“God, give me strength and courage to walk into our church today.” I whispered a short prayer as I grabbed my Bible and gathered our kids to head to our Sunday service. Part of me wished I could disappear from all the chaos and division. But as a pastor’s wife, that’s not very easy to do.
By the grace of God, I kept showing up, kept listening, kept asking people how I could pray for them, and kept holding babies in the nursery. During that season it was hard to know who was friend or foe. People I had trusted for years suddenly turned on me. Opening up to anyone was painful and risky. It was easier just to ask others questions, to focus on their needs instead of mine.
How Can Churches Minister to Pastors’ Wives During Hard Times?
One dark, wintry evening I sat in a small group of women praying together. I normally asked how we could be praying for each person, and I carefully considered what I could share that would be truthful but not overly vulnerable. Before I even had the chance to speak, a kind, older saint said to me, “Stacy, how can we pray for you? How can we support you during this time?” Tears flooded my eyes and a lump formed in my throat. The sensitivity of this older woman to remember that the pastor’s wife is a person too, that I needed support just like anyone else, meant more than she would ever know. Her genuine question and care for me helped me remember that God uses his people as a tangible reminder of his love.
Ministry wives can often feel overlooked in the congregation. Some assume it’s your duty and responsibility to run the children’s ministry, lead the women’s Bible studies, host events, and tidy the church kitchen. Years ago, a woman in our congregation routinely told me how messy and unorganized the kitchen was: “Someone really needs to go in there and organize it!” I couldn’t help but feel like that someone was supposed to be me. After all, I am married to the pastor. “And by the way, the women’s toilet isn’t flushing properly.” Add plumbing skills to the list of jobs a pastor’s wife is supposed to have.
5 Ways Churches Can Minister to Pastors’ Wives
Being a pastor’s wife for the past 20 years has given me some experience in how the congregation can both discourage her and encourage her. My sweet friend’s question about how she could pray for me is just one example of the kindness that I’ve experienced through our church. Here are a few more ways to consider ministering to pastors’ wives.
1. Take a genuine interest in her.
“For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20).
Pastors’ wives are often really good at asking others questions and taking an interest in their lives. It can be a sweet gift to have a church member ask how my family is doing or ask about my writing, or even invite me to go on a walk. Simple things that show you see her and care about her as a person.
2. Love her kids well.
Ministry is a family endeavor. Those of us married to pastors know that our kids are often serving alongside us, whether that be in the nursery, playing the piano, or passing out church bulletins. Pastors’ kids are visible to most of the congregation and can be expected to be an active part of the church.
One of the things that has meant the most to me is when I see others in the congregation intentionally seeking our kids out, asking them about school, thanking them for serving on the worship team, even taking them out for coffee and intentionally investing in their life. Celebrating their accomplishments—from piano recitals to soccer games to graduations—is a means by which the church family fills in for blood relatives who live hundreds of miles away.
3. Encourage her husband to take vacation time and a regular sabbatical.
It is a privilege to walk alongside people during the most joyful and painful parts of their lives. But it’s also a weighty calling—one that consumes physical and emotional energy and can leave us feeling drained.
One of the lifelines God has given us is regular vacations when our family can reconnect after busy seasons and be refreshed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a church, you should advocate for your pastor to take a regular sabbatical. When your pastor takes extended time, he is able to focus on his own relationship with the Lord and his family. A regular sabbatical will add years to his life and your church will be healthier because of it.
4. Be thankful for her family’s ministry.
Our human sinfulness makes it easy to criticize others and harder to be thankful. Pastors’ wives can often be the channel congregants use to voice their complaints about various things in the church. A recent elder decision, a point in her husband’s sermon that ruffled their feathers, the choice of worship songs, or the need for a new ministry.
As much as I try to redirect these questions to the person they actually need to speak with, it can be discouraging to hear a stream of feedback and suggestions. Instead, look for what you can be thankful for in your church. Tell her what you appreciated in her husband’s sermon, thank her for serving in the children’s ministry, notice all the good things happening in the church— and let her know!
5. Remember, she is a normal member of the congregation, just like you.
Pastors’ wives have married a man called to ministry in the local church. Even though she is called to love and support her husband, she is not an unpaid staff member of your church. She has her own interests and maybe even her own career. She likely has a family and a home to care for. God has called your pastor’s wife to utilize her God-given gifts to build the body of Christ, just like you. Let her serve where she feels gifted and called to serve, not just fill in the gaps because she’s married to the pastor.
Loving and supporting your pastor’s wife will make it easier for her husband to serve wholeheartedly and be a blessing for years to come. God made pastors’ wives in his image. They are worthy of honor and value no matter how they serve in the church.
Our twenty-plus years of ministry have been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I’m grateful for the privilege of having a front-row seat to see how God is working in our congregation. Walking alongside my husband in ministry is a gift, one filled with both trials and joys that remind us the best is yet to come.