RBI believes that when you invest in women in ministry, you invest in the health of the church. Cherish is one such program through which RBI’s Ministerial Relief Fund provides free and discounted counseling services to PCA pastors’ wives.
Megan Hill is no stranger to life in the local church.
A PCA pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter, Megan has spent virtually her entire life steeped in the rhythms of the church. “One of my big interests is the local church and our life together as a corporate body,” said Megan, who, in addition to being a pastor’s wife and an author, is a mom of four children and an editor for The Gospel Coalition.
Her new book, Partners in the Gospel: 50 Meditations for Pastors’ and Elders’ Wives, focuses on a specific audience within the local church: pastors’ and elders’ wives. The book is a collection of devotionals designed to encourage and equip wives of church leaders by pointing them to the Word of God for refreshment and counsel.
“This book is written for women serving the church in a front and center way,” said Hill. “It’s meant to encourage them in the work of serving and loving the local church. So I think it’s very much in keeping with my desire to see the beauty of the church elevated in peoples’ minds and hearts.”
Hill discussed with us the unique challenges faced by elders’ wives, the peculiar joys of the role, and how congregations can better support elders’ wives.
In your research for the book, you talked to many pastors’ and elders’ wives. What are some of the unique challenges faced by the wives of church leaders?
As I prepared to write the book, I spoke with a large group of pastors’ and elders’ wives across a broad spectrum of churches—Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, etc.—plus a lot of my friends in my own church and presbytery.
Probably the biggest struggle these women face is loneliness. 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.
Another big issue is children, especially as the kids get older. If your kids are in a rebellious phase or not walking with the Lord, it’s easy to feel a lot of guilt and shame. As an elder’s wife, you assume your family is supposed to be an example to the congregation, so if your kids are going astray, you can feel like you’ve parented them wrongly, and it’s your fault they’re not walking with the Lord.
A third very common challenge is conflict within the church, whether it’s people leaving, being in conflict with one another, or being angry at the session for a certain decision. These can be extremely disheartening and really stressful situations for elders’ wives. To feel like your husband is being attacked or you can’t take sides in the midst of a dispute is very difficult.
You write a lot about the peculiar joys of being an elder’s wife in this book. What are they and why were they so important to include?
Yeah, it was really one of my main hopes for the book—that I’d be able to not only talk about the hard parts of ministry but also the real privileges and delights of being in a ministry family. In the really hard times when you feel like you’re sacrificing a lot, it’s important to remember that the church is so valuable Christ came and died for her, so he could “present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
The church was absolutely the goal of Christ’s work, so for us to be reminded of that puts our struggles in context. It allows me to say, “I can bear with this person who’s saying hurtful things to me because Christ died for them, and one day they’ll be perfected.”
One of the biggest joys of being an elder’s wife is being able to have a front row seat to what the Lord is doing—seeing people come to faith, seeing others grow spiritually, and seeing covenant children grow up and learn to love Christ.
RBI is passionate about supporting women in ministry and pastors’ wives in particular. (Cherish, one of our programs, provides access to free and discounted counseling for PCA pastors’ wives.) Talk to us about why it’s so important for elders’ wives to be cared for.
One of my favorite verses is at the end of 2 Timothy, where Paul is writing from prison near the end of his life. At the end of the letter, he says to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13) I think that’s so sweet!
Here you have Paul, the apostle who planted churches all throughout the known world and wrote most of the New Testament—by all measures a force in the 1st-century church. And yet, here he says he wants to see Timothy. He’s acknowledging his need for friends in his life. He asks for his cloak, acknowledging his need to care for his physical and emotional well-being. And he asks for his books and parchment. These were probably Scripture texts, and it was his way of caring for his own spiritual wellbeing.
So, if the apostle Paul makes such a priority of friendship, and physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, then as elders’ wives we need to focus on those things as well. And by attending to those things, we’ll be better equipped to serve Christ and the church.
As congregation members, how can we encourage and support the elders’ wives in our churches?
The first thing is to recognize that each of us is unique. 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. 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.
The second way to support them is to reach out in friendship. As I said earlier, many pastors’ and elders’ wives struggle with loneliness. Anything you can do to reach out in friendship is great, even if it’s small.
A few weeks ago a woman from our church texted me a picture of her new haircut. 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.
What are your hopes and prayers for this book?
We’ve talked a lot this past year about pastoral burnout. Pastors and elders everywhere are so tired, and the same is true for their wives. I know it firsthand from all the women who have reached out to me about it.
My hope is that this book comes as a refreshment to these women who are tired and an encouragement to “not grow weary of doing good.” (Galatians 6:9) I hope it makes them feel less alone and provides them with the perspective to endure the trials and hardships of ministry.
Learn more about Cherish, our program that provides access to affordable and confidential Christian counseling to PCA pastors’ wives.
You can find Megan’s new book, Partners in the Gospel: 50 Meditations for Pastors’ and Elders’ Wives, on Amazon. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children where they belong to West Springfield Covenant Community Church. She also serves as an editor for The Gospel Coalition.
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.