The pastor’s wife is supposed to always look nice, smile, sit down in the front row of church, and agree with her husband. Her kids need to be model Christians. She needs to be ready to open her home to people in the church at any time and serve them. It’s good if she volunteers to play the piano, help in the children’s ministry, or teach women’s Bible study.
Oh my! Stereotypes like these can be crushing on a pastor’s wife!
The Bible Supports the Uniqueness of Each Pastor’s Wife
The truth is that each pastor’s wife is unique! But one thing that most pastors’ wives have in common is that they have a significant and challenging God-given opportunity to have influence for Christ in a church and the surrounding community. But to step into the role of pastor’s wife, with all it’s conflicting expectations and ministry stress, pastors’ wives need a special grace and wisdom from God.
Some Bible teachers will say that the Bible doesn’t say anything to pastors’ wives. That is a very misleading statement! Actually, as we share in the Pastor’s Wife Scriptures below, the Bible has a lot to say to support a pastor’s wife’s unique personality, needs, gifts, and ministry service or leadership. Included in our Bible Study are examples of pastors’ wives like Elizabeth who mentored Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus and Priscilla who was a pastor’s wife and a co-pastor in one of the New Testament house churches.
There is also strong support in God’s Word for “Women as Pastors, Elders, and Leaders in Bible-Based Churches.”
“I Don’t Know How to be a Pastor’s Wife!”
Recently, a pastor’s wife told me (Kristi), “Being a pastor’s wife is a new role that I’m serving in. I feel so inadequate and lonely! I don’t know how to be a pastor’s wife or even who to talk to about this. What does the Bible say about it? I was told that the Bible doesn’t have any guidance for pastors’ wives.”
She’s not the only pastor’s wife who is burdened emotionally in her role and feeling alone with the struggle. Many pastors’ wives have been hurt by somebody in their congregation and don’t feel safe being emotionally vulnerable in the church community. Many don’t know who to turn to in their church for support and encouragement, or even if they should entrust themselves to anyone in their church. A survey found that 80% of pastor’s wives say they feel left out and unappreciated by church members.
Feeling unsure about how to handle the role of being a pastor’s wife is a big part of the problem. Pastors receive training for their job but where does a pastor’s wife go to learn about her role? What is her role, anyway? As a pastor’s wife does she have a “job” in the church? Is she supposed to serve in the church for free? What if she doesn’t want to be involved in the church, is that okay? But what if the church keeps coming into her home — regardless of how she feels about it — either from people needing hospitality and care or the stress that her husband brings home from church?
The Pastor’s Wife is Not Just “Mrs. Pastor!”
Many pastors’ wives do not want a job description from the church! And rightly so if they are not called by God to work as a leader in their church. They shouldn’t have expectations put on them to fit into a mold. They shouldn’t be judged for choosing to work outside the home or focusing solely on their family. (The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of virtue who is active in her home, community, and career.)
On the other hand, some pastors’ wives are not given that opportunity to use their gifts in the church or they are able to serve but they are not respected and appreciated for what they contribute. “She’s just the pastor’s wife,” some say. That is so unfair and hurtful!
The pastor’s wife is more than “Mrs. Pastor!” Her primary identity is not as a pastor’s wife, but as a Christ-follower. She is “in Christ” and God has created her as a valuable person with her own personality and gifts and she should be recognized for this and given space to express her uniqueness. (See our “Identity in Christ Verses in the Bible.”) She may be called by God to serve in the church, either as a volunteer or as paid staff. This needs to be discerned mutually by the pastor’s wife and the church leadership.
Regardless of whether or not a pastor’s wife has an official place of ministry in the church, she will have a very important background ministry that ought to be highly respected in the church: supporting her husband and, in partnership with him, caring for their family and home. She will have many opportunities to listen to him, encourage him, and pray for him on various matters related to his ministry as a pastor.
Most pastor’s wives have to learn where their limits are with respect to supporting their husband with the impact pastoring has on him. They need to learn how much they can listen, as well as what kind of information they can listen to and what is too difficult. At certain points they will need to set boundaries with their husband on the stress and pain he brings home from the church.
Pastor’s wives can only give so much to their husband’s ministry! They need to save some energy for their family and the other things in their lives. They need to maintain their own separate God-given identity. (“Jesus Set Boundaries” and pastors’ wives — as well as pastors! — need to encouraged to follow his example.)
Let’s Not Put the Pastor’s Wife in a Box!
There is not a special office of “pastor’s wife” in the Bible. Most pastor’s wives say, “Thank God for that!” They don’t want to be put in a box!
The Bible does not prescribe a particular role for the pastor’s wife. The Scriptures don’t even offer explicit teaching directed to the role of pastor’s wife, but this in itself is not remarkable and certainly shouldn’t be used to deny a pastor’s wife a ministry role in the church, because there are other important ministry roles in the church that the Bible doesn’t spell out instructions for, like Pastoral Counselor, Executive Pastor, or Children’s Ministry Director to name a few.
The Bible does offer many general teachings and examples that speak to the role of being a pastor’s wife, both the opportunities and challenges. The Biblical role of being a pastor’s wife is understood from what the Scriptures teach about being a woman, a wife and mother, and a Christ-follower with God-given gifts.
Most pastor’s wives, whether they like it or not, are public figures within their church and community. If they rely on God and his Word to help them come to terms with the role of being a pastor’s wife then they will have a great opportunity to serve as Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) in many important ways in their church and community.
The Pastor’s Wife Scriptures
Here are some important Pastor’s Wife Scriptures that offer guidance and encouragement to the pastor’s wife who has questions about her role. (All the Pastor’s Wife Scriptures are from the NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.).
A Pastor’s Wife is…
Created in the image of God to give leadership in her world
“Then God said, ‘Let us make [human beings] in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:26)
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
An indispensable companion to her husband, others, and God
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18. The Hebrew word ‘êzer, translated as “helper,” is used 21 times in the Old Testament and it is most often used to describe God as a helper.)
To put priority on her children (if she’s a mother) to nurture and guide them
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4, NIV)
Full of life giving, motherly wisdom that ought to be taken to heart
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck… Keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind then on your heart forever… When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep they will watch over you.” (Proverbs 1:8-9; 6:20-22)
Capable of great and diverse accomplishments, in and outside of the home
“A godly wife is priceless. Her husband has every reason to have complete confidence in her as his partner because each day she brings him good and not harm. With her hands she makes beautiful things. She works diligently for the good of her husband and family. In the community she is known for her kindness and wisdom. She handles money well and is very capable in business. She is able to initiate great projects and lead others well. Her arms and her heart are open to the poor and needy and she does not neglect her own family. She is strong, elegant, and happy. In all that she says and does she brings honor to the Lord.” (Paraphrased from Proverbs 31:10-31)
Given a special gift, by God’s grace, to serve in the Body of Christ
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8, NIV)
Is to be commended for the ways she serves the church (at home or at church)
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” (Romans 16:1-2; Phoebe was likely the first deaconess in the Church.)
A new creation in Christ — her identity is “in Christ,” not in being “Mrs. Pastor”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
God’s beautiful and poetic masterpiece!
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
Called to respect her husband (just as he is called to take initiative to love her)
“Each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33. See also Ephesians 5:21-32 and 1 Peter 3:1-7.)
Chosen by God for priestly work, serving and speaking for him among people
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, MSG)
Called to use her gifts and speaking, relying on God’s strength to serve others
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11, NIV)
A Pastor’s Wife may be called by God to…
Offer in the church her gift of truth-telling, service, teaching, encouragement, generosity, leadership, or mercy
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8, NIV. For instance, consider the New Testament examples of ministry leaders who were women: Anna in Luke 2:36-37, Dorcas in Acts 9:36, Lydia in Acts 16:15, Priscilla in Acts 18:26, Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9, Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2, and the widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-10.)
Work in the church — if so she has the right to be paid
“It is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ …Whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:9-11, NIV)
Work and care for others in the church — if so she is to be highly regarded
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, NIV)
Serve in the church as a ministry leader
“In the same way, deaconesses are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” (1 Timothy 3:11. See also the example of Phoebe, a deaconess in the early church who may have led a house church; Romans 16:1-2.)
Offer hospitality for church-related gatherings (but sometimes she may need to set a limit that she not do this in her house)
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9. See also the example of Nympha who hosted and perhaps led a house church; Colossians 4:15.)
Mentor a younger woman (or be mentored by an older woman) to grow in godly character and care for her family
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Examples of Pastors’ Wives (or Ministry Leaders’ Wives) in the Bible
Esther, wife of the King, was an influential ministry leader “for such a time as this”
“When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’
“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’
“So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.” (Esther 4:12-17)
Abigail, David’s wife, was a wise, hospitable, and humble servant
“Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife… She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, ‘Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master’s servants.’ Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.” (1 Samuel 25:39-42)
Elizabeth, a priest’s wife, supported her husband’s ministry and provided spiritual mentoring to Mary and probably others
“Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
“When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” (Luke 1:21-25)
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’” (Luke 1:41-45)
Peter’s wife (unnamed) served as a quiet hostess with her mother
“As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
“That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” (Mark 1:29-34. See also 1 Corinthians 9:5 which suggests that other apostles in addition to Peter had wives.)
Susanna, wife of Herod’s manager, was healed by Jesus and became his devoted follower and a leader in the Church. She supported Jesus’ ministry financially, served him to the end, and was a great witness for him.
“Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” (Luke 8:1:1-3)
“But all those who knew [Jesus], including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching [his crucifixion]…
“The women… saw the tomb and how [Jesus’] body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment…
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.” (Luke 23: 49, 55-56; 24:1-6, 10)
Priscilla was a pastor’s wife (to Aquila) and a co-pastor in their house church in Ephesus
“[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:26. Notice that Priscilla is actually listed before her husband and that she gave instruction to Apollos, a popular preacher.)
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.” (Romans 16:3-5)
“Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” (1 Corinthians 16:19)