Perhaps the most unsung person in a church is the pastor’s wife. Hers is a very difficult and stressful role. (When the pastor is a woman the same could be said for the pastor’s husband, but this article focuses on the wives of male pastors.)
Unfair Expectations on the Pastor’s Wife
So much is expected of a pastor’s wife. She is to support her husband’s ministry, raise the ideal family, be a model Christian woman, and help out in the church for free! It may be that she’s always being watched — and talked about.
When her husband is criticized she takes it the hardest. When he’s had a hard day at church she stays up all night listening to him.
If her kids don’t want to go to their dad’s church she’s the one who has to deal with their emotions and needs and how that impacts her husband, the pastor, and what people in the church might think if they find out.
Probably people in the church expect her to serve in ways that she doesn’t have time, desire, or gifting for. On the other hand, she may have great wisdom or a special ministry to offer in the church that’s not wanted or not financially compensated for.
The Needs of a Pastor’s Wife
Who cares for the pastor’s wife? Who is a safe and appropriate person in her church for her to bring her needs to? Often no one.
Like anyone else, the pastor’s wife has hurts and needs, but unlike others she is expected to be ideal. Everything she says and does, even how she dresses, may be under scrutiny and considered a reflection on the pastor.
As we just noted, the pastor’s wife has a lot of stress. She may suffer from stress overload or ministry burnout just like other ministry leaders.
Where does a pastor’s wife go for support? Who can she trust to keep confidence? Even if she could trust a church member is it wise for her to share honestly with her?
Many pastors’ wives don’t know where to go for support and prayer. Many are lonely.
Pastors’ wives need be in a safe community. If you’re a pastor’s wife you may want to contact me (Kristi). I am a pastor’s wife with a ministry to other pastors’ wives. If you live in Orange County, CA you may want to participate in one of groups for pastors’ wives or women in ministry.
Also, in 2016 I helped Bill to write a book that will help you with ministry stress. It’s called Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke. (Follow the link to learn more or to order a copy.) It’s based on our ministry to pastors and leaders, including pastors’ wives and other women in ministry. It will help you to live in Christ’s rhythm of grace — de-stressed and empowered!
Pastor’s Wife Statistics
Statistics from surveys of pastors’ wives highlight the stress they experience in their role and the needs they have for support.
Pastors’ wives need safe, soul friends. Many have shared vulnerably with certain women in their church and felt their trust was violated.
- 80% feel left out and unappreciated by church members
- 56% say they have no close friends in the church
Pastors’ wives may feel like “unpaid assistants” in the church. And yet, many have so much more to offer in their ministry. All need encouragement for their important role.
- 84% feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles
- 80% feel pressured to serve in ways that do not fit their gifts
- 60% expressed the need to further their training so they could serve better
Being married to a pastor can be challenging!
- 80% believe their spouse is overworked
- 80% wish their spouse would choose another profession
- 40% of their husbands have had an extramarital affair while serving as a pastor
- 50% of their marriages will end in divorce
The pastor’s spouse and children live in a fishbowl. Family time often gets compromised, particularly when family meals are rushed so that the pastor can make evening meetings.
- 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of pastoral ministry
- The majority of pastor’s wives said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry
(Statistics were gathered from HB London, Jr., Pastornet.net, Campus Crusade for Christ, Global Pastors Network.)