Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Role of the Pastor's Wife (as I see it...but I might be just a bit warped)

Over the past several weeks, I've had a few pastor's wives contact me, establishing connections. They are hurting women who are seeking healing from other women that they hope can understand. I do understand. In the nine years that my husband has been a pastor, I have experienced daily little hurts that can build up and occasionally a pain that I never thought was possible.

The daily process of being a pastor's wife in and of itself is awkward. I always say the part that bugs me the worst is the ontogeny of it. The very fact that there are 140 people that actually KNOW where I live bothers me. Very few other careers involve having the general public knowing and caring about where your family lives and what happens in their lives....celebrities and big time politicians are the only people that come to mind. I don't even know if my doctor HAS a wife. I don't know if the policeman that pulled me over several months ago has kids....let alone who they are and where they live. For a woman who grew up with a six foot block wall around her house and an unlisted phone number, this can leave me feeling simply vulnerable.

One thing that brings me comfort is the whole idea of vocation. God has given me certain tasks to do in life. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a homeschooler, a part-time social worker, a friend. Notice, I didn't say that I am a "pastor's wife" or "in the ministry."

The man that I am married to has received a Divine Call to provide care to this congregation by preaching The Word and administering the Sacraments and using these to forgive them, guide them, heal their wounds, and admonish them. He is to love them as Christ loves them. I happen to be married to him.

Where do I fit in? I'm his wife. I love him, raise his children, and try to provide a safe (though nowhere near neat) home. I rejoice in his love and honor and respect him. My relationship to the congregation? I'm a member. The things that I do in the congregation I do because I am a child of God and feel that God has given me gifts in certain areas so that I can serve there. However, I am serving God just as much in my home by raising good Christian children as I am by serving on any committee. Even more so.

My other vocations come first. I am a wife and a mother. These roles are sacred and were given to me by God. I am also a mother who has kept the responsibility for educating her children upon herself. That takes a certain amount of time and energy. It also means that I don't have free time during the day. Emotionally, it also means that if I do have time to do something at night, it is often something where I need to take care of me, so that I have something to give to my family (VBS? That's the ONE week I have off. No, I'm not teaching! Sunday School? No. I need to grow and learn. I teach through the week. Right now, I do Altar Guild and sing in the choir, that's pretty much it).

A professor at the seminary said that a pastor's wife shouldn't do a whole lot in the congregation. First of all, there are very few things that the pastor's wife can do that it wouldn't be better for people in the congregation to do. The more they serve their congregation, the stronger it is. There might be someone else who could actually grow in their role in the church if they fulfill the role that I might be swallowing up because I'm the pastor's wife and I can do everything! If my husband ends up being called elsewhere, the church will be left weaker if I've taken on a lot, because then they are left with a hole where his role was...and then one that the pastor's wife filled also. I've always clung to that (if only as a defense mechanism!)

I am an introvert. I am somewhat shy and I am uncomfortable in large groups. A key personality trait of introverts is that they are drained by social interaction. They can enjoy it...but afterwards, they need time alone to build up their energy again. I do well with interaction with only a few people at a time. I love my congregation...just not all at once. Some people get energized by serving and interacting with others. I don't. I enjoy it at times, but it leaves me depleted. I need to be aware of this...because if I overdo it, I get cranky, depressed, and mentally disorganized, and I can't meet my family's needs. That is more important.

I also am a rather emotional woman with two rather emotional children. There are Sundays where we wake up and it is clear that it just isn't worth it. I don't make my children go to church because they are the pastor's kids. Somewhere I did right, because they love church.

I also don't go to church just because I am the pastor's wife and I should be there. If I find when I wake up, that I am searching for clean clothes not because I want to hear God's Word and receive His forgiveness, but only because I am the pastor's wife, then I don't go. I have learned that it is a sign that I am overwhelmed by it all and if I push myself, it is not going to get better. I pray for God's forgiveness that on those days, His Word is not enough to get me there. The burden is far too heavy for me, so I give it to Him.

Just because my husband is called to serve the congregation doesn't mean that I have any obligation to fill a particular role. In this, I am not his partner. He is called. I am not. I am his helpmeet, to be sure, but I am not a co-pastor or a ministry partner. I am there to love him, listen to him, and be his friend. This takes a HUGE weight off my shoulders.

Does it make it easy? I wish I could say it did. Because I always know that others have certain expectations of me, and they don't necessarily see it the way that I do. They can be hurtful or distant in their expression of that. In certain situations, this can be very painful. However, I also sometimes see other pastors wives busting their butts into non-existence and their husbands' flocks still aren't happy with them....so at least I'm at the same place without being completely overwhelmed with church duties.

One pastor's wife mentioned having her guard up against the congregation. At times, I think this is a good idea. I heard a theologian speak on forgiveness once who pointed out that forgiveness does not mean being stupid. If someone is repeatedly nosy, harsh, or otherwise, it does not mean that you leave yourself vulnerable to them, or expect them to be otherwise. Knowing that this can happen at anytime is being as smart as a serpent, in my opinion. However, knowing this also can leave me with my guard up at times it shouldn't be, and then I am not open to the beauty in the people that I worship with. I make it a point to pray for the people that I worship with. In my church, since each person goes up to the communion rail, I find that as I see them, it is easy for me to pray for them and what is going on in their lives (if I know...if not, I leave it up to God. He knows) and I thank God for them. When I do this, I find I am more open to each person individually, and I am giving the future over to God.

There are definitely days (too frequent to count) where I am brought to tears by this life and that I wish that my husband would find something else. Then I remember the souls that have been brought to faith because of him. I see how much he cares for his flock. I listen to him preaching in the pulpit....and I can't imagine him doing anything else....and until the next storm, I am comforted.

These are the things that I do to make it manageable. I hope this helps. Being a "pastor's wife" doesn't mean that you have a title and a role to fill. It doesn't mean that the congregation has any unique claim on your time and your energies. Serve God because you want to. Not because of who you married-- love and respect your husband. That is your role.


ghp said...

Very nice posting! In a great many ways, the vocation of Pastor's wife is neither easy, nor obviously desirable. I think that many of the misplaced, shall we say, expectations in terms of congregational involvement and (of late) ministry can be attributed to things like economics (congregations like to feel like they're getting full "value"), contemporary american evangelicalism (wrt the rise of "co-ministers" & husband/wife "ministries"), and a general lack of knowledge about vocation on the part of the laity.

Thanks for sharing, and please know that it's a safe bet that more folks than you know are praying for you (even if we aren't part of the 140 who know where you live! ;^) )

Presbytera said...

I have always been an active church member -- long before I became a pastor's wife. I contribute my talents to things in the congregation, as I have time, opportunity and desire. When I had children at home, that is where I spent the bulk of my time. Now that the nest is empty, I am involved with grandchildren.
I don't base my decisions on my husband's vocation.

My dear husband has helped me greatly in this area. When he was being interviewed over the phone for a call, they asked about his wife. He said, "She's not a nurse or a teacher and she doesn't play the organ. She does like to play cards, though." I'm certain the interviewer thought either he or I were nuts : )

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

ROFL...you're husband always cracks me up - and between how you handle your responsibilities with grace - and your willingness to travel hundreds of miles for a Starbucks...you are my heroine.

but....I guess I'm up a creek though....I don't like cards (guess it comes from being a Vegas girl. Over-exposed).

In college, I had the insightful experience of being in a congregation in the middle of the call process. The deciding factor in the choice was that the candidate had a wife who could play the organ. We got a really good pastor....but the "deciding factor" was the mother of a very energetic four year old who required all of her attention.

That really struck me. Because of that, on my husband's SET...there is nothing about me.

Amy said...

Hi. I'm a fellow pastor's wife and just came across you site. The post was very true and helpful. I've only been married just over a year and our first child is on the way. Sometimes the church has so many expectations and preconceived notions about who I should be. It's refreshing to find others that understand and are experiencing life in the ministry.

Mediocre Minister's Wife said...

Very honest, very real, your words comforted me, nurtured me, warmed me to the core. It's so nice to know there are others "out here" who can relate and minister to each other. Thanks so much rebellious.
In Christ,

Yellow said...

Very good post! You seem to have a good, healthy balance regarding your role. It's funny...you touched on several things that I recently wrote about in a manuscript I'm working on. Looks like we're thinking alike in some areas. God bless you!

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Hi, ran across to your blog somewhere, not sure, but I look for Lutheran links and follow them.

I can relate to being in the public eye, as I have been a doctor's wife in a very small town for over a quarter century. Fortunately, there isn't a doctor's wife expectation. And fortunately, our house isn't visible to people due to trees. But people do think that he tells me everything and that I know more about medicine than other people do. Well I do know more on a superficial level, and by now, they must know that we don't gossip.

I can also relate to the introvert being drained by social settings. Fortunately, since my husband is also an introvert, we can understand this in each other. Sometimes I wish that we both had the ability to plant and grow friendships more. I'd be fairly lonely without my husband.

If your husband's work is like that of other pastors, he is gone from the house quite a bit, meaning you get more than your share of mommy time. With the homeschooling, you may not be getting the mental break that you need to stay healthy. Are there other homeschool families that you can trade off time with so that you each can get some time alone?

My church has had a series of pastors with various jobs outside the home, including one who was head of church organization, who traveled quite a bit with that job. And they've had various talents. I think this chuch has let go of stereotypes, praise God! When you reach a point of doing what God calls you to do in this church, not what expectations, yours or church member's tell you, you will be doing every future spouse a big favor!

I was on the last two call committees. We did note the spouse's occupation/vocation, but didn't make it part of our call decision. We explicity said that if that pastor came here, we would help the spouse network for employment, but we were disregarding this when choosing the pastor. Fortunately, we did get a great pastor, who has a spouse who might be unemployable in the correct job field, but a job did open up!

I sense that you are throwing off the expectations of the congregation yet still not completely successful at getting rid of those expectations in your own mind. I'm guessing that part of the problem is that you "are home." (ie "not working.") Even without the homeschooling, one needs to convey the thought: "all mothers are working mothers." Who are you without the homeschooling job and without the spouse title? This part of your being may need to step forward more to establish yourself.

I sure agree with the professor's thoughts. This also applies to a church secretary who does too much and to church volunteers who are competant but stay in a position too long.

Many years ago I read an article in a Christian women's magazine about how to say NO to pleas to volunteer. Obviously, you don't owe anybody an explanation, so saying, "no" should be good enough, but women don't seem to do this well, especially if they are conflicted. Some of the suggestions were things like, "I've done this in the past, I'll do it in the future, but I can't do it this year." "I feel that my talents lie elsewhere." "I can't this year. Please ask me again in the future." "I've tried that, and it isn't for me."

I've become pretty good at discerning what I am called and not called to do. I no longer feel any guilt or conflict when I say no, and this is because when I say Yes, I know I'm saying it for the right activity, for the right reasons. And I know when I say yes to something I'm not currently called to do, that I don't do a good job. I've also followed my inner urgings (the Holy Spirit?) to volunteer for a couple of things that are way out of my comfort zone, and I've grown from this, and I've been blessed.

I would encourage you to pray and discern what you must do for your family and for yourself, ie the alone time an introvert needs. You will feel stronger and stronger in your convictions when you discern God's will for you not some artificial expectations for the generic pastor's spouse.

May God continue to bless you and your service to Him through your service to your family and to your church, as He calls you.

Marjorie Hall said...

Well, you may be the "rebellious" Pastor's wife, but I think I can claim "worst Pastor's wife"! I had to decide a long time ago to just be who I am, much to many people's dismay. Unfortunately, I am not a very good Pastor's wife because of that.

People can be very hurtful and disruptive to our lives. I often remind myself that their intentions are mostly good, although their execution leaves a lot to be desired! It is also good to remember that the ones that are hurtful and ugly are in the minority; the ones we do not hear from love and adore us (and our husbands and children) and hold no unreasonable expectations for us.

Part of my problem is that I am not an introvert. I love being employed by the church (Director of Music...yes, I'm the "ohhh, ahhh" on my husband's call documents). This part-time job allows me to contribute to our family's income (much needed on a Pastor's salary), while still being mommy to our four children and wife to my husband. I also love using my gifts to serve the church in many ways, especially the children's ministry.

For those who do not know me, it is often perceived that I am trying to run the church; to tell my husband how to do his job; to be involved in everything so it gets done my way. Of course, these accusations are far from who I am and how I serve, but they hurt anyway.

In the past, my darling Pastor/boss/husband has requested that I withdraw from activities, possibly even quit my job. It is extremely stressful for him to hear people's negativity about him AND me. We've tried it (not the quitting the job part) and it changed nothing. The same 11 people still dislike me and the things I do and how I do them, they still gossip about me and make false and hurtful accusations, etc. We have actually even considered transferring my membership to another congregation in town.

But then we realized that these people are unhappy with everything and everyone. Why should I change who I am to please them? Why should their Pastor repeatedly give weight to their constant negativity and hurtfulness? God has called my husband to serve this congregation, but he also placed me here as his wife. I am not called and I do not have to put up with this baloney. But I do, because I am supposed to. Not as a Pastor's wife, but as a sister in Christ.

They may not like me, but I know they love me in Christ. I know that when push comes to shove, they realize that I'm just as human as they are. When my sister's baby died the same week my daughter was born, their outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. I know the prayers that were lifted from my congregation were too many to count. When our son was born by last-minute c-section 6 weeks ago, I know the prayer chain was going all afternoon and evening following the events as they unfolded. Others were added to the prayer chain that are not normally on it. These prayers were heard and our son made a safe entry into this world. Soon thereafter, he was brought to the waters of Baptism, where these same people cried and celebrated with us. Did they care because we are the Pastor's family? Maybe. Did they look past personal feelings and hurts to love us and pray for us? Absolutely.

Doesn't this sound like a family? We love and hate our siblings more than anyone else in the world! As children, we argue with them constantly, but we also are the first ones to stand up for one another when the going gets tough.

I don't have it all figured out, but I have learned some very valuable lessons along the way:

One, I have to be who God made me to be. It's important to honor those gifts and use them to His glory. That is part of my vocation, as well as every church member's vocation.

Two, I have to constantly evaluate my motivations. It has happened in the past that some of the accusations hurt so badly because they were partly true.

Three, I have learned to depend on a few women as friends and confidants. I cannot and would not tell them everything, but having their support, both privately and publicly, has made things easier. As I have opened my home and my heart to that type of friendship (stop on by whenever, call at all hours, can I borrow something, etc.), it has been easier to stomach others who stop by constantly (just to see if there are dirty dishes in the sink - just to please them, I often leave some there).

Through this process, I have learned to relax my own expectations for myself and still love who I am. If someone stops by unexpectedly and I'm in my underwear and the house hasn't been dusted in three weeks, then they get the view they deserve. It's okay if my kids dress themselves for church in outfits that look like we stopped by the flea market on the way because I want them to feel they can express their independence. It's all right if the flower bed in the front of my house looks a little neglected because I decided to take my children swimming this weekend instead. It's perfect that everyone knows that I don't always agree with my husband, even though I always submit. And the old saying, "God made me special" finalized that statement. I do my best to serve in all of my vocations and there is no reason I should appear to try any harder than another young mother/wife in our church just because I married a Pastor. That's where pride settles and grows ("look at me, I appear to have it all together and I bring such glory to my husband because I am such a great wife/mother and my children are publicly obedient, etc. Wow, I'm great - this is why God thought I'd be a wonderful Pastor's wife"). And then the unreasonable expectations are solidified for another young Pastor's wife.

Thank you for your post and for allowing the rest of us to comment and vent. It is very refreshing to hear how we each have learned to be who we are and to be married to our Pastors. God's blessings, ladies!

Manytears said...

Thank you! Your posts mean so much to me. I am a new 3year old pastor's wife with no training,license, degree or references. This is hard stuff and no one including my husband understands where I am coming from. I hold alot of hats that no one else wants. And our church of 103 members are driving me crazy. Lately I have just been crying. Not wanting to go to the building and when I get their crying or angry. My husband feels that the church is creating a wedge between us. I am not sure what it's doing but I am not feeling well. I want to go to another church and worship with others for a while. But I know he will feel like I'm desserting him. So I stay and feel boxed in. The posts really have helped me and I am going to share it with him. Maybe he will see it from another view and let me have some time to connect closer to God.
God Bless,

Cheryl said...

I appreciated what you had to say regarding your role as pastor's wife. For so long the church has had certain expectations of what they have felt the pastor's wife should do and be. Slowly they are coming around to realizing the pastor's wife is a woman and God has placed a certain calling and gifting upon her life. It may be as you have pointed out completely seperate from the church or it may be as Marjorie Hall pointed out active within the church.

Marjorie it is as if we were in the same congregation. I have been very active as a pastor's wife in leading worship and directing productions to youth pastor. I am a choleric/sanguine personality and love to make things happen and enjoy it at the same time. People quickly accuse you of controlling and taking over. That is too bad, because God gives gifts to people and He desires to see them using those gifts to bring glory to Him.

I remember a mentor of mine told me several years ago that the two greatest hinderances and cause of hurt for the pastor's wife will be jealous women and insecure men. I have seen that over and over for 24 years in ministry.

A little over 2 years ago those 2 things caused me to almost give up my family of 4 wonderful children and loving husband. I had told myself and prayed over and over to not let bitterness and anger set into my heart, but somehow it had and I was ready to give everything up because I was sick and tired of the people in the church not letting their pastor's wife fulfill her calling and encourage teens and young adults to chase after a relationship with God that could be exciting and fulfilling. I did not have any desire to work with women because they are the ones that constantly were hurting me.

I walked away from it all, but my loving husband and family kept praying for me and my heart finally softened and opened up to God once again.

We took a break from ministry and now God has really placed in my heart a longing to help encourage and give support to other pastor's wives who are just starting in ministry or who have been in ministry for a while and need a friend. If I can help these women, with God's help, keep from getting to the place I let myself get to I will have accomplished what God has placed within my heart.

Keep up the good work and think of me in your prayers as I am embarking on a new journey in my life as my husband finishes his Doctorate of Ministry.

Oh, I am also much enjoying relaxing on the beaches of Eastern Virginia. Thank God for the sand and the ocean, it must be next to heaven. I feel as if I am on a constant vacation!

FiveatHome said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FiveatHome said...

I could really relate to "ManyTears" comments, except I have become kind of numb to the whole thing, which kind of scares me. It has stopped being a ministry and it has become my husband's job. I'm not sure how I feel about this change inside of me. . . After the last criticism he took, from someone I had poured my heart and friendship into, something in me broke. I just feel more distance now, like I realize that all of my friends at church also have opinions of my husband, and those opinions can change. I don't like feeling differently about them, but part of me thinks that it's wiser to have some distance. I'm not sure. Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I've never been to a church voter's meeting for two reasons... 1. I will not have authority over my husband. 2. I do not want to know who has a beef with him.

It is really very very hard when you know people have problems with your husband, because it feels like they are attacking you. It hurts like crazy, because this is the man you think the most of the in the world, and in me at least, it also provokes my "mother lioness" instinct to protect the ones I love.

It is so hard to be friends with people in the congregation when things are like that. I know both my husband and I have both had experiences of losing friends in the congregation...and it hurt. It makes you not want to get close to the people there.

There are a few things that can be done. First and foremost...look to Christ. He was betrayed by the people he loved the most, but kept loving them. Man, that is hard to do. Pray for the strength to do so, too.

I think it helps to have a life outside the congregation, so you are not losing everything when that happens. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. After we moved here, I was very reticent about getting close after feeling pretty hurt by some of the people from our previous one. I've found that since I have more of a regular life in my community and pursue my own interests also...I am less defensive against the congregation, too.

God bless you.

Mikasenoja said...

Hello! I have been a pastor's wife for nine years. We were 25 years old when my husband was called to pastor. I wrote a Christian Fiction book, "The First Lady: Confessions of a Preacher's Wife" that I believe will bless you and the readers of your blog. I wrote it under my pen name of Mikasenoja. It has been a blessing to hundreds of Minister's wives. Visit my website at www.mikasenoja.com

Amber said...

HI- I am a young pastor's wife who just happened across your site today in desperate need of someone who understands. It's great to read my exact thoughts coming from someone else in a similar position to verify that I'm not crazy and alone in this. I would love to possibly chat sometime- weddplan@hotmail.com

calebolivia said...

I found your article in Time magazine and felt very smug...."so there are other pastors' wives who don't fit the typical stereotype!"

I have become so okay with the fact that I can't keep my house clean to save my life and that I lose my cool now and then and that I might own one dress and one skirt and twelve pairs of jeans, which I usually wear to church, and that I love to serve my God in the ways that I feel HE is calling me to.......I hope and pray that women married to pastors everywhere can embrace their freedom in Christ and their unique gifts and tendencies. Life is tooooo short to spend living by others' ridiculous expectations of us!

Thanks again, Rebellious,

Little Drummer Girl

marym said...

Hello dear pastors' wives,

I am not a pastor's wife, but am a devoted christian wife and mom who loves her church and her pastor and his wife very much.

Your comments have really moved me. Please forgive us all who expect all of you to be superheroes.

Know that you have made a difference in the life of one pastor's wife because I will always remember your words when dealing with mine.
I had an idea that the expectations were huge, but I never heard the pain and sorrow that can come from what is supposed to be a loving family.

I am not really a judgemental sort of gal when it comes to my pastor and his wife, but I will forever be extra sensitive to her feelings and maybe can even change how others interact with her.

May God bless you all with peace, patience, humor, and a really good friend who can keep her mouth shut when needed!

djntysmommy said...

Thanks for the post. I Googled "the role of a pastors wife". I saw the Rebellious Pastors Wife, and thought "MMMMM"....I am a pastors wife. We are a new church plant that has been in existance for 2 years on July 10th. For the past couples of weeks I have been wanting to define(if thats possible)my role as a pastors wife. Your blog was a great one thanks!!! I will be back! I need that pastors wife comraderie.

utahrainbow said...

So I got online and searched lcms pastors wives for a little encouragement because I'm having a low evening. I had a dim hope that there might be something encouraging (not fluffy) to be found and lo! a kindred spirit! I was brought to tears by this posting because this is my life! The Gospel for a thirsty pastor's wife! I prayed for precisely this kind of thing tonight. Rebellious, I will be reading your blog regularly now because I am astounded by how much we have in common. I am the wife of an lcms pastor in UT with small children, etc. And I have been called rebellious myself (by my hub). Thank you for your wonderful insights, particularly the reminder about vocation. There is much more I could say but I will leave it at that for now. Just know that I have been blessed tonight through you. Being a bit rebellious right now staying up too late on a Sat. night! In Christ

Anna said...

Thank you for this! Your blog is a fairly new find for me, and I appreciate your honesty. You have inspired me to start my own blog about the ministry, as the wife of a youth-pastor.
Thanks again. I'll be checking in often.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to our wonderful Lord. I have been extremely depressed and really needed the wisdom of this blog.
My husband and I have been in the ministry for 13 years, but the position we are in now (it should be he, but somehow there are expectations of me) is a Pastoral role. Somehow the expectations of my husband as Pastor wound themselves around me as well. It is a small mission in a foreign country that is associated with a christian school and larger mission thus the need for workers. Unfortunately I have been totally exhausted by the expectations. I am also a mother of a just turned three year old and a ten year old who are adjusting to life in a new country.
In the six months that I have been here, I have been unjustly, personally attacked and abused by several church workers. My husband has also been diagnosed with an incurable debilitating disease. The workers all want to do things their way and not follow any type of organized leadership. There is a wolf among us who lies about many things and another who is devisive and circulates the congregation talking negatively about everyone.
Needless to say, things are too much for me! I feel so hopeless and alone. I am so glad that you posted your blog as I now know that the views my husband and I have about me cutting out church involvement as I have enough to handle (as a wife ) supporting him (with his illness) in his role as pastor, and being a mother to our children. We also feel it best to homeschool our children.
I would appreciate prayers and any emails
I am praying to God for encouragement and a lifting of the depression that I feel so deeply.

Heidi said...

Thanks for the encouragement! I am a youth pastors wife which I think can be pretty challenging since you are dealing with adults AND their children. We are also newly married (5/6/06), moved to AK for this position and talking about children of our own. We are also in our early 30's which all of the above + our ages makes things interesting as well.

padulasplace said...

I just came across your site and just have to post my thoughts. I, too, am a pastor's wife and yes, all of the comments are true about the expectations. I finally wised up and made my life 100% happier! We moved out of the church parsonage and into our own home, and I found my own church. My husband and I attend a worship service during the week or on Saturday night, I go to another church on Sunday. Now, no one can say that I don't go to church, I have a deep faith, but now I'm truly worshiping on Sunday morning and not playing a "role". My marriage is the best it's ever been! Church people don't understand and make comments but I just smile and say that I have my own place to worship. My husband responds to comments with, "her faith and where she worships is between her and God and I support her." That doesn't make everyone happy - SO WHAT! It's none of their business. I have a full time job and my husband doesn't go to work with me, I shouldn't go to work with him.

Heidi said...

Well in response to your email/post. I don't know that I would ever feel comfortable for many reasons to attend a differnt church. And while I agree with you that your husband doesn't go to work with you I do see church as a very different place and more than work. But I do appreciate you taking the time to write and challenge me to think through my reasons for why I do what I do and strengthening them =0)

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


I would agree with you. There have been times of crisis where I think it would be better for a pastor's wife to go where she can get pastoral care from a pastor that is not her husband.

The community of believers is different than just a job, though at times I'd admit that I wish it wasn't. It is very important for a husband and a wife, who are joined by God, to come before God together..to be part of the same body of believers. If there are children involved, I can't imagine not worshiping where the father is. I think this is incredibly important.

This honestly has nothing to do with the role of pastor's wife. It has to do with being one as husband and wife and as family. The role of pastor's wife may make this more or less of a burden, but I still heartily believe this is necessary.

In the Lutheran Church, finding pastoral care elsewhere is accomplished in the husband and wife seeking out a father confessor, another pastor who we ask to provide us with the comfort that we find in confession and absolution (unlike the Catholics, this is based on unburdening ourselves of sins that are bothering us and hearing personally that we are forgiven. There is no penance involved, and it is not a "good work" on our part...but a place to find God's mercy).

lutherancowgirl said...

Thank you so much for this post! I recently married a man who is entering the seminary this fall, and I do not feel "up" to the task of being a pastor's wife. Your words help a lot. :o)

Heidi said...

It is sad to me that there are so many with so many bad experiences out there. Our church and our 4 pastors who range in experience between 5-35yrs as pastors have said the contrary. Our church is fairly healthy and a large majority participates. They have treated us in ways that have made us want to serve. They place no expectation on me other than a regular member/attender.

Again I am sorry that there is so much hurt out there...thank you for reminding me to count my blessings when it comes to the joy and the privilege that I feel from being chosen to serve along side the man that I do!

Miranda said...

Hi there :) I stumbled upon your blog and I'm glad I did.

I like how you placed it - how one should serve the Lord because she loves Him and wants to, not because of her (perceived) role. I've lately become sick of being told that I HAVE to be at the special event / appreciation dinner / banquet / whichever because I am my husband's wife (ugh .. I can't even stand to be called that). Though I know it 's partially true, expected, and really just ethical, I've honestly just had it up to my eyebrows with all the expectations (and I 'm trying to be pleasant about it...)

It was refreshing to read someone else's thoughts that I could relate with. Thanks. :)

Heidi said...

may62006I continue to get the updates from this blog since I posted and continue to find the responses interesting. What I just can't seem to understand is why being a pastor's wife sounds like a curse to some of the posters. I am me and would continue to be me in our church with or without my husband. His being a pastor does not define who I am as a believer in Christ and a member of our church. I attend what I wish to. He does not make me go anywhere I don't want to go. He tells me when it would be nice or a good idea for me to go with him somewhere but often times it is me who wants to go anyway.

I think it just saddens me that so many people who have posted sound almost angry about where they are at as a pastor's wife. I just don't see why.

Like the name of the blog...it does seem a bit rebellious and less than supportive in some respects.

Lora said...


Thanks for your input...

First, regarding the name of the blog...

Actually, what the name of the blog means is that I am in rebellion against God because I am a sinner...nothing more and nothing less. The verse underneath it hopefully clarifies the title. There is even a joke as to whether the "rebellious" defines the pastor or the wife. He is a bit unusual, so colloquially, it can define him, too.

You have a really healthy attitude toward being a pastor's wife, probably the attitude that I strive to have, but I tend to be an introvert, so especially if I am tired, I don't want to be around people. It wouldn't matter if it were a ANY group of people, or ANY social activity.

One thing to keep in mind is that I wrote this two years ago. However, I am amazed at how I still get responses to it. Things are considerably easier for me as my kids have gotten older and no longer need my constant attention. I actually do several things around the church now, because I want to as a member, not because I am married to the pastor.

However, we are all different and deal with situations differently, and even though God placed us in particular vocations, sometimes they are a struggle, for various reasons. Personalities - being outgoing vs. shy, organized vs. disorganized, leader vs. follower; combined with the expectations of the congregation and the stress that the demands of the Call can place on the family of the pastor can add to a lot of strain. And none of us are free from sin, and sometimes we struggle against bad attitudes, resentment, and anger.

Like you, my husband doesn't expect me to do anything that I don't want to do. Others don't have that blessing. Some enter a church with even a "pastor's wife job description and dress code" on paper. Some find it very hard to make friends within the congregation. Many find it difficult to participate AND watch their kids, since the husband is usually leading things, they don't life with family, and most people do have families and husbands there to help.

Some pastors' wives find joy in their role, and make it into what they want to. Others find themselves isolated and stressed by it. Most of us are somewhere inbetween. And a few find themselves in congregations that actively seek to make their lives miserable. I've heard stories of it, and I personally know a couple that have been in this kind of agony.

Sunshine said...

Though an avid internet user, this is my first time "blogging"...is that what this is called?! lol Things said here are encouraging because it helps all of us "PW's" (Pastor's Wives) to not feel so isolated and lonely. I've been married to the same man for 20 yrs, 12 of which he's been a Senior Pastor (at the same church). Life sucks. Don't let the name "Sunshine" fool you...it's actually a play on words, things are darker than they've ever been. Pray for me, my husband and I have two church meetings we are attending tomorrow. The subject? Me! My newest offenses, 1. wearing Capris on Sunday Morning and 2. being a snob and disconnected from the ladies in the church. FYI, though we are a full-gospel church, we do not preach 'clothes line" stuff. My Capris were rayon material, black color, creased neatly from the dry cleaners and worn with a pair of 2" black dress boots. The length of the capris was literally about 2" above my ankle bone - topped off with a nice mid-length sportscoat and a modest, loose-fitting,up to my chin, blouse. Very classy. Hmmm? Whatever! These people are clueless as to the heart of Christ. As far as my second offense..."stuck-up" "distant", well, I've honestly tried it the opposite way and found myself under similar scrutiny. Too much or too little. Whatever! I'm bitter, I'm sad, I'm on the brink of divorce and I'm scared to death. I want to go home to be with Jesus, but my kiddos anchor me into reality. Don't worry - I'm not suicidal. I'm just very, very tired. I've given EVERYTHING to my husband's dream - big misatke, I know. Hindsight is 20/20. I should of created my own idenity in life. I was raised without a mother or mentor and this bit of wisdom slipped on by me. My husband is heavily dependent on me, especially in those early years of pastoring. I gave it all and still do. There's nothing left to me, who am I anyways??? Oh yes!... the snobby pastor's wife who wears capris. omg! lol! No matter what, I love Jesus....praying for all of you!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


I am sorry that I haven't posted before now, but I have been praying. I hope that a God-pleasing solution is found, and that Christian love in your marriage and in your congregation is what dominates.

God bless you.

allisaw said...

I am the daughter of a pastor's wife, married a man who I never would have expected to be a pastor, and yet here I am.

My husband's ministry is more "mission" type, language/cultural specific ministry. So, yes I partner with him, helping where ever I can.

Whenever I meet with my "American" counterparts I pretty much find what is being described, wives who find identity outside of their husband's work, who buck against the idea of being co-workers in their husband's ministries. Which is fine, I see that.

When I meet with wives who has husbands, like mine, in missions, they are working outside of the home (if you think pastor's salaries are low, try being in ethnic ministries), raising children, and partner with their husbands on a daily basis.

We are working on ground zero, our husbands are starting churches in areas that where abandoned by LCMS congregations that refused to open their doors to the changing community, so they died or voted themselves out of existence. These are blighted areas, our husbands work without support or no/limited funds. So, yes, these women pull up their sleeves and do what has to be done and pray, pray, pray.

Lora said...


Thank you for sharing. My husband trained a young man in the EPCP program in California when we were there. It is a difficult and important ministry. You are right, there is A LOT of sacrifice there.

I do want to point out, while I think a lot of these things I've said still ring true, I am not the one called to be the pastor, God uses me in my vocations with the gifts that He has given me...as my kids have gotten older and not clinging to me or needing my constant supervision, I have been more of a partner in some ways. I am his confidant in things that are not truly confidential; I am his best friend, so I hear a lot; I understand him, so I often see ways to help that I could do easily, that would take more work to have someone else do; and there are things I take an earnest interest in because I know how much it means to him. God has put me in a unique situation, being married to the man responsible for Word and Sacrament ministry, but serving beside your husband is different than walking into your average church and having expectations thrust upon you by the congregation.

God bless you both in your work. But I have seen LCMS churches close their doors, often that have really tried to reach out to the changing neighborhood and the different ethnicities only to see their efforts fail. It isn't always that they are stagnant, or they do not know how to go, or they did their best, but the Word was not received. But God works in His time.

God bless you and your husband in your work!!

AMG said...

Really appreciate your post. My fiance is training to be a pastor and advised me to look in to what it means to be a pastors wife. I was a bit uncomfortable with the suggestion at first because I didn't feel the need to have this special title "pastors wife" it felt strange to me, like some man made thing but in the interests of understanding him better I types the words in to Google and found your blog. Before i read I asked God to guide me to the truth...I'm really intrigued by your experiences, I feel half scared beacuse of all the expectations and as someone who enjoys time alone myself I feel lighter hearing how you handle the congregation. I won't lie, I'm feel intimidated by the expectation but am reminded that I am who God made me and that my primary roles are first a follower of Christ, a wife, a mother and then a "pastors wife" (even tho the label grates). Thank you for your honesty, it's been a blessing. God richly bless x

Michael said...

I am new to the Pastor's wife thing. My husband asked me to find some things on what a Pastor's wife's expectations are. I agree with all of what you said. Except my husband said that I do have a role to play, what that is I dont know yet. But I am seeking God for answers.


Anonymous said...
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Life on the Edge said...

Even though this post is 4 years old, it speaks to me now. I have been dating a pastor for just over three months now. I recently spoke with my son's pastor's wife and told her I was dating a preacher, and she said, "Run! Run while you still can!" I told her it was already too late. I am in love...God help me! It helps me a lot to read post like yours, because if our dating does eventually lead to marriage, at least I know a tiny bit of what to expect. I think that first and foremost, my job would be to love and support my man.

It was also interesting to read about burnout, because he is going through that too. No telling what the next few months are going to bring about. I am his earpiece on all his feelings and it sure is a lot to take in.

Thanks for posting this!

Life on the Edge

Anonymous said...

Well, I have spent my day off seeking God and reading all of your blogs, you are all a blessing to me, so many of my questions have been answered and I must say I feel set free...and believe that I get it!

I have observed that every situation is different and I no longer feel unique, mis-understood and at a lost for words as who I am and what I do. I am proud of being a pastors wife, the joy I can see at the end of it all is we have a window of opportunity to make a difference in our generation. So many people in Australia have not even heard of Jesus yet? Who knows how long it will be before the Lord returns. I for one want to appear before the Lord on that day and have Him say...well done good and faithful servant.

So what does it mean to me, to be be a pastor’s wife of 16 years in full-time ministry? Challenging but rewarding, I aim to cooperate with and support my husband where I can but at the same time I purposefully steward the gifts God has given me.

I continue to nip bitterness, resentment, jealousy and insecurity at its root which is usually pride. Instead I choose to focus on Jesus who is the author and finisher of my faith... I aim to celebrate the wins which helps me to be outward focussed and positive about our future.

Communication has been the key with my pastor husband and I, I truly love him and adore him and hope to make his life a little easier by being who God created me to be. When I am faithful to do what I am at liberty to do in ministry, it frees others to be themselves as well. Not saying its easy but let’s not get bogged down with manmade traditions. Look at the life of Jesus... Thankyou all for your honesty and wonderfully helpful suggestions.

Anonymous said...

""In the Lutheran Church, finding pastoral care elsewhere is accomplished in the husband and wife seeking out a father confessor, another pastor who we ask to provide us with the comfort that we find in confession and absolution (unlike the Catholics, this is based on unburdening ourselves of sins that are bothering us and hearing personally that we are forgiven. There is no penance involved, and it is not a "good work" on our part...but a place to find God's mercy).""

It is the same thing as us Catholics..you're just playing words. When finding you absolution are you not working on penance to resolve your problem?..Confession is Confession...I get so tired of people's misconception of Catholics..

And for the girl and her caprice's..wear what you want, Jesus himself wore a robe and sandles, Do people really think they measured his robe to make sure it was to his ankles? There is no dress code to attend church nor should there be...Do you know how many low income people do not attend church because they are afraid they do not have the adequate attire to meet the expectations of snobby church people (and yes Catholics too)? If people would actually practice what they preach and preach what they practice and stop interpreting the bible and scriptures to accommodate their way of thinking the world would be a better place.

And to the lady who goes to a different church than the one her husband preaches..As long as you and your husband are good with it, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks...It's your faith and if anyone pressures you to attend your husbands church and you don't really want to, it will cause friction not only with your husband, but with the church and your own beliefs and faith. You go where God wants you to go...not where everyone else wants you to go..
I was pressured in my younger years to get away from the Catholic church and go to other churches so ...I attended Baptist, Methodist,etc...and I resented it as well as God and the people around me...It took me years to finally reconcile with myself, faith in God and get back to MY church where he wanted me to be, and I am so glad I did because now I have peace.

But Like so many preachers, don't make a play on words...

I am Catholic and proud...

Anonymous said...

I love how you put it that you are called to be his helpmeet....and not the CO-pastor. :) I feel this exact way. So what would your response be when he tells you that you have developed a bad attitude and he wishes he could help you? That is my predicament. I love my husband dearly, but I feel on occasion like I have to be in church service because of being married to the pastor, not because of the worship I owe my saviour. And I also homeschool my children, and work 2nd shift at a local hospital on the weekends. So sometimes, I am just exhausted, yet when I voice this to my husband he tells me that my first priority is to be in church because it is my "first responsibility". I am beginning to resent "having" to be there. Any suggestion - because it seems to me that you have some good experience and tips for us "new" gals. :) Thanks for this blog. It reminded me that I might be allowed to have my own personality and thoughts. :)

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Good gracious, you DO have a lot going on. No wonder you are tired. Seriously, ask him which should fall by the wayside, because you are overwhelmed with it all.

I don't know what denomination you are, but in Lutheran circles, we have a phrase that Martin Luther used. "Sin Boldly." That's not to minimize what sin is, but that when we are specifically put into a situation where we are sinning either way -- the only thing we can do is move forward and trust in God's grace.

We also have a perspective on worship called "The Divine Service." We go to church not so we can do our duty to God, but so that He can feed us with His Word and Sacrament. Our praise is a response to that.

There have been many times (and still are, but not as many now that my kids don't wear me out in church) where I couldn't deal with going to church when I woke up in the morning. There also have been many times where I thought that, and when I did, I was strengthened through the service and it was really what I needed.

There are also times where I go to another church where I can just sit there and be anonymous. And it feels good.

I don't know the answer. Your husband is probably right that you are struggling with your attitude, but that's not always easy to fix just by having someone (especially the husband) point that out.

I guess the question is -- in all that you do, what do you need to be revived. For me, at times it was a job outside the home. Sometimes it was more time where I could specifically be alone. Sometimes I desperately needed someone to take the kids at a time I could count on so I could be at home if I wanted, or if I wanted to go out. I had a CHOICE.

Figure out what you need to either cut or add to nourish yourself and see if that helps. If not, figure something else out.

Men like solutions. They often don't just listen to complaining very well because they are driven to fix it, and it is very hard for a pastor to listen to you gripe about church when he has devoted his life to it. It's a tender spot. So find someone else to vent to on this..and then figure out what will help and bring that to him. Or sometimes it just helps to say -- I'm not looking to you to fix this or give me a quick answer. This is just how I feel and I need to talk about it.

And don't forget to pray about it -- take all of it to God. Stay in the Word.

With all of this, I still can't prevent times where I just absolutely hate it and I end up stewing in it. Am I sinning? Absolutely. Am I forgiven in Christ? Absolutely. Will He give me the strength to go forward. Yes.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

The other thing I would say is from your first sentence --

God describes women as helpmeets. It's what we are created for. He never in any place in Scripture, aside from that describes any particular responsibility that the wife of an elder should do, other than just be one of her.

However, Christians are to hear God's Word. "And faith comes by hearing"...not just reading. The first thing Christians did after they heard Christ proclaimed on Pentecost was to gather together on a regular basis at Solomon's Portico in the Temple, and at various places in other communities when faith came. We are encouraged by Paul to not despise the gathering of the believers.

As I've said before though, there have been plenty of times where I did not go to church if I felt I was going just because I was the pastor's wife, and not because I was a Christian in need of God's mercy. I know for a fact that missed out on being strengthened in my faith. However, as a weak sinner, sometimes all I can do is sit in my weakness and wait for God to pull me out of it, and confess my sin to Him in the mean time.

Anonymous said...

Your points are super! I do see that it is a tender spot for me to complain to my husband (the pastor) about. It's just hard sometimes. Funny is that during these times, I know within myself that I need "feeding" from the pastor. I am so blessed to have my husband, and to have a job (which as you said, does help sometimes to get your mind away from home matters), and certainly blessed to have a saviour who loves me and forgives in spite of my attitude. :) Thanks for your blog....and for listening. God Bless you & your ministry. (because you do have one)

Aleta said...

I was married to a pastor for six years,(we dated for 8 months prior to marriage). We were separated and divorced for 3 and 1 half yrs and got remarried. I couldn't deal with him putting the church and the members needs above his family. We both learned from this. I had to grow Stronger and he had to learn God,family& then church and get more humble. I said I would never go back to that and to put me I a crazy house if I did. God spoke to me and said do what I called you to or die. Iwas spiritually dying. Been back together almost 3 years God truly worked on both of us. We are blessed he has a new church congregation, the kids are happy and I'm not that timid shy pastors wife anymore. Bottom line, I was called to be by his side.

Pastor Matt said...

Thanks for this article! I used it on my blog in connection to a recent article released on the same subject by Mark Driscoll. Your article has received a good response thus far!

Grace and Peace to you in Jesus Name.

Pastor Matt

Pastor Karla Mangan said...

When I met my husband I knew he was a man who only know how to do something 100%. I however am a very steady, usually calm introvert. Together we have married, went to Bible college, raised three wonderful girls, planted 2 churches and we having been pastoring since 1989. Life, family and ministry is all about priority. Otherwise what ever is screaming will get the attention. There has been many times when I was sure that if you had hacked off my arm that it wouldn't hurt as much as the pain I have felt at the hands of a sister in the Lord. But through it all WE reminded ourselves that if we loved God whole hearted and loved others whole hearted, God's grace and mercy would do for us what we could not. God 1st, then eachother, then our girls, what else could mean more. Now 21 years later- Our marriage and love for each other is strong. Each of our girls returned after going away for college, married Godly men, and now they all love God and His people with us in ministry. It was never easy and even at times broke my heart. But God heals the broken hearted when we cling to Him and His word. Keep your heart from hardeding by being humble, refusing to treat as you are treated, forgive, and love. Most important- God 1st Family 2nd Church 3rd. That is the good fight of faith. For me that always answered the questions of my role. God Bless you all. I have just started to blog.

April said...

i dropped my family off at church this morning and cried all the way home. found your post--you said it well. i am also an introvert, and feeling the need to shelter myself, be able to be my husband's friend and helper rather than another one of the "strong women" who make his job within the church so difficult. i am struggling with boundaries.
thank you for sharing your perspective. i am sure it will be interesting to go back and pick up the family after service this morning. . .but i couldn't go IN THERE with puffy eyes and red nose.
as a pastor's kid, i have vivid memories of Mom saying "you can't be friends with people in the congregation; you ALWAYS come to regret it." i think she may have been RIGHT.

thanks for your honesty, and God bless you and your family!

MSR said...

Thanks for your sharing and openness. I am an introverted pastor's wife myself, and I can really relate to the situations you describe. And it's great to read the responses from other pastor's wives. Your posting has certainly ministered to many.

I took comfort in knowing that the expectations surrounding me, however noble, may not be what God expects of me as His beloved daughter. As mentioned in a few posts, I need to stay true to who God wants me to be. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this journey.

Ford said...

Wow, this blog really helps to put things into perspective for me. I am a new wife of three years, and have been with my husband for eight years. When we first met, he was studying sports administration and shortly received his call to ministry. After working as a teacher and coach he went to seminary school. Many of you know that this is not cheap and my husband decided he couldn’t work full time, so I supported our household and still do to this day. This took much sacrifice and dedication on both of our parts and I thank the Lord for our faith because it was not easy. We live in Alabama and have been southerners all of our lives. My husband finished seminary school in 2010, did a year residency as a hospital chaplain, and serves as an Army Reserve Chaplain, and now (drum roll) has interviewed for a head pastor position in Maryland-(I hate cold weather). Needless to say, I knew that this day would come, but had no idea it would be this soon. We both are in our early 30’s and are super nervous about this next chapter especially me; of what the church expectations of me are. They now want to interview me and I have no idea of what they will ask . As “pastor wives” or the “wife of a pastor” can you give me any pointers on what I should expect?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience in this post. I've been married to my wonderful husband 8 months. He is a pastor of a small church. His deceased wife served in the capacity of co-pastor, etc. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I possessed certain gifts, unfortunately, at this time I do not. Although they've never said it, I feel that the church members expect me to serve in a greater capcacity. I constantly remind myself that God has not called me to serve in any other area besides being my husband's wife (help meet) and a faithful member of our church.

Pastor Karla Mangan said...

Each of us should and can only be what God has created us for. His great love and grace ask for nothing more of us and niether should anyone else. I take great joy in being who God has called me to be.

Anonymous said...

I am a pastor's wife as well! I am so glad I ran across this site. Right now I just am so overwhelmed by everything I face. I was told by the congregation that I am at the I was not what they expected and they were very disappointed. I am only 23 and have two kids, I work full time, and I have 7 classes I am enrolled in right now. I also am a faithful member to our congregation. I just don't understand what makes the title of a preacher's wife a right to label and judge. I just needed to read your comment. You definitly encouraged me. Thank you!

Bethany in mid-MO said...

It is several years after the initial posting of this post. I found it by doing a google search "i hate being a preacher's wife." I thank you for your honesty here. I really appreciate what you had to say in this post. It is encouraging to know that others are struggling in the same way. You are brave to post about it! I wrote a post, but saved it as draft... because of fear that a member of the church would find it and take offense at my honesty.

Thank you for your honesty,

Anonymous said...

Someone please help me. I am a pastor's kid who is now 22 but my whole life has been in the church. That church. My father's church.
So when reading this post and all the comments I can truly say that I have seen and lived every situation these strong women (pastor's wives) are talking about.
I have seen my mother try her best to please the church people (probably the most unholy people on this earth are those sitting in churches)but with time bitterness has crept in, not only in my mother but in me and my siblings as well.
I swore I would never, ever,ever,again in my life be involved in running a church whether directly or indirectly as soon as I leave my father's house.
I want to be a "normal" church memeber at an annonymous church and just worship in peace and quite.
This background now brings me to my dilema. I have been dating a wonderful man, who loves God etc for just over 3 years now (I am 22) and last year he went away for work purposes, when he returned yesterday he sat me down and told me while he was away (for just over a year) God had called him to the ministry and the calling was so strong that the church in which he was fellowshiping in while he was gone paid to send him to pastoral school where he was trained and later was inaugurated as a pastor of his church!!!! And to make matters worse, they are sending him to plant ministries in the rural parts of africa!!
I felt like someone had hit me over the head with a hammer. He apologised for hiding all this from me as he knew my "position" on being involved with a man who has any intentions of playing a big role in any church whatsoever.
Now I'm stuck. I want out, I want to end the relationship regardless of the fact that he is such a good faithful man. Am I making a mistake if I let him go? Or what am I suppost to do? Is it a sin to hurt someone because they want to serve God? Oh goodness I'm at a loss. Any advice from you women of God would greatly be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is thank you for writing this down. I needed to hear this today. My husband is an pastoral intern, awaiting ordination in the PCA (he goes before our Heartland Presbytery in March). We are feeling discouraged and often not respected in our small church--who just fired their pastor of 7 years because he's not a church planter. I am weary and worried about our future. But today I'm encouraged again that it's not about me/us. I cling to your encouragement to honor and respect my husband. That's my role. Amen.

Sheri Burns said...

Hi all, I can tell you that I understand exactly what most of you are posting as I too am a pastor's wife, and have been subjected to church members who were insane about me working in the church. While a new mom with a 6 week old baby and 5 other children at home, I was told by a new church home in Frederickstown, Ohio that I was to be both the church secretary, the VBS director, and in charge of the christmas musical. When my husband told the church to "back off", they informed him he (we) really had no choice and if I didn't do it, then he would do it. Needless to say, we were out of that church quickly.

I can say to all of you though, now that I've been a pastor's wife for more than30 years, that it does get better. Churches are far different today than they were 30 years, or even 20 years ago, on this subject. Now that I'm in my 50's, I simply no longer care what the church people's expectations are, but what my family and husband need, my needs, and of course, above all, what God is calling me to do. I can calmly, rationally, and peacefully tell someone that asks (expects) me to do a job: "What a lovely idea!" and then: "I will pray about it" and then (if it's true) tell them that God did not call me to do "". It does take communication, friendship, and building relationships to be able to tell people that though and for them to truly believe that I'm not just brushing them off.

It'll get better, and if not, you'll get better!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. It really blessed me. Today, my husband and I had a long talk with me asking questions like, "what am I suppose to do? What is expected of me? Isn't it easier to just be a member of a church, be in love with eachother, and live our lives together? How do we know our callings? It is clear what his calling is to him and under GOD's anointing to me as well in regards to him, but am I suppose to have a calling? My friend called me and told me that she felt to share something with me. She stated, "just be yourself." She stated I am special, because I am just me. She also told me that it is easy to take the easy way out. Then she began to discuss with me all the lives God has used me to encourage just by leading these wives to love their husbands through a challege I gave the ladies. I choose one day and declared that day to be Do Something Nice For Your Husband's Day. Plant that type of seed by faith if he deserves it or not. I then prayed for the ladies to meet the challenge asking God to bless them. The feedback to how it affected marriages was awesomely overwelming to me. I didn't consider myself doing ministry. I was just being creative me, but when my husband announced to me our soon upcoming role; I buckled wondering what to do and stressing out about it. Until I got that phone call stating, "continue to do what you already do. You have had plenty of practice with it." I guess my stress derives from being liked by everyone, pleasing everyone, and being accepted by everyone when I start to think of my role. I've learned so much by reading the posts. My dear friend is right, just be myself. God knew who I was before He called my husband to minister, He knew I'd be married to him, He knows what HE is doing with us. I just need to rest in HIM, have faith in what HE is doing in our lives in regards to ministery, and rejoice; for HE has done great things!

New Here said...

Just over a year ago, I married a part-time associate pastor at a small church. At first, there were many expectations for me, and the senior pastor and leadership board actually started assigning me work to do in ministries in the church without even asking what I might be called to do. I told them no, of course, and my husband backed me up 100%, and lately things have been much better on that front.

Recently, what I'm struggling with is a Bible study that my husband and the senior pastor co-lead. I too am introverted person, and I often feel uncomfortable speaking up in the group discussions. The few times I have tried to add to the discussion, I usually find that someone else who disagrees talks over me and drowns me out. The people who attend the Bible study are people in the church with whom I really am not comfortable. Also, in the Bible study, a lot of time is spent arguing and it is just a very stressful two hours that I go through once a week. Another hindrance for me is that the senior pastor has some very strong opinions on what women should not be allowed to do, and he often voices those opinions most loudly in Bible study. It is difficult for me not to take the things he says personally, since they often apply to my lifestyle (such as women working in a leadership role at work, or even working outside the home at all). My husband disagrees with the senior pastor, and he is fine with me having a leadership role at work, but it is still very difficult for me to sit in Bible study and be told that I should not have a career. I have skipped the Bible study here and there, but every time I have skipped one, my husband has to give excuses, as it is expected that I will be there as his wife.

So my question is this: is there a way I can gracefully stop going to this Bible study without my husband having to deal with the backlash of the others in the study? I do not think it is fair that he will suffer if I don't go, but I also don't want to be miserable either. What reason can I give them for no longer attending? Please help! Any advice would be great!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Hi New Here,

I have no idea if you will get this, but honestly, I think your husband, in his role as your head and the head of your family, has a responsibility to talk to the senior pastor, privately, regarding this, and let him know that it places the both of you in an awkward situation. Because it does. If the pastor is actively speaking out against something that is clearly going on in your family, then it undermines him as well and his authority in the congregation. But it primarily makes you uncomfortable, and as your pastor, he should be considerate of that and the position it places you in. If he can't do that, then your husband, as good at standing up for your interests as he has shown himself to be, ought to consider letting the pastor know that out of love and respect for you, he no longer will encourage you to attend, since it is leaving you feeling so awkward continually. Now, this is just my thought, and it really is your situation, so you both will decide what is best, but that is a difficult situation to be in.

Anonymous said...

I have only been a pastor's wife for a little under 2 years. I never would have dreamed that I would be in this position. My husband was an electrical engineer, who hated to write, to get up in front of people and can be an awful procrastinator. BUT God called him to the point that he felt he must go, and as his wife, I went too, taking 5 kids and leaving one behind who was married. (and of course got pregnant very shortly after we moved 700 miles away). I had a serious fear of being a pastor's wife. When we were at seminary this topic came up with one of the ladies that worked there. She told me (and others) that so many people are hurting and what they really want you to do, is to love them. So as a pastor's wife, behind supporting my husband and taking care of my family (down to 3 at home now) I do my best to just love the congregation. I try not to be in charge of anything, although I have ended up there in a couple of instances, but to just be available to help where I am needed. I help clean up after funeral luncheons, I help by folding bulletins or newsletters, I help by putting up hymn numbers when the secretary is too busy, I try to smile and greet everyone as I walk out of church, our sons and I clear the walks when it snows (we do get a little money for that) I share my recipes if someone asks, but mostly just try to be friendly and available as needed. I don't play the organ (our son is working toward that) I don't teach Sunday School as I teach the boys at home all week, I don't sing well, I don't keep a spotless house, but I do try to love the lovable and not so lovable people. If I or my husband are having difficulty with someone, we often try to find out their story, everyone has a story, and it can often cast a huge light on why people act the way they do. Once you understand that, it can help tremendously in your attitude toward that person. Pray, pray, pray and pray some more. The success of a pastor is highly influenced by the support of his wife.

Roy said...

Your perspective is a pretty healthy one. Being part of a ministry that works to restore exited pastors, we often see the devestation that occurs for the whole pastoral family when ministry turns sour. We focus on both the pastor and his wife in the process of healing and restoration.
Thanks for your insights.
PIR Ministries (www.pirministries.org)

Pam, pastor's wife for 22 years said...

Having read your blog, I have to disagree with a few of your comments. I too am a "pastor's wife." Part of my vocation. If I were married to a farmer, I'd be a "farmer's wife." With that, comes expectations, also, so I'm struggling with your point there.
I think it's is often easy to hide behind the fact that because my husband may get a call somewhere, sometime, I shouldn't get too involved within the church. What if he is at the same church for decades, as some are? Should the same be said to the wife who has a husband in the military and may move every three years? What if someone joins and church and gets involved and then is relocated by their job? How about death? All of these things could have someone change their church homes, but are not reason to let others do the job that God may be calling you to fill. Why should our husbands ask everyone else to give of their time, talent and treasures - if we too are not willing to give freely of them? Our motto should not be "Here I am, send them, send them."
To the point about going to church "because you're the pastor's wife." Sometimes, it's because of that exact reason - you should be there. God has taken many a Sunday that I would rather be lounging around drinking coffee and made them the most memorable either though the blessings of others, or the message of the day. WE should be at worship, because God commands it of us, as we keep the Sabbath day holy. If you say you're a member of the congregation, then you need to congregate - whether it be on a board, teaching Sunday School, in worship, during fellowship activities, etc.
We don't not have the "presupposed roles" that some may think we do, but as much as I love my husband, and my kids... I am foremost in love with God. He has me bloom where I am planted. He orders my days and my nights. He blessed me with, even those "140" who know where I live (and millions more with the internet). He has made me and has called me to even be a "pastor's wife" - and all that comes with it.
It breaks my heart that too many pastors wives have grown to hate the church. Our husbands don't have a 9-5 job, and many of us knew that going into our marriages. It's a vocation, a life, a calling - not for the weak-hearted, but honorable. In my marriage ceremony my husband and I became one..., I am tied to him and he to me, even in our vocations.

Admitted Ignorance said...

I know that this is a very old post, however, I wanted to let you know how much I needed to know I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE. I have evenly been struggling a lot moving into the role of the youth pastors significant other. Let's just say the group that was used to having him all to their selves has not been happy this last year and half to share him.. As we have been discussing marriage dates (yay) I was beginning to get worried, would it always be this way? All the judging, standards, and looks of disdain...

Anonymous said...

As a parishioner, I appreciate your blog and perspective. Our church secretary is now the wife of one of our pastors (he finished up schooling after she took the position). I wish that I could share this with her. Instead, I will keep praying that she will step down. It is very apparent that it is affecting the church family as well as her own. It's hard to change, though. God bless ALL of you as pastor's wives.

Anonymous said...

I am a ministers wife and until lately I was very involved in working in our church. I now feel ousted since our Pastor recently married and his new wife has taken on just about every role in the congregation. We are a small congregation and my husband and I are among the few that have not left the church in support of the Pastor when he went through a difficult time in his life. She is a talented singer and has done a tremendous job organizing the choir. However, she now does all the announcements, event planning, and organizing every aspect of what goes on in the church. Without consulting the particular member of the congregation who has always filled that role of making announcements and current events, she just walked up to the podium, began making announcements, and has done so ever since. I love her but I feel she has taken over roles that other members enjoyed doing. It seems she is a one man show. I was very hurt recently when she and another lady planned an event and did not consult anyone else because I also would like to have contributed as I have always done. I feel she seems to think she needs to be in competition and as far as I am concerned there is no need for that. I am being made to feel like a visitor more than a member of the congregation, and the wife of one of the associate ministers. If this continues I will be looking for another place of worship.

Maria said...

I don't know how long ago you wrote this, but I hope your situation is better! Lifting a prayer for you

Maria said...

Wow, I've been thinking of doing that. I get a mean comment or snub almost every Sunday and it really is discouraging. I may just go somewhere else too.

Maria said...

Heidi, are you at a larger church (you mentioned 4 pastors)? I think the expectations and pressure would be much less at a large church. I've attended churches of all sizes myself. My husband pastors a small church that has a lot of critical people. This area (Midwest) seems much more critical in general. We came from the West coast and my husband and I were loved and embraced at the other two churches we were at. I've honestly never seen him criticized before we came here (he's very easy going).
Each church is different, and size makes a big difference on expectations (smaller churches have greater needs due to less volunteers and you are noticed much more).
That may be why you are perplexed. I always had good experiences too, up until now. I'm glad you've been spared, but believe these ladies words because some churches can be really critical. Especially smaller ones that are treated more like an elite multi generational club than a church.

Dazzling Daughter of Zion said...

Thank you for this very honest post.