Today’s Pastor’s Wife

PastorswifeUpon my introducing myself as The Pastor’s Wife on a recent Sunday morning, a woman looked so delighted that it made me feel wonderful. And then she said, “It’s so nice to have a pastor’s wife. I’ve missed having a pastor’s wife.” I didn’t mention that she might not see me again for several months.

Needless to say, I am not in my spouse’s worship service very often because 1) I too am a pastor and 2) my own job involves visiting other churches on Sunday mornings. So far in 2015 I’ve preached or taught classes or moderated meetings in fifteen different churches on Sunday mornings. That leaves six Sundays and – on a couple of those – I’ve been out of town for some reason or other. [Note: one of the joys of being a non-parish minister is that I have more control over my weekends. I’m a big fan of Sundays off.]

Another truth of Today’s Pastor’s Wife is that the wife might be a husband. Or The Clergywoman’s Spouse might be another woman or even another Clergywoman.. Or the Pastor could be single. So there you go.

My first field education supervisor was married to a clergywoman and I remember him mentioning that one of the reasons that he and his spouse knew that they could love that congregation was because of this conversation:

Clergyman Candidate During Interview: What are your expectations for my wife?

Pastor Nominating Committee: (confused facial expressions)

CCDI: Do you expect her to fill a certain role?

PNC: (Still looking confused.) What would she like to do?

Correct answer.

What I love about being The Pastor’s Wife:

  1. HH’s congregation is wonderful and I love them. They like having me around but they also support my own ministry. (Thank you, folks.)
  2. I love getting the sermon preview.
  3. I love talking about art and worship and Church World with HH.
  4. I love the opportunity to preach in that pulpit occasionally.

There are still pastors’ wives out there who are expected to direct the choir and bake the brownies and teach Sunday School and good for those who enjoy that part of being married to the professional minister. But keep in mind, gentle parishioners, that your pastor’s family lives a different sort of life. Her/his children are not members of the staff nor are her/his spouse. And if you pastor is single, please be respectful of her/his free time. (I remember as a single pastor that people regularly started late night phone calls by saying, “I’m sorry it’s so late, but I knew I wouldn’t wake up anybody but you.”)

Our culture has changed, both domestically and ecclesiastically. Your pastor’s spouse could be a local professional or a stay-at-home parent or a commuting partner living in another state. One of the best things you can do is accept this and be nothing but encouraging. And if your pastor is single, bless her/him with privacy – unless your pastor authentically wants your matchmaking assistance.

This post is dedicated to two favorite pastors’ wives from my childhood: DHB and HM.

11 responses to “Today’s Pastor’s Wife

  1. I was hoping for some elaboration after “nor are her/his spouse.” My husband is a pastor, and I envy you a little because your husband’s congregation doesn’t have the expectation that you will attend their church every Sunday. And the fact that you aren’t there very often might be why you feel so loving toward them. Most clergy spouses have one chance, if we’re lucky, to a worship service before our spouse accepts the call to work for a congregation. No one else joins a church after one visit, but I’m expected to. So I can’t say I “love” the pastor’s-wife role—it’s complicated. Frankly, in this day and age, I wonder why congregations would feel entitled to have any expectations of their pastor’s spouse. Do you have any thoughts on this?


    • Thanks for this. First of all, I even questioned writing about this because – for many of us- every word I wrote is very old news. Also, I was a pastor before I was a pastor’s wife and my experience as solely “the pastor’s wife” is limited.

      To be honest, not every congregation is lovable especially to the pastor’s spouse.

      The biggest issue by far is The Toss Out Comment: “We haven’t seen you lately.” “We thought we’d see you at the bake sale.” “”When are you signing up for the Bible Study?” “We were surprised when you didn’t make it to the sunrise service.”

      Parishioners who might be reading: these comments do not help us love you. They assume that we’ve done something wrong/aren’t committed. Just because it’s our spouse’s life/job, doesn’t mean it’s ours – especially when our presence will be viewed as a requirement rather than something we will enjoy/find satisfaction in.

      Clergy spouses- like every human being- need friends. Authentic friends. Not friends who are trying to get close to the pastor or finding out the secret mysteries of Life in the Manse. Not friends who will judge. Not friends who will gossip.

      If possible, we need friends who have nothing to do with our spouse’s church. (Thank you Jesus for LB.)


  2. Sorry–It’s supposed to say “to visit a worship service”


  3. Thanks, I have been that pastors wife and pastor, and later part of the judicatory


  4. Thanks for this good word, Jan! I long for the day when my wife is allowed to be a member and use her gifts. Currently she does pulpit supply about two Sumdays a month and as a Ruling Elder from her previous life (we have been married for 18 months) is a member of out Presbytery Committee on Ministry. These outlets are a life saver for her!


  5. Esperanza/Monica

    Yep. I like my husband’s congregation better when I am not with them every week. The feeling may be mutual; I don’t know 🙂 I don’t mind helping out when I can, and they don’t expect it of me, which is a great gift. But I need my own churchy space that isn’t connected to his.


  6. Well done as always, Jan. I have been in both positions and prefer being the pastor as the expectations are clearer and call on my strengths and gifts better.


  7. Thank you for this. I am a relatively new clergy spouse still struggling with being able to “Be Myself” in the congregation. Added to this is that my beloved is the associate, not the head. I have entertained some serious thoughts of not worshiping with him, but that makes me sad. So I pitch in and do what I can, but my ideas are often left lying on the floor.

    Fortunately, I found a small niche where I can serve, that was completely empty. (Mostly older men come to my new class. This amuses me.)

    But if you ask me if I LIKE being a clergy spouse, I would be hard pressed to say yes. Yet.

    Still, I feel that we got called into this together, and that God will help me work it out. Just maybe not as fast as I would like!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.