March is Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month. Did you know that? Don't feel bad...I didn't either. But since it is and since I recently began a pastor's wives blog and Facebook page, I thought it would be good to discuss your pastor's wife here and maybe give you a rare look into her life. You may not know what she is walking through. I have been loved so well, taken care of, and befriended in the churches we've been in...but I've learned some things through a few of my own circumstances and a lot through other pastor's wives and the difficult things they've faced.*
Did you know most pastor's wives feel invisible in their church? And if they don't feel that way, they almost feel like they should be that way. They have no say. They usually hear all of the problems of the church because their husband needs a safe place to unload...but they are powerless to change anything except through prayer. They can't go tell off the church board or deacons or negotiate with the finance committee. Their response has to be to continue loving everyone--regardless of how they or their husband have been treated. I've never been a part of a church where a pastor's wife was allowed to be on a committee. They literally have no say--beyond maybe raising their hand to vote--which they may even be fearful to do that.
Did you know most pastor's wives fight the expectations of their church? You don't think you have expectations? What if the pastor's wife walks right by you without speaking? What if the pastor's wife invites another woman over for coffee, but not you? What if she is quiet and reserved and doesn't get involved in church activities? What if the pastor's wife is outgoing, outspoken, or loves to take charge? See? We do have expectations. We want the perfect mixture. The perfect pastor's wife is someone who is outgoing and speaks to everyone but never oversteps her bounds. She leads the women's groups and teaches the children but never makes a suggestion to a man in leadership. She opens her home to everyone, not a select few. You never hear her argue with her husband or criticize how the church is run. Ahhh...yes. The perfect pastor's wife. The model none of us can live up to.
Did you know most pastor's wives would do so much more if they could afford it? It takes money to invite people into your home. It is expensive to invite a couple or a family out to eat. If she plans a women's retreat, she has to be able to afford it herself. She might love to be involved with the youth or missions programs, but it would be impossible to pay for all of the trips they take. She may not be able to be a part of a women's video series because she can't afford the study book. It takes money to lead and very few pastor's wives are compensated for the expenses of the ministries they do. It's just expected.
Did you know most pastor's wives fear comparison? If your last pastor's wife was well-loved, the new pastor's wife knows she's starting from behind at the get-go. She may fear being involved in or leading out in the same things the former pastor's wife was involved in because of being compared. She may fear failure--not because of anything she's done, but just because she doesn't measure up to what the last pastor's wife did.
Did you know most pastor's wives have been subjected to private criticism of their husband or children by someone in the church? This is probably the biggest cause of pastor's wives "retreating" from church people. Some people feel called to let the pastor's wife know of every mistake their husband makes. And especially when their children become teenagers, some busybodies are watching and waiting for their children to sin. Very few pastor's kids are allowed to be just that...kids. Everything they do is scrutinized, gossiped about, and condemned just because they're the pastor's kid. There are very, very few kindhearted people in the church who take those kids under their wings and love them unconditionally and encourage them continually. It's the reason so many PK's leave the church. (I hope if you know of an offense you've caused, you'll go this week and ask forgiveness.) Every pastor's wife hopes for a kindhearted soul to mentor her kids to reinforce the things they're learning at home. By the way...there's no perfect kid...PK or otherwise.
Did you know most pastor's wives are lonely? Some of them are afraid to make any friends because of the possibility of some women in the church feeling left out. Or they don't want to risk being criticized. It's risky business having friends when you're the pastor's wife. If you share your burdens, the very person to whom you share may turn on you and use you as fodder for church gossip. The pastor's wife knows that sharing her burdens could even be the means to having her husband fired. Most pastor's wives have surface-level relationships because of the risk of sharing their hearts.
Did you know most pastor's wives have tried to talk their husbands into getting out of the ministry at some point? The pressures are real. The enemy has a bullseye target on their family. And the complaining, control, and offenses in the church can be overwhelming.
What does your pastor's wife need? She needs a friend. A supporter. Someone who will love her, her husband, and her children unconditionally. She knows she's going to make mistakes and may even mess up BIG time! But she wants the grace--and a safe place--to make mistakes and survive. No...thrive! Every pastor's wife also hopes for enough compensation so she doesn't have to work outside of the home. She hopes for enough in her husband's salary so she isn't constantly worried about how to feed her family--and still do things to be involved in the church--especially if she has two babies in diapers or two or more teenagers needing to be involved in youth programs/trips/camp. Most of all, your pastor's wife needs encouragement. The pastor gets lots of pats on the back (hopefully!)--he's upfront and visible. Very few pastor's wives get the same. Even if her concentration during her time in your church is on rearing her children, she needs to hear someone say, "You're doing a great job!" and mean it.
Like I said...I've been loved well. In fact, I have to pray I don't get a big head because of all of the affirmation I get--and have gotten from each church I've been in. But so many of my sisters doing the same job are hurting. Everyone wants to be appreciated. I hope you'll take the opportunity this month to encourage your pastor's wife--even if you've never done anything like that in your life! Ask God what she needs...and do what comes to your mind. And next time you're tempted to criticize her, I hope you'll remember....she needs a friend, not a critic.
Most of all, pray for her.
And...I hope you'll share this page with all of your friends and your church. Every pastor's wife needs an advocate.
* Believe me when I say that I know there are pastor's wives in a totally different hemisphere who just don't care what the church thinks--and could care less if someone reaches out to them. They may be rebellious or bitter. In fact, they may be the ones trying to destroy their husband's ministry or the church. And there are women whose husbands aren't in the ministry who suffer some of these same things [i.e. a coach's wife]. But I also know Satan is attacking church leaders in hopes of getting rid of church leaders...and churches, for that matter. Even if your pastor's wife is in that different hemisphere, she (more than any of the others) needs to be ministered to. What if she could be transformed by your love? Your pastor's wife may have also offended you. I've been guilty of the very same thing. But you know what? Sometimes we don't even know! If you've been offended, please go to your pastor's wife (even if she's left your church) and work out that offense. God desires unity. And if you're just hanging on to how bad a pastor's wife was, please let it go and extend her some grace. You just might not know her story...and we all need grace.
"...more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!"
II Corinthians 4:15