This article may contain references to PCA Retirement & Benefits (RBI), which has since been renamed Geneva Benefits Group. Learn more about our name change here.

The Complicated Role of the Pastor’s Wife

The role of a pastor’s wife is often complicated. It is a balancing act except there is no pole, no net, and no tightrope, but lots of expectation for her to perform. It is a role that goes beyond church membership, and it is not easily definable. She is her husband’s unique and intimate caregiver, a confidante who supports and loves him through thick and thin. She is the heartbeat of her household.

Her role is a unique calling which often includes unrealistic expectations. She may be asked to play the piano, lead a bible study, teach a children’s class, or spearhead VBS. She may be expected to meet those expectations while teaching her own children, maintaining a clean house, and meeting her husband at the door with a smile each day. She knows her first responsibility should be to her husband and family. However, all too often the congregation’s expectations, coupled with the ambiguity of her role, can reverse this order.

Life as a pastor’s wife, beyond the role’s complicated nature, is often lonely. It can be hard to develop close relationships within her church due to concerns any negative comment might jeopardize her husband’s career. She may also find it difficult to fulfill the often unspoken expectations of her role that fall outside of her gifts and talents. She is her own person, yet she is often expected to be someone else.

As a result, the role of a pastor’s wife can be lonely and isolating. Pastors’ wives need an outside resource in order to process the complex and sensitive details of life they quietly shoulder. They may need someone—a Christian counselor—to provide necessary space outside their church communities for nurture, insight, and encouragement.

A research team at Covenant Seminary analyzed the words and stories of over 70 pastoral couples and publish their findings in the book, Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving (Burns, Chapman and Guthrie. IVP 2013). The findings help both pastors and the church understand the unique complexity of pastoral roles compared to other professionals. Dr. Burns said of the findings, “I was surprised to see just how crucial a role the pastor’s wife plays in sustaining pastoral excellence.”

RBI Ministerial Relief recently conducted a survey for pastors’ wives that asked them for their perception of their roles in the church. From this survey we learned:

  • 9 out of 10 pastors’ wives believe they are perceived or treated differently than other women in the church.
  • 7 out of 10 feel they have few people they can safely confide in.
  • 8 out of 10 said they would make use of Christian counseling if offered.

While the survey does not reflect the narrative of all pastors’ wives, there is still an urgent need to address the other narratives, those of relational isolation within the church.

Recently the PCA Women’s Ministry named RBI and Ministerial Relief the recipient of their 2018 Women in the Church Love Gift. In response to the needs of our pastors’ wives, Ministerial Relief is spearheading Cherish, a campaign that offers affordable and confidential Christian counseling for PCA pastors’ wives.

We recognize the vital role the wives of our pastors play in maintaining the health of the church, and we ask that every church show the Cherish video tribute and take an offering. Please visit https://genevabenefits.org/cherish/ to download the Cherish video or order bulletin inserts.

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.

Geneva offers preparedness and peace of mind with solutions tailored to the needs of ministry leaders and staff.