5 Challenges Every Pastor’s Wife Will Face

Published Jan 18, 2024
5 Challenges Every Pastor’s Wife Will Face

I've met many wonderful people as a pastor's wife for twenty-three years. My husband and I have served in many great churches and have been a part of special events and honors. However, I've seen a great deal of drama and conflict, as well as false claims, accusations, and spiritual attacks over the years. It is a special blessing and honor to be a pastor's wife. Yet, it comes with its own set of unique challenges.

Being a pastor's wife is one of the most difficult jobs. Some churches set specific expectations on a pastor's wife and ask her to serve in certain positions without pay. Other churches don't have any expectations. However, she is required to attend church, hear about all the church conflicts, and receive the attacks on her husband, yet she is not able to address that conflict or attack. Being a pastor's wife is like being asked into a boxing ring, except she has no gloves, training, or ability to fight off her opponent! The pastor's wife is one of the best gifts the church can receive, but if not cared for, she can face many challenges. Here are five challenges every pastor's wife faces:

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1. Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the most difficult parts of being a pastor's wife. It's difficult to make friends with people in the church because everyone expects her to be their friend. Pastor's wives are sometimes expected to attend every event in the church as well. Her absence may signify to people that she doesn't care about their ministry or them personally. It's difficult to make friends within the church, but it's also frowned upon to have friends in the church for fear of cliques. However, in this fast-paced world where many pastor's wives are also homeschooling children or working outside of the home, it's also difficult to make friends outside of the church. Therefore, she must live day-by-day, dealing with extreme loneliness.

One of the ways you, as a congregation member, can encourage her is to take her out for coffee. Get to know her with no strings attached. I have sat through many lunch and coffee dates under the guise that someone wanted to get to know me. However, many of those appointments were merely people wanting to communicate how the church should be better run or voicing complaints so that I would tell my husband, whom they believe I have the power to change. Meetings like this will make a pastor's wife feel duped and used. Pastor's wives are also human and need fellowship and connection like everyone else. Take her out for coffee. Get to know her story. Pray for her. Offer her help when needed. That's the best way to be the hands and feet of Jesus to your pastor's wife.

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2. Unmet Expectations

The second biggest challenge for a pastor's wife is people's unexpressed expectations of her. Just because your former pastor's wife attended or led other events or bible studies, each wife is uniquely wired with spiritual gifts given only by the Holy Spirit. It is unfair to place expectations from the other pastor's wife, whom you liked, onto the new pastor's wife, whom you're just getting to know.

The best way to combat this is to identify her unique spiritual gifts and encourage her to use them in whatever capacity she feels led. Heaping unfair expectations on her dehumanizes her as a person. Even if you are resistant to change and were attached to the former pastor's wife, let yourself get to know the new one. God hand-picked her to be your pastor's wife for this season. Care for her as you would any other person in your congregation. Don't expect her to be anyone but herself.

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3. Comparison

Pastor's wives often fall into the trap of comparison of people comparing them with previous pastor's wives or even more "godly" women within the church. It's human nature for a congregation to compare their newest pastor's wife with the previous one. However, that's not fair to the new pastor's wife. She should be treated as a unique individual, not a carbon copy of the previous person.

When the pastor was hired, his wife also came with him. However, that does not mean they're on the same spiritual journey or in the same place in maturity. God uniquely gifted her to be herself and herself only. Consider how you would feel if you were placed in that position. Would you want to be compared to the last person who led your Bible study? The last person who led your children's church ministry? Treat people the way you want to be treated, and she will feel loved and appreciated.

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4. Financial Hardship

4. Financial Hardship

Not only does the pastor's wife have to deal with everything going on in the church in addition to her other responsibilities, but she may also have to work another job or deal with financial hardship because her husband's not getting paid enough to serve in his role. There are also some pastors who must be by-vocational to make ends meet. When this is the case, this takes a toll on a marriage. Like anyone else, pastors and their families must spend quality time together to stay uniquely bonded. However, when financial hardship reigns, pastors or their wives might need to get another job. This allows for very little marriage or quality time as a family. Many people must deal with financial hardship on top of the spiritual warfare in a church. They must also deal with the strain it puts on their relationships, both with their children and each other.

If you know a pastor or his family is struggling, help them make ends meet. Advocate for them on behalf of leadership to see if they can be paid more. Find leads in their community for additional job opportunities. Pray for provision and ask the Lord to bless them abundantly for their hard work and service to the church and the community.

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5. Competition

Another unique challenge is when pastor's wives feel they have leadership qualities they would like to use within the church, yet other women are in those leadership roles. A pastor's wife can feel stunted in her spiritual growth and leadership capabilities simply because there is no role for her at the church. This is especially true if a pastor and his family enter an already-established church. Some churches have ministries already set in place for people in leadership there. People don't want the pastor's wife, who is already seen as intimidating, infringing upon their ministry status. She may feel as if there are limited (if any) roles she can serve within the church. Service is a place for a pastor's wife to feel she can best love on the congregation. If she feels there are no ministry opportunities, she'll feel stuck and simply fill a pew instead of being utilized powerfully by God.

If this is the case for your pastor's wife, speak to the people in leadership. Ask for a co-leadership role or another way in which a pastor's wife can still minister to the congregation, utilize her spiritual gifts, and allow people to benefit from her wisdom and experience. Change is another factor when it comes to people and their leadership. Help people embrace change and help them embrace the pastor's wife, and she will feel as if she has a place within that church home.

The pastor's wife is a unique, yet often unappreciated, gift to a congregation. A pastor's wife can sometimes fill the emotional void left by pastors and leadership. Love your pastor's wife as if it were yourself. Empower her to use her gifts powerfully for God, get to know her, and allow her to be herself. Accept her as you would any other member of your congregation. In so doing, you will be able to open and utilize the gift that God has given you through your pastor's wife.

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Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.

Originally published Friday, 19 January 2024.