Your Pastor's Wife
Is a pastor's wife to serve Christ and his church in the same way as other women in the church do, or is more to be expected of her? Does she have a special obligation to God and to the congregation of which she is a part?
She Serves God Like Other Members
Scripture teaches us that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This includes every man, woman and child. This means total submission – surrendering our whole being and life to him.
A good test for what you say or do in this regard is to ask yourself, “Can I say or do this to the glory of God?” If I can't, I had better not say or do it. If I can, then I should do it whole-heartedly – as unto the Lord. You might also ask, “If I don't do this task or speak these words, will I be glorifying God?” This teaching in 1 Corinthians is not just for the pastor's wife; it is for all Christians.
As pastors' wives, we are expected to do our usual womanly chores (contrary to the claims of some feminists): washing dishes, cleaning house, gardening, shopping, sometimes working outside the home, raising children, teaching, sewing, chauffeuring, helping others and serving in the church, to name only a few. Our calling as wives and mothers requires us to serve Christ first. But the scriptural teaching about the role of the wife refers to a wife's honoring her husband, being a suitable helper and companion to him and looking after her household. In fulfilling these God-given tasks we are serving him and his church.
God has given various gifts to various women. Clearly he has not given all the gifts to pastors' wives. Some have gifts in music, some in teaching, hospitality, ministering to the sick, encouraging those who are distressed or needing someone to listen to them. And these gifts are not given to every pastor's wife. Each one of us – whether a pastor's wife or not – should seek diligently to know what particular gift or gifts God has given her and how best to use them to his glory.
This sometimes means trying something we haven't tried before, only to discover we have a gift we didn't know we had. Or perhaps discovering we don't have a gift we thought we had! Knowing that we do not have a particular gift can be a blessing that leads us on to something else.
A pastor's wife should have the same privileges and responsibilities as any other woman in the congregation – no more, no less! As a pastor's wife, I feel my responsibility is to try to keep my home in good order so that my husband is free to carry out his God-given responsibilities as pastor of the flock, to love him, to encourage him and to share his problems. This is the responsibility of every Christian woman to her husband. God created Eve to be a helper and a companion for Adam.
Any woman must establish her priorities according to God's priorities. This isn't always easy. Often there are conflicts. Sometimes because something seems urgent, we fail to ask ourselves, “Is it necessary? Is it really important? Is it what God wants me to do? Can I do it and properly carry out the other things that I know God expects me to do?” If God has called us to do a certain task, he will give us every grace to carry it out – whether we are pastors' wives or not. Nowhere in Scripture do I find any special orders for pastors' wives only.
She Serves God Unlike Others Members
The life of a pastor's wife can be very lonely at times. Most pastors, if they are carrying out their duties properly, work much more than eight hours in a work day – and oftentimes seven days a week. A pastor may be home but in the study. When his study is at home, he often feels compelled to be working there even though other men would be spending time with their families. He often has many of the problems of his flock on his mind or is thinking of his duties in presbytery, young people's camp, etc. This doesn't allow him to be as free to say and do the things around his family as he would like to be.
There has to be time spent in calling. If there are children in the home, the wife finds it difficult to go with him. Oftentimes it is advisable, because of the situation, that the wife not go along.
There is counseling to be done, and many times the counseling session cannot be shared with the wife in order not to betray people's confidence in their pastor. This, I think, is especially hard for some wives; because in a Christian marriage we want to be able to share everything – both joys and burdens. But the pastor's wife usually can't share in everything with her husband. There is a sense in which he belongs to and shares with every member of the congregation.
The pastor doesn't leave his problems and work at the office until the next morning. He's on call like a doctor. The telephone was a wonderful invention but it would sure be nice if it didn't ring during mealtime, devotions or the middle of the night!
Members of a pastor's family sometimes feel their lives are not their own. Sometimes phone calls come in, and the conversation goes on for an hour or more. And on several occasions we have had people walk into our home without knocking, which can be embarrassing to say the least.
Sometimes the manse or pastor's home becomes another church building to be used for the covered dish dinner, Bible school, Sunday school, deacons' and session meetings, women's missionary society meetings, etc. This isn't all bad. Sometimes this is the way the pastor's family wants it. But it shouldn't be assumed that every pastor's family wants it that way.
The pastor's family can alleviate some of this in a loving way by letting their congregation know their approximate meal times, times for family devotions or times that the pastor has set aside for his own devotions and study and then asking not be disturbed during those times unless it is an emergency. (This points up the need I see for pastors and their families to try to be more organized so that the congregation, as well as the family, knows what to expect.)
There is a sense in which the congregation looks at the pastor and his family as a perfect example of the Christian family. But no family is perfect. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Because of the many pressures, it is oftentimes even more difficult for the pastor and his wife to have their family under control as they ought. I'm sure most ministers and their wives want themselves and their children to be above reproach; but they are human and not perfect.
Too often, because of the busyness of the pastor, more than the normal amount of responsibility falls on the pastor's wife. The pastor's home is often motel, coffee shop, counseling headquarters and recreational center, putting his wife in the proverbial position of boy scout – always prepared (whether the budget is or not).
These are just some of the ways that the role of the pastor's wife and family perhaps varies from that of most church members.
How Can We Better Serve Together?
- Pray for your pastor, his family and one another regularly.
- Remember that we are all subject to many temptations and shortcomings; so be forgiving.
- Offer to help one another; for instance, offer to baby-sit so that couples can go calling together.
- Help out on hospitality by having people in your home or helping with food or entertainment when the pastor's family has guests.
- Use your gifts in the church. Offer your help. Don't always wait to be asked, or hesitate because you think somebody else can do a better job. Others might like a break, too.
- Don't expect your pastor's wife to be a superwoman, teach, be head of the missionary society, run the Sunday school, play the piano or organ, head up VBS, do a lot of calling, entertain all the missionaries and special speakers, keep a perfect house and always have well-behaved children.
- Consider the pastor's wife a real part of your congregation. Love her, share with her and help her, realizing she can't always confide whole-heartedly with others in the way you sometimes can.
- Together let us search our hearts and the Scriptures and humbly seek, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be obedient to our Triune God and to serve him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.