The Loneliest Job In America: Being the Pastor’s Wife

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I am composing this post with immense trepidation because people tend to suspect your motivations. Am I writing this to gain popularity? NO!  Do I write to advance my career? NO! I write because I love it and it is impacting people’s lives in some amazing ways and it is changing the way people think about ministry.  I write to encourage.  Sadly, at this moment in my life, the fishbowl gets even smaller, all I do or say comes under scrutiny. In spite of all that, I am putting caution to the wind because the issues are real.  The hurt is widespread; the problem has gone unresolved.  This series on church workers comes from my heart and my personal ministry pain.

Some of my congregations in the past had a long history of clergy abuses and moral failures which led to a lack of trust in the pastoral office.  It made the life of any pastor or his family who followed cold and lonely.  There was not a culture of love and support, there was instead distrust and distance.   Church work is hard enough without attaching the cloud of generations of past sins and brokenness.

Just recently my previous post on supporting the pastor went viral.  It was written to help the church begin to see the role of the pastor and wife differently and honestly all church workers families. What hit me as I watched the numbers tick up at an alarming rate is that there is a deep hurt that the church is probably completely unaware that exists.  With that in mind, this is the follow-up.  It begins with an open letter to the church.

Dear Saints,

Let me introduce myself.  You may believe you know me because I am in your midst often, but I don’t think you actually know me.  I am an individual person.  I have a name and an identity apart from my husband, your pastor.  It is so easy for me to get lost in his shadow.  I have been put into a position, into a role, that I am not gifted at nor have a desire to fulfill.  Expectations are placed on me that have grown and been developed by the ghosts of former pastor’s wives.  Some who were incredible servants and gifted.  These expectations are often a combination of all the things you like about every other woman who has been here before me.  To be honest, I feel at times set up to fail.  If I tried to be all things to all people, I would only succeed in losing my identity and my sanity.  And worst yet, if I pull that off I am only setting up the poor woman who follows me for complete and total failure.  It is a no-win situation.  Who am I? I am the woman who married the pastor, not the pastor’s wife.   I pray that this letter will help you see me as the woman I am, not the woman you think I should be.

Signed

A woman married to the pastor.

 

I wonder how many women struggle with the role of the pastor’s wife.  It is an excellent opportunity to serve God and His church, but like the role of the pastor, it also comes at a great personal cost.  Pastor’s wives often face unreal expectations.  Here is a list of just a few off the top of my head.

Profile of the Perfect Pastor’s wife:

  • She is an excellent cook
  • Is the Sunday School leader who has single-handedly grown the numbers to record highs.
  • She plays the organ while also leading the voice and bell choirs.
  • She is a super volunteer who not only is at every event but recruits leaders like Nick Saban recruits world class football players.
  • She is a great mother in that her children are well behaved and never do anything wrong.
  • Her house is always spotless, and she is impeccably dressed because on a pastor’s budget she has time to sew her clothes.
  • She accomplishes all this while her husband is an absentee father and husband because he is trying to live up to similar unrealistic expectations on the other side of the spectrum.

Who is the Pastor’s wife really?  Like you, she struggles to balance life while being a good wife, mother and live her calling as a child of God.  She gets overwhelmed by the crazy pace of life, its stresses, and heartbreaks. Her house, like yours, gets messed and her children are far from perfect.  That imperfection is not a direct reflection of her parenting skills it is a reflection of that fact that we live in a sinful and broken world.  She wants the church to see her as a person who needs encouragement, acceptance for who she is, not what you want her to be and at times help.  She is not a superwoman, just a woman who is married to the called man of God in that place.  I pray this will help you see the woman married to the pastor differently and all church workers and their families more compassionately.

Discussion questions to ponder with your leadership.

  1. Discuss ways to support the pastor and his wife.
  2. Think of ways to create a supportive culture for her and other women.
  3. Discuss expectations.  Are your expectations realistic?

 

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/01/30/how-to-avoid-clergy-burnout/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/01/23/how-to-shepherd-the-shepherd/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/05/30/three-ways-to-support-church-workers/

 

 

24 Comments on “The Loneliest Job In America: Being the Pastor’s Wife

  1. I totally agree with this and will be sharing this. I would take it a step further and include the spouses of all professional church workers. Church workers and their families sometimes seem to have a bull’s eye painted on their backs by Satan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true. Every congregation should read this at their elders meetings and look at it again when they call a new pastor and the woman he married.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been a Pastor’s wife for most of my life. My struggle came during our first ministry. I sensed the expectations of the congregation. Some wanted me to be outgoing and lead ministries. Other’s thought I needed to stay in the background and be a follower. God gave me a very wise friend, after we left that Church and Gary was in seminary. My friend said, Susie, just be you. You can’t please everyone, just strive to be what Jesus created you to be. Some will love you … some won’t like you, that’s okay! Her words gave me such freedom. I never again worried about what people thought, only lived to be who God created me to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Keith. The message from my friend was a gift from God. Interestingly, I found people more drawn to me when I allowed myself to operate in the spirit and keep my eyes on the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From these two posts on caring for the pastor’s family I can see the hurt out there. This one was a follow-up to the post “Holding Up the Pastor’s Wife.” that reach 1,000 pastor’s wives in two days. I pray that others find a way to just be the wonderful women God created them to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Three Ways to Support Church Workers – The Light Breaks Through

  6. Try being the husband of a woman who is a pastor. Women pastors have it tougher because of they have to overcome traditional gender roles and their spouses find it hard to find peers who are like them. There are a lot of women in the clergy who have to work twice as hard and their spouses have to provide emotional support as well as providing support for their ministry. Some of the best clergy people out there are women I feel and you find more and more of them in seminaries and other training courses.

    Like

  7. Pingback: The Loneliest Job In America: Being the Pastor’s Wife | Success Inspirers World

  8. Pingback: How to Care for the Shepherd Who Shepherds You – The light breaks through

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