Many churches (and pastors for that matter) do not know what to do with pastor’s wives, how to treat them, what role they play or how important they are. It is a hard role to live in and stay in. Everyone has a lot of their own expectations of what the wife of a pastor should be like, yet, they are all different.
While Revolution (and myself) has struggled just like every other church to figure this out, I believe Katie and I have figured some things out that we have put into place which will prove to be invaluable in the future. While this is not exclusive to pastors, any leader in a church and for that matter, any husband can do better in understanding their wives and how to engage them.
Over the next month, I’ll be sharing some of the things we’ve learned that I hope will be beneficial for you.
I remember when Katie and I were engaged; she met with a woman who was married to a pastor. Katie told her about our engagement, our future plans of being a pastor and starting a church. This pastor’s wife looked at Katie and told her to “run away as fast as she could.” In no uncertain terms, she told her to not marry a pastor. Now that I am a pastor, I can see why (now, let me share my completely biased opinion).
I have not held many other jobs. At 18, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I poured everything I had into getting there. God opened many doors for me and blessed me with the opportunity to be on staff at some great churches and be around some world class leaders.
But, being a pastor is hard work. It never ends. There is always another meeting to be had, another person who needs help or someone else to counsel, there is always another book to read or a sermon to write, there is always another fire to put out, another person who needs me this minute. Simply put, being a pastor is a lifestyle job. This is the joy and curse of it. It is what I have given my life to, I will just never complete my to do list. And that is okay. What many pastors struggle with is that it is easy to serve others and help others instead of helping and serving their own family. They pour all they have into their churches and leave their families to fend for themselves. What is interesting though is that according to the qualifications of a pastor/elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is that you judge a pastor/elder based on his family and how he leads them, serves them and how they work together.
Protect Her Heart
It is easy for a pastor’s wife to get bitter. To see how her husband helps so many other people, how he listens to other people’s problems and not hers. How he can be ready to serve someone at the drop of a hat, but not pick up his clothes at home. She is left to fend for herself and her kids. What many pastors forget is that their wife and kids attend their church and not only are they pastor dad, they are a pastor to them in the same way that he is a pastor to everyone else in the church.
Because it is a lifestyle job that involves counseling, doing weddings, funerals, and being with people, you get a front row seat to everything. You see the good, the bad and the ugly (and sometimes grotesque) of people in the church. A pastor’s wife sees all of this as well. What can make this painful is when you pour into someone, help someone through a difficult patch, spend hours with someone, only to have them stab you in the back, gossip about you, take all of your available time and then tell everyone you weren’t “there for them when they needed you.”
Pastor, are you pastoring your wife? Are you making time for her? Are you helping her deal with the pains you are experiencing? As a man, it is easy to compartmentalize what is happening and you can get lost in your work, but she doesn’t have that luxury, so you need to help her. I remember one time we went through a painful experience and I got over it rather quickly, but never told Katie that I had dealt with it personally, so she kept hurting for me. One night she let me know how bothered she was by this situation and I told her, “That is over.” Not a good thing.
She will be affected by things you won’t be affected by and you need to be sensitive to those things.
Another area I see many pastor’s failing in is not helping their wife find her gifts and passions. In the past year, Katie has gotten more and more into photography, which has been awesome to see. For too many years, I failed her by not helping her find her gifts and passions outside of church, and was too focused on mine.
Many pastor’s wives are not able to use their gifts because they aren’t seen as worthwhile in the church. Many people think a pastor’s wife should lead the kids ministry, sing, play piano, lead the women’s ministry or teach somewhere. Maybe she is better at discipling, she may be gifted in hospitality or she may be a talented graphic artist. Whatever it is, she should be able to use her gifts.
She should also have the freedom to take breaks like everyone else as she goes through certain seasons of life. There have been times that Katie has been heavily involved in our church and other times where she did less things because of how young our kids are. I’ve always told people, my expectation for a pastor’s wife at Revolution is that she should be like everyone else who attends our church, plugged into community, and using her gifts. Sometimes she will do a lot and sometimes she will do a little, but we’ll have the same expectation for her as anyone else, she just happens to be married to a pastor.
Help Her Grow Spiritually
Another area pastor’s can help his wife is to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth can be hard for a pastor and his family because everything about their life seems spiritual. Often, Katie and I will talk about things she wants to grow in or learn and I will put books on her kindle for her to read. Men are called to pastor his wife and what better way than making sure she is reading good books instead of garbage (which there is no end to in popular books).
Bottom line for this first post, a pastor’s wife is part of the church. They attend it, use their gifts in it, are bought in, but they can easily become bitter or feel left out. They can feel like their husband has chosen work or other people over her and her kids. Don’t do that. Protect her and her heart. Make every effort to make sure she is growing, that she has hobbies and friends so that she is able to become all that God has called her to be.