to be a good example to the other women. Her benevolent spirit, her love for the Lord, and her standards of dress and deportment will set an example to others in the church. Sometimes the preacher’s wife may even feel no one is watching her and that people only notice the pastor who is obviously more visible, but nothing could be further from the truth. She should remember she is being watched in the community, in private, as well as at church. This is why it is said that the pastor's family lives in a “glass house.”
- The preacher’s wife must be a help to her husband and her children. The preacher’s children should be in submission and have a heart for the Lord. This trend is most often determined by their godly mother.
- A preacher’s wife must learn to refrain from gossip. Members often come for help expecting their problems to be held in confidence. Information that it is privy only to a few must not be spread around as general knowledge.
- The preacher’s wife must not become a liaison to relate people’s problems to the pastor.
- Never answer a question for your husband about the church. No matter how well you know your husband, you really do not know what his answer will be.
- Never should the preacher or his wife believe an evil report until it has been personally confirmed. People will not come to you with gossip if you refuse to listen to it.
- The preacher’s wife need not dress in the height of fashion, but she should not be dowdy. Clean and pressed clothes that are modest set an example to other women in the church.
- The books you read and the places you go should always be above reproach. She should not consider herself just one of the ladies of the church; she must recognize her responsibility, no matter her age, to be an example to the younger women by both dress and demeanor.
- The preacher’s wife is the hostess of the church. This is a great privilege. I have often heard the pastor's wife referred to as the “first lady” of the church, like the president's wife is the first lady of the country. Visitors, especially women and children, should receive a welcoming smile and a friendly handshake. She is an ambassador for her husband and the Lord. She may be able to recognize a need before her husband becomes aware of it. She will have insight into the needs of members and can help deter problems before they occur. She should not seek to be a buddy with the church ladies, but should be a friend to all, having a genuine concern for their problems and needs.
- A pastor's wife needs to make the home a haven. If your husband likes old westerns or christian comedy videos, have them and popcorn for after church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Or if there is some other way you can help him unwind, it is very helpful.
- One of the most important things is learn to laugh. The Lord can help you see the humor in situations that could potentially put your husband out of the ministry. But with a look from a different angle you will have something to laugh about even years down the road.
Please understand, I am not saying that I have always lived up to these traits. I guess you could say they are like the ideals set forth in Proverbs 31 but specifically for the pastor's wife. If you are reading this and are not a pastor's wife, please have mercy on us, we are just ordinary women with a special calling and responsibility. Sometimes we fail miserably, we get in the flesh and have to ask forgiveness. These are just some things that had I known earlier, I might not have had some of the emotional scars I carry because I would have understood that some things just come with the “job.”
I think the following quote is cute: "The Pastor's wife is the only woman I know who is asked to work full time without pay on her husband's job, in a role no one has yet defined." Ruthe White
Here's a fake add I also enjoyed:
“HELP WANTED: Pastor’s wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth groups, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minister to other wives, have ability to recite Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.”
With all jokes aside, I will say that being a pastor's wife is very rewarding. I would not trade my position with anyone. It is what God has called me to do. Even with the challenges, I love it.
And besides, the retirement plan is out of this world.