My grandmother was the quintessential pastor’s wife of her generation. She played the piano, sang beautifully, attended every prayer and worship service, and joined my grandfather on home visits. She fulfilled all the stereotypical expectations of decades ago.
Today, most pastors’ wives I know—myself included—shudder at the thought of meeting the presupposed expectations that may come with marriage to a pastor. Most of us long to be regular church members, using our God-given gifts and talents to bless the church and be seen as other church members.
But is it possible for a pastor’s wife to simply be a faithful member of the church, or does her husband’s role and calling preclude her from this? While pastors’ wives often want to be faithful, ordinary church members, there are four reasons why it’s often impossible for them to be seen that way.
1. Preconceived Expectations
Whether people realize it or not, they probably have ideas about the role a pastor and his wife should fulfill. Expectations of the pastor often extend to his wife, too. The Bible is clear about the role of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, but there’s no biblical instruction for the wife of a pastor. She has the same calling as any other wife in the church—to honor and support her husband. Most of us long to be regular church members, using our God-given gifts and talents to bless the church and be seen as other church members. Click To Tweet
There are very few roles in life in which a woman’s identity is defined by her husband’s occupation. I never introduce my friend by saying, “this is my plumber’s wife.” But almost every week, I’m introduced at some point as the pastor’s wife. Realized and unrealized expectations come with the role. As much as a pastor’s wife would simply like to be a faithful, regular church member, her husband’s occupation can make that challenging.
2. The Weight of Her Word
Because of preconceived notions and expectations, when a pastor’s wife speaks, her words often carry more significance than those of other women in the church. People assume her words hold the authority of the church. They see her opinions as broader than just her personal thoughts, and she often must weigh her words carefully, especially depending on the audience. Every Christian is called to have their words be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6), but the pastor’s wife is often held to a higher expectation. Her words often carry more weight simply because she’s married to the pastor.
3. Assumptions About Her Role
When I have a question about setting up an appointment with my doctor, I’ve never called his wife to inquire how to do that. Nor have I let my lawyer’s wife know that her husband’s office bathroom was out of toilet paper. However, the pastor’s wife is frequently expected to know about the church’s life, function, and inner workings. I never introduce my friend by saying, “this is my plumber’s wife.” But almost every week, I’m introduced at some point as the pastor’s wife. Click To Tweet
Few members in the body have this expectation placed on them. Yet the pastor’s wife is often approached about things like how to sign up for ministries or where the extra tissues are kept. It never upsets me when people ask me these kinds of questions. Often, I don’t know and direct them to one of the elders. Just because a woman is married to the pastor doesn’t mean she’s familiar with the inner workings of the church, but this expectation is often put on her.
4. The Burdens She Carries
Sometimes people assume that the pastor’s wife has an extra measure of insight or wisdom. When we planted our church, I had five very young boys, from seven years old down to a newborn. I was drowning in parental duties, yet younger women sought me out for discipleship and training. At the time, my primary focus was raising my children and supporting my husband. I didn’t have the bandwidth to do much more. Added to that busy season, I also knew many of the challenges and pains church members brought to my husband. Those things felt weighty. The kindest thing you can do for your pastor’s wife is to accept her as a member of the body, just as you would accept any other person in the church. Click To Tweet
The pastor’s wife often carries a heavy emotional load. However, in all likelihood, she didn’t go to seminary. She’s probably not been trained to counsel others. She doesn’t necessarily have more wisdom than other women. But once again, because of her husband’s calling, she often has to carry extra burdens beyond other church members.
Accept Your Pastor’s Wife
Most pastors’ wives I know long to simply blend into the beautiful body of Christ and fulfill their role as just that—a member of the body. They don’t necessarily want the recognition or weight their husbands carry as church leaders. The kindest thing you can do for your pastor’s wife is to accept her as a member of the body, just as you would accept any other person in the church.
She’s a church member who desires to serve and use her gifts. She needs friendship. Just because her husband stands upfront and is visible doesn’t mean she also wants that. Consider the expectations you may hold for your pastor’s wife and let them go. View her through the lens of the gospel. Just like you, she’s a sinner in need of grace, trying to follow Jesus faithfully while being a member of the body of Christ.