Pastors’ wives have a unique, often overlooked, role in the life of a church, supporting the women of the congregation and supporting the pastor himself. She may not hold an official title, but her impact cannot be overstated.
These are some of the many reasons why this month we’re celebrating Pastors’ Wives Appreciation Month.
A pastor’s wife is not only a companion to her husband, the church’s pastor; she also can serve as an inviting hand to the women of the church. This is sometimes a role she asked for, and sometimes is a role she’s simply found herself in. Either way, it is not without its challenges.
It can even feel somewhat hidden. “It’s surprising that a person in the spotlight can be invisible,” said Alyssa, a pastor’s wife for over 20 years. “That’s how I felt as a pastor’s wife—under constant scrutiny but unknown. Eventually, I hit a wall. I could no longer cope with the stress and disappointments of ministry on my own.”
“Probably the biggest struggle pastors’ wives face is loneliness,” said Megan Hill, a pastor’s wife and the author of the book, Partners in the Gospel: 50 Meditations for Pastors’ and Elders’ Wives. “Many feel like they don’t quite fit into their local church because they’re married to one of the elders. Being in that position can sometimes make it hard to talk about things going on in your life, which creates a sense of isolation.”
This is a common refrain heard among wives of pastors. According to a 2018 survey facilitated by PCA Retirement & Benefits (RBI), nine out of ten pastors’ wives believe they are perceived differently than other women in their church. This often leads to isolation and greater stress for many wives.
Hopefully by now it goes without saying: pastors’ wives need our encouragement and support. Here are some practical ways you can encourage your pastor’s wife.
#1: Recognize that every pastor’s wife is unique
The first thing church leaders need to recognize, says Megan, is that every pastor’s wife is unique. Let’s not make the mistake of putting pastors’ wives into a certain box.
“Sometimes pastors’ and elders’ wives feel that people in the church have certain expectations of them that don’t really match who God has created them to be,” said Megan. “As Paul says, each part of the body is unique and vital. So, seek to appreciate them according to the gifts God has given them.”
#2: Reach out in friendship, even if it’s a small gesture
The second way to support your pastor’s wife is to reach out in friendship. As we noted earlier, many pastors’ and elders’ wives struggle with loneliness. So anything you can do to reach out in friendship is great, even if it’s small. Megan illustrated this point with a recent story:
“A few weeks ago a woman from our church texted me a picture of her new haircut,” said Megan. “It’s a small, silly thing but it made me so happy because I thought, ‘This is what friends do. They get a new haircut and text their friends a picture.’”
“Sometimes what your pastor’s wife needs isn’t some deep spiritual encouragement (although that’s great), but simply a text saying, ‘Hey, let’s go shopping,’ or ‘Hey, let’s go out for coffee.’ Those help your pastor’s wife remember she belongs and she’s loved as an ordinary friend.”
#3 Enable your pastor’s wife to get free counseling through Cherish
Counseling can provide a necessary outlet for pastors’ wives to share their struggles with ministry, marriage, or mental health while getting professional, confidential, faith-informed guidance.
Cherish, a ministry of RBI, provides access to affordable and confidential Christian counseling to PCA pastors’ wives. Cherish has seen explosive growth in new users over the past few years, solidifying our conviction that this service is deeply needed.
“Cherish provided me with a counselor who could bring the gospel to me afresh and help me apply it to my present situation,” said Alyssa, a pastor’s wife. “I was able to talk about my marriage, my children, and my pain in ministry without fear of judgment. My counselor helped me to see Jesus caring for me, in the midst of my storm.”
Another pastor’s wife put it this way:
“Cherish provided me a safe place to heal and be refreshed. Thank you for caring not only for pastors but their wives as well. I feel like we are finally being seen.”
To learn more about Cherish, click here.
Click here to make a donation to Cherish and help pastors’ wives like Alyssa get free, confidential counseling.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.