Recently, I ran across a list of sticky issues pastor’s wives face, leaving them feeling isolated. There are some very sensitive issues here, and they certainly affect many of us who have been faced with the exact situation in ministry. I’d like to offer some suggestions of how to face these issues when they come across your path.
1. Experiencing superficial relationships in the church.
Find relationships outside of the church. It’s healthy to have your own friends that see you for who you are — not just the pastor’s wife. Set-up a play group with other young moms, join a book club, volunteer at your children’s school, etc.
2. Having a busy pastor/husband.
Your husband will be busy! Don’t be ashamed to ask him to set aside time just for you and you alone. Make it a priority for your both and don’t budge on it unless there’s an emergency. It’s difficult to put the ministry work aside, but both your marriage and relationship will benefit.
3. Encountering mean church members.
People are mean, and they expect you and your family to be perfect, despite the fact that they certainly are not! They will hold you and your family to a different standard. They will leave you out of their social circles, etc. Sometimes just being kind to these people takes the steam out of their hatefulness. Realize what expectations are realistic and which ones are not. Be kind and realize that sometime people are just going to be mean.
4. Being a conduit for complaints about her husband.
When a person comes to you with complaints regarding your husband, redirect them and ask them to talk with one of the elders.
5. Experiencing broken confidences.
Find people outside of the church that you can confide in. Consider interacting with a life coach. Exercise caution with who you trust to hold a confidence that is really important.
6. Frequently moving.
Moving around is hard. Starting over is hard on your family. But I believe each opportunity gives you a new start to use what you’ve learned from your last ministry and develop not only yourself, but the new congregation you are a part of.
7. Being viewed as a second-class person.
Viewing anyone as a “second class” citizen is hurtful, not to mention sinful. Be careful how much time and energy is spent with these individuals. But do pray for them.
8. Lack of support groups.
Find support from outside the church as mentioned early. (See “Broken confidences” above.)
9. Not having date nights.
Make a commitment with your husband for a date night once a week no matter what! Even if you have a date night in, make it special and time focused only on your relationship–without distractions.
10. Complaints about their children.
This is such a hard thing, because people will expect your children to be perfect. Having four children while being a pastors wife, was hard on me, but probably even more difficult on the kids. In ministry, you live in a “glass house.” We talked about this many times, trying to help them understand that they would be judged differently. There are no easy answers other than loving them strongly and caring deeply for them — being sensitive to the pressures they are also experiencing being in the ministry.
11. Her husband does not give her priority.
In whatever profession a man is in, he will be devoted to that profession, because he has a God-given drive to work and provide for his family. Some times this comes at the expense of the ones he truly loves. Helping a leader understand his responsibilities at home are equally important can be difficult, and often this comes only after there is a “crisis.” Talk openly with him about your needs and don’t stop talking about it until he understands. Encourage him to seek accountability from his friends or a leadership coach to restore balance in how he divides his responsibilities. You are an integral and important part of his ministry as well.
12. Experiencing financial struggles.
Financial issues are tough, because there is no easy way to talk about them. Often churches do not provide well enough for their pastors, which may put them in a position where the wife has to work or the pastor has to take on a second job. This especially rings true in a small church where giving may not be adequate. Keep the Elders or Board Members aware of your finances, so they have they full picture of your situation.
These issues have effected many women whose husbands are in ministry. Pray about them. Give them to God. And try to implement some of these suggestions. It will make a difference in your life, marriage and ministry.
How have you experienced these trials and what have you found to be successful? Encourage another woman today and share your thoughts below.
Susan Malphurs is the Executive Vice President of the Malphurs Group, an HR, Outreach, Church Leadership consultant, blogger at malphursgroup.com/blog, wife, mother, and grandmother. (@susanmalphurs) When Susan isn’t involved in serving pastors and churches with the Malphurs Group church consulting firm, she enjoys reading, exploring the “foodie” options in Dallas, TX, and doing anything that involves her grandchildren.