Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What you might not know about your pastor’s wife…

(The 2nd in a series.)

I’m blessed to have been a pastor in a most excellent church now for over 17 years. One of the reasons Gail and I have (she’s not a pastor, but she is my partner) have been here so long is that the church has never put any unreal expectations on her as my wife. She’s not up on a pedestal here, and if someone tried to put her there, she’d be the first and loudest protestor. She’s gifted as a servant, so she prefers to stay “behind the scenes”, although she doesn’t have to be asked to roll up her sleeves and do whatever needs to be done.

But being a pastor’s wife has its own levels of stress and trial. Yesterday I wrote about some of the burdens shepherds face as they care for and lead a congregation. But what about his spouse? Here are some things to consider:

His was a calling from God. Her's was more likely a calling to him. Becoming a pastor might have been the desire of his heart, but chances are she would have preferred something a bit more normal. However, because she is his better half, she is a pastor’s wife. It might not have been her first choice in life, but it’s where God has placed her.

Her husband is in demand by lots of people, both in the community and in the church. It’s a fact of life that she has to share him with others much more so than husbands with other occupations. He's on call 24/7. Call him at home IF absolutely necessary. Otherwise, leave a message on his office phone. That also means that her children have to share him as well, and that’s not easy on a mother.

She better be good at biting her tongue, especially when others are criticizing her husband. It’s not easy seeing the one you love being attacked, especially by those who don’t know all the details or see the big picture that he sees and often can’t share publicly.

He often can’t share things with her. He’d like to, but sometimes he has to keep things within, not only to protect those he ministers to, but more often to protect her. And no marriage likes there to be secrets.

If he’s not Superman she’s not Wonder Woman. Yet, she’s expected to be a housewife, a mother, and too often to be at every church activity looking like she stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine and with a perpetual smile.

Guess what? She’s got her own life, too! So if you drop by the house, don’t be surprised if it looks “lived in”. And if you need to drop by, do her the favor of calling first! (That especially goes for those of you whose pastor lives in a parsonage. That’s their home, not yours.) And nobody wants to live in a fish bowl. Nor should they.

She struggles with the same life issues that face every woman in every stage of life. Often the biggest fear she has is for her husband’s job security and their family finances. (Churches don’t have the best reputations in those regards.) And because she’s the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean she has all the answers, either.

Just like you, she’s got a few special friends. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you if you’re not one of them. It means she’s normal. Be glad for that. It’s the abnormal ones that are scary. Chances are she has moved a lot during their marriage and ministry. It’s not easy saying goodbye to friends, so realize she might be afraid to build deep friendships just because of the heartbreak that comes when a move is necessary.

Let her be free to be who God created her to be. Let her first ministry be to her husband and family. Respect her time and her space. Just like you, her first priority in life is not the church.

Pray for her. Encourage her. Do something unexpected to bless her. Remember that behind a every good pastor is an amazing and strong spouse who is his greatest support.

23 comments:

OBX Rox said...

Gail is a wonderful balance to you. We are blessed to have a role model in her, even if she doesn't mean to be one!

Apple said...

Not that I can understand what it's like being a pastor's wife, I'm not one. But when you mentioned the part about having to hear your husband critized, I felt a moment of empathy. I'm a coach's wife...people can get pretty nasty about coaches and really don't care who's around to hear it. I've had to remove my children from within ear shot of these people a few times already, in their short lives.

You have opened my eyes to many things through your blog, I appreciate this insight...it helps to direct my prayers. Thank you also for the hospitality of your church...you and your wife have obviously been an asset to NHC.

amangoprincess said...

so true...behind every good man everywhere there usually is a good strong woman..sometimes the work behind the scenes is bigger than the work on stage...many blessings to your wife..she is a wonderful role model for women.

marcia said...

I'm going to send a link to this to my daughter, the pastor's wife. I KNOW she will identify and appreciate this! Thanks for articulating it so very well!

elj377 said...

I agree...as a pastor's daughter and knowing what my mom went through as the pastor's wife your words are wise and full of wisdom!

Disney Scrapper said...

Thanks, this was something I needed. Maybe those of us who are Pastors wives needed to hear this also. The one thing that has saved me is having friends outside of church. Women who "get" me and have no problem telling me like it is. I can be real with them and when things get stressful at church I have women sho surround me and pray with me. Thank you, sometimes the "family" gets loss in the mix (especially the wife as an indivicial).

Rick Lawrenson said...

Here's a comment I rec'd. through email from a pastor's wife I have never met.

"Thanks, I read it. got choked up. Wish I could forward both to lots of people under someone else's address. :)"

elj377 said...

I noticed this is a series...could you possibly do one on Pastor's kids? Just a thought! I do enjoy hearing another pastor's take on it(outside of my own individual families)

Rick Lawrenson said...

How did you know what was next!?

MilePost13 said...

this, IMO, is one of your best posts...I'll look forward to part 3. I'm pretty sure you need to include the family Easter picture, circa 1991...

the add youth pastor said...

I'm a pastor's kid!

Good posts Richard.

thanks

JonesFam4 said...

Nail on head.

Karen said...

That was beautiful! A pastor's wife is a role I have never envied, yet people still never give them any slack at all. What a great look into 'her' perspective.

Andie said...

THANK YOU!! Thank you for acknowledging what a difficult position pastor's wives are put in and how being a pastor affects a marriage. Thank you, it is almost as if you have been reading my mind and heart.
Blessings-Andie

Michelle said...

I have been greatly encouraged by this post.
My husband approached the elders with a desire and has been called to be an elder-intern.
The beginning really describes me, i.e that it's his desire and I'm called to him. I know that there is a life ahead that has been described in the rest of the post which is daunting but I know it is one that will only glorify God ALONE.

Bre said...

My dad is a pastor, and oh how true this is. I have seen the church put so many expectations on my mother, and also on myself and my brother. Since we were the PK's we were expected to be perfect. And when we weren't, my dad was told about it; more than once. But, I definitely give my mother HUGE credit for having to deal with the patrons of the church constantly criticizing my dad, and our family. It's been a hard thing to take at times, but she's amazing, and has handled it with grace, wisdom, glory, and most importantly in a Godly, loving manner. Great post!

Annette said...

A friend of mine linked me to your blog. I'm a pastor's wife, and this hit so close to home that I found myself nodding along with tears in my eyes. Thanks for posting it!

jen said...

WOW! I found your blog from your sons and I found his through a friend who's been praying for him and his precious family. I'm a pastor's wife and I just need to say - AMAZING BLOG!! Thank you for your honesty. Right on brother!

Rick Lawrenson said...

I'm not surprised that this post has touched a few nerves and rung a few bells.

Mandy Farris said...

Thanks for saying all that.
my husband is a youth minister so i know first hand the expectations placed on that. different often than a pastors wife yet still similar in many ways. i have been asked what my involvement plans to be in interview (for my husbands job) and now make it very clear that unlike 'most' youth ministers wives, i am not interested in singing in the youth band, teaching ms or hs small groups, youth trips or really anything relating to ms or hs kids. they arent my passion. i will do everything i need to do to love and support my husband and his ministry 100% but that isnt being a 'youth sponsor'.
i often get looks of disappointment or disgust, as though that is my job. im sure at least 1 church didnt choose him for that reason, but if that is an expectation placed on me, im sure that isnt a place we should have been in the first place.
this really strikes a cord with me, because im sure there are so many other pastors wives out there like me that are playing a role, that would be so much happier and at peace if they would just release themselves from that unrealistic expectation and allow God to use them where he felt fit.
Thanks for allowing me to vent and for acknowledging us as pastors wives, being very similar to other 'normal' wives. I really appreciate these 3 blogs into the lives of pastors, their wives, and kids.

babs said...

I too feel touched by your blog. One of the things I struggle with the most is sharing my husband. One of my biggest frustrations is the phone calls at home, the members or attenders that obtain my husband's cell phone number and pass it out so that he can receive calls all hours of the night, the uninvited visitors that stop by the home with no notice, etc. I fully understand the importance of his role, but I believe whole-heartedly in the importance of our family as well. Our family cannot thrive when he cannot be a part of it because of the vast amount of interruptions.

I love that you pointed out that his was a calling to the church and hers was a calling to him. That is 100% true between my husband and myself. Without a doubt, I would have chosen a man with a different ("normal") profession so that he could leave the office at 5 like the rest of us and come home to focus on his family with no interruption (or at least minimal interruption). It is hard to tell someone hurting that they need to wait until the following day to speak with you. That isn't expected, but boundaries would still be nice. As a pastor's wife, you have to understand that your husband is on call 24/7. Different people at each church feel closer to different people on staff. When your husband is "up," you have to allow him to do what he has been called to do. To minister to those in need.

My husband is an amazing man who rises to the challenge. I am so grateful for your words here ... anyway you can send an anonymous letter out to the members of our church? Just kidding!

prose said...

As a pastor's wife, I'd like to thank you for writing what so many people don't understand. A friend sent me your blog and I'm grateful that she is one who "gets" it. I especially understand what you wrote about a wife that must "bite her tongue" when her husband is hurt, criticized, or misunderstood by people who don't see the big picture. I'm reminded almost daily that this is truly a spiritual battle; nevertheless, the wife hurts and cries alone on many occasions because she, too, sacrifices her life for the call of her husband.

Woman of Many Thoughts said...

Thank you for this post! I have many of the fears that you touched on of becoming a pastor's wife. Mostly, though, I am afraid of being in a fish bowl for the rest of my life (and am especially not looking forward to onlookers tapping on the glass while giving me the "fish face"). However, I have faith and confidence that God has my husband, and therefore me too, right where he wants us to be. You can check out his blog at: www.seekingtruth.org

Does your wife have a blog?

Many blessings,
WMT