This article is about an often neglected part of a congregation, the pastor’s wife. A man who is called to be a pastor has the first vocation of being a husband and then also a father (if God has blessed their union with children). This first vocation supersedes that of being a pastor, and so it is only natural that Satan would attempt to shut the mouth of the preacher by hurting him in another vocation (isn’t that what he did to Adam in the garden?).
Ask any pastor, and he most likely knows another pastor who had to stop being a pastor in order to be a husband helping his wife in need. I am not sure how many of our laity know much about this, so this article is meant to let them know the struggles that their pastor and his wife go through.
Herman Sasse called the pastorate “The Lonely Way”. This makes it very lonely for the one who is the helpmeet for the pastor. Note that pastors and their families may not have family anywhere nearby, and this not only makes life harder, but more lonely as well (especially in a a church body which celebrates family so much). This loneliness is especially difficult when you consider that most pastors struggle in balancing their responsibilities to be a pastor, father, husband, etc. Many pastor’s wives start feeling like the church is the “other woman”. This is dangerous for faith.
A wise pastor taught me once that the pastor’s wife has to be the most sanctified person in the congregation. It may not be in the way that you think. Certainly, there are those who expect perfect behavior out of their pastor’s wife, but the sanctification is not in that respect. A pastor’s wife has to hear the Word of God preached from a mouth that she is all too familiar with. It may be a mouth which just snapped at her the night before. It might be the mouth attached to some other varied sin against her sometime in the past. Can you imagine if you knew your pastor so well and trying to hear him preach the good news to you?
This article is to raise attention. There are many things that can be done. First of all, pastors need to take heed to their wives (and congregations need to understand the vocations that their pastors have). Secondly, laity can help in the situation by not only respecting their pastor’s other vocations, but also by helping the pastor’s wife in various thing. This could include:
Taking care to note the wife’s sacrifice for the congregation and thanking her for it (even if she is involved in nothing else, her keeping the home while her husband is off to congregational things is quite a sacrifice)
Doing special events during “Clergy Appreciation Month” or better taking some other time and just honoring her for who she is (rather than who she is married to)
If a parsonage is provided, annually doing a run through (at a time that the pastor and his family agree to) to note any renovations that would be helpful (asking the wife what she thinks)
If the pastor owns his own home, maybe asking the wife what things in the house she would like to see improved and helping with that
Taking the pastor’s wife out to lunch, out shopping or whatever she likes to do, taking interest in her as a person
Providing extra vacation or money for the pastor and his wife to take a special trip every once in a while
Encouraging the pastor to go home and spend time with his wife (and kids) when he is not necessarily needed
Ask your pastor about his wife and how she is doing with things
Asking if the pastor and his wife would like time away from their children (and providing an acceptable way for it to happen if they do)
Providing help for the pastor’s wife to have time to be on her own (or with other pastor’s wives)
These ideas come from some of what the congregation I serve has done for my family. They have done a great job taking care of us, a fine example for others to follow. A pastor with a happy, healthy family is a pastor who is freed up to be a better pastor.
The DOXOLOGY program offers help and encouragement for pastors and their wives.
If you have any suggestions, please add them below.