By Janice Hildreth
The Bible has a lot to say about the role and responsibilities of a pastor. But do you know who it doesn’t mention? The pastor’s wife.
Interestingly, it’s her role and responsibilities that consume the interest of many people in the church. As I said in my book, “What Would the Pastor’s Wife Say?”, marrying a pastor is a lot like marrying royalty – without the money and designer wardrobe. In other words, it comes with a variety of expectations.
I’m sure you remember Meghan Markle. This confident, savvy woman faced the expectations for her life as a royal with equanimity. Yet, in less than two years after she married, she folded her tent and stole away. She realized that for all the glamor of the lavish lifestyle it was an atmosphere in which she could not survive. Interestingly she also realized that her gifts were not appreciated by the royals and felt that she was not being allowed to be herself and thrive.
Many pastors’ wives feel exactly this same way – trapped by preset expectations. Consider a new pastor’s wife. She is usually young, inexperienced in handling groups of people, probably uncomfortable with the spotlight, and rarely old enough to be a spiritual leader. You can see you have a recipe for disaster. These women fell in love with a man and envisioned a fulfilling life working together for God’s kingdom and upon arriving at a church are faced with a reality that crushes them. Moving to a new church can feel to a pastor’s wife like inheriting dozens of new parents. People watching her every move, analyzing and passing judgment on them.
It is interesting that out of our prejudice, misunderstanding and laziness we have created an expectation for our pastor’s wife’s position in the church that burdens her. Why do we assume she is different than us, when in fact, the biblical expectations for her are exactly the same for every woman. Titus 2:4-5: That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
- To seek godliness
- To train younger women
- To be a good wife and mother
- To exercise the ministry gift God bestowed on her
I theorize that we expect so much of our pastor’s wife out of convenience. All those pesky chores none of us want to do: fill-in as temporary Sunday school teacher, the one who will make sure the kitchen is spotless, the dogsbody if you will. The fact is, church boards and people can be bullies.
To justify our behavior we may believe that she is called to ministry because her husband has a call. While I know of very few women married to pastors who are not willing to walk alongside their husband and help his ministry, it remains that she does not have a call simply because he does. Her call may be a different one bestowed on her by God.
A few areas that you might examine and change if necessary are:
- The pastor’s wife is not the church answering machine. Call the pastor’s cell or the church secretary to leave messages. If you need answers about times and schedules, consult the church website or Sunday bulletin.
- Don’t see her as a compulsory set of hands but as a friend you’d like to get to know.
- Give her time to acclimate to your church. A move is hard on everyone, especially children, and she needs to expend her energy on her family first.
- If the pastor’s family lives in church housing, it is their home. Do not walk in unannounced.
- Understand that her responsibility to the Body is the same as yours: to contribute to it with her gifts, not rescue or run it.
Janice Hildreth is an Idaho native, retired pastor’s wife, and author. She is the author of two Q&A books and the first four books of a seven-part inspirational romance series set in the Pacific Northwest. You can purchase her books on Amazon. She has ministered to pastors’ wives for over two decades with her blog PastorsWife.com. She retired from the Idaho Statesman after 20 years. She and her husband live in Emmett, Idaho and enjoy every minute they get to spend with family, especially the grandchildren.