The Dilemma of a Pastor’s wife

Shyju Mathew

"Experience the Word of God, in the power of the Spirit."

February 20, 2011

This is a guest post from Dr. Abigail O., who loves God and her dear husband, while also juggling her responsibilities at the church(as a pastor’s wife), her work place and her precious three kids.

The Pastor’s wife? Dilemma? I thought she had the best job in the world  – always smiling as she stands beside her husband. Her husband is held in high esteem, she is always so composed and her children are always on their best behavior.

I am a pastor’s wife, albeit areluctant one. I am also a career woman with three children. As a pastor’s wife, I have observed many sisters/comrades whom I admire. I have to ask: What is happening in the world of Christian service? The expectations placed on the pastor’s wife have changed with time. It is in these expectations, in my humble opinion, lie the most critical challenges of being a pastor’s wife.

The expectations include:

  1. Good dressing (adequate, chaste, yet not the same Sunday clothes every week).
  2. Excellent upbringing of her children (well-mannered, smiling, courteous kids who don’t run around the church, who always read the Bible, children who are always the best in Sunday school, etc.).
  3. Being able to smile and greet everyone: anytime and anywhere (including times you look like a mess in supermarket queues, and even to total strangers, as they might be your husband’s missing sheep, or disgruntled sheep with a tendency to bite.).
  4. Provision of food/hospitality to everyone who comes by the church. (Thankfully, my dear husband, being a fussy host, prefers to eat out, so that saves the endless hours of cooking, washing and making sure the house is spick and span.)
  5. Adequate time for everyone, more than the 24 hours that our dear Lord has allocated for each of us.
  6. Being patient, for the pastor’s time belongs to everyone, and whatever morsel of time left is for his wife and family.
  7. Accepting the many ‘helpful’ offers of advice from sister so-and-so who feels that her wise counsel should be adhered to for the sake of the kingdom (not sure if it is for the Lord’s kingdom or her own kingdom – a bit fuzzy).

This list is exhaustive.

I must confess that some of these expectations are valid and needed for the nurturing and tending of the church that God has entrusted to the pastor. However, there are many unrealistic expectations no human being can fully rise up to. The dilemma of a pastor’s wife is the balance of wisdom, experience and confidence to know herself and her abilities. In many situations, these expectations are diffused by the pastor as he leads the flock.

However, if the pastor is not able to do that, the victims are usually his closest and dearest ones, his wife and children. I think it should be noted that there are many instances of pastor’s children being reluctant to serve the Lord. Why? It’s likely that they have seen too many ugly situations of congregation members manipulating situations to suit their purposes.

Church members will leave the church, fight the pastor, or badmouth him. His wife will also be a target, a victim of the crossfire. When the pastor is firefighting all the time, he hardly has time for her or the children – he barely has time to read the Bible! Whatever troubles him could either be shared with her (sometimes burdening her beyond her God-given abilities to carry it) or kept quiet causing tension in the line of communication.

She will, then, find her husband huddled up in meetings, forming strategies with some leaders to counter the onslaught from restless, unhappy sheep that the burden of the family is now entrusted to the wife. She tries to keep everything moving, keeping a cheerful face for the sake of the children while wondering what is going on. She prays short SOS prayers, “God, get us out of this situation. HELP!”

After many years of being a pastor’s wife, I am glad to report that with the wonderful and abundant grace of God, the wisdom of experience, greater self-confidence, and better balanced communication through many hours spent understanding my husband’s heart, the problems do not look so enormous or insurmountable.

One thing I have learnt is to accept the role and responsibilities God has entrusted me. I embrace it and work on it. It is a lifelong process of learning from our loving and patient Master. I started by involving myself in the life of the church, doing the little I could. I stopped saying that the pastor is the one with the gift and calling. I stopped thinking, “Who am I to think I can pray or worship lead or counsel?” I realized I enjoyed working behind-the-scenes; it gave me great satisfaction. And as I was faithful with the little I had, God has given more. Communication with my spouse, my pastor, has also helped a lot. We would drive or walk around on certain nights, spending precious hours understanding the struggles faced, and learning to communicate in a non-judgmental manner.

Today, looking back on those years, I can gladly tell you that being a pastor’s wife is fulfilling. I would not exchange this God-given position and portion for anything in the world. It will never be a bed of roses, but with the Lord who is in and with me, I can be a blessing to the people He has graciously placed in my paths. I have started to enjoy the fruit of our labor. The young people we have nurtured are now serving, our children see the faithfulness of God, and the congregation has tempered their expectations and judgments. Glory to God!

Note to Pastors: Men of God, please love your wife as Christ loves the church.

Spend quality time with her, cherish her and her contributions, and appreciate her effort.

Don’t put her on guilt trips by making her read commentaries to test her spirituality, don’t push her into ministry to fill the gap, or put her down, trying to mould her into the person she is not.

God has made her unique.

She may share many of your values and dreams, but learn to allow and trust God to lead her and mould her the way He desires. After all, He is her Heavenly Papa too.


Update: Read more on this topic here:

Question: How much of this have you experienced or seen?

What are your expectations from your Pastor’s wife? Are they realistic?

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