by John McGee
A pastor gets appreciated. In many cases, though, a pastor’s wife gets “expected.”
She is expected to know all the answers. A pastor’s wife is often expected to be a subject matter expert on a range of topics from parenting to theology in a way her peers aren’t.
She is expected to be flexible with her schedule. A pastor’s life often more closely resembles that of an on-call emergency room doctor vs. someone with a 40-hour-a-week desk job. The pastorate is a constant life of disruption. His wife is often expected to be flexible and pick up the slack.
She is expected to live her life on display. Reality shows are so popular because people love to see what happens when the cameras roll continuously. A pastor’s family can be a lot like a reality TV show for the whole congregation. The congregation inevitably knows incredible levels of details about his family, and his wife is expected to handle the situation with grace. Some people prefer anonymity. A pastor’s wife is rarely afforded that option.
She is expected to fill in the gaps. When there is a need for someone to lead or organize, the pastor’s wife is often expected to fill in the roles that no one else takes.
She is expected to bear the emotional load. Often pastors have very few people with whom they can share their discouragements. This often leaves a pastor’s wife to play the role of chief encourager and burden bearer.
In your church, you probably have a few people that stand out because of the way they serve, love, or lead. They’re the kind of people that a church is built on. The ones you can always count on to do anything. They’re the special ones that have a long track record of faithfulness. Every church has these people and every church celebrates them. They’re affirmed before meetings and in personal interactions. They’re often the positive illustrations in sermons.
Pastors are usually good at affirming and holding up others but sometimes have their appreciation muscles exhausted by the time it comes to building up their wife. If you aren’t careful, you end up “expecting” her more than thanking her.
If you’re married to the pastor’s wife, I encourage you to thank her publicly in a sermon, thank her in smaller groups, affirm her in front of your friends, and honor her in front of your children. Above all, thank her personally in the quiet moments when no one is watching. Ask her what it’s like to be married to you, what unique pressures she feels, and how you can make her role easier.
I know many pastors’ wives (including the one I’m especially close to) that, in spite of all the things they’re expected to do, see it as a great joy and honor to be married to a pastor. They don’t do what they do for thanks or affirmation. However, I think we all know they deserve it.