You might be surprised to know that your pastor’s wife is much like you. She is not a celebrity or a super-Christian, but like you, she desires to be a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. That means her God-given priority is to minister to her husband and the children God has given her. That is a big job, as all the other women in the church understand. Like them, she is called to build her house (Proverbs 14:1) and to provide a joyful oasis for her family. Hers is not the special calling of the pastor’s wife, but of all Christian wives.
I never aspired to be “a pastor’s wife,” but I most certainly did desire to be Doug’s wife. When we got married, I didn’t know exactly where he was going, but I knew that I wanted to go too. So later, when he was called to be a pastor, it was obvious that I was called to be a pastor’s wife. At that time, I was fairly clear on my wifely duties, but as to what my being a pastor’s wife might entail, I had little clue. But that was four decades ago.
What Should She Be?
Just like every vintage of wine is unique to its own particular region, climate, altitude, and soil, so every church community has a unique personality and history. And there’s no getting around the fact that the pastor has a big impact on the flavor of the congregation. The goal is for the church to have the aroma of Christ (Ephesians 5:2), to smell and taste like the Glad News of the gospel (Psalm 34:8).
“You might be surprised to know that your pastor’s wife is much like you.”
The pastor’s wife and children will undoubtedly contribute (for good or ill) to his overall impact on the church. Our kids grew up having a high view of their dad’s calling, and they also knew that they were his central qualification for the ministry. If they were wild and disobedient, he would not be fit to be a pastor. How could he lead a congregation if he couldn’t even lead his own children (1 Timothy 3:4–5; Titus 1:6)? This made them feel especially central in his life and calling. They were not brushed aside while he was doing “important” things. They knew that they were his primary “important” things. And now that they are adults, they still enjoy this station.
So too, the pastor’s wife knows that the health of their marriage is another central aspect to his qualification for leadership. I know that if I am not doing well, my husband is handicapped. This is not a trivial thing, but a godly pressure to walk faithfully. Paul lays out qualifications for wives of church officers (1 Timothy 3:11), and I believe the commands to older women in Titus 2:3–5, though applying to all older women, most certainly apply to the minister’s wife, no matter what her age.
Though the pastor’s wife shares the same wifely duties as all the married women in her congregation (see Ephesians 5:22–24, 33; Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1–6), her ministry to her husband is of course connected to his particular calling as a minister. A wife is called to be her husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18), so his particular calling will require particular help.
Helper in the Mission
What kind of special help does he need? His wife has a close-up view, so she can pray specifically for his responsibilities, temptations, and challenges. Sometimes she may be called in to help him with pastoral counseling. She knows these duties are privileges that come with being his co-laborer and co-soldier (Philippians 2:25). Much of this service will be behind the scenes, but some of it will be visible to the congregation.
“The pastor’s wife is not a conduit for the congregation to send suggestions or criticisms to the pastor.”
The minister’s wife is not a church officer, but rather, as a congregant, she desires to serve the church as a faithful member, alongside the other women in the church. This means she wants to participate in, but not necessarily organize the church’s social events. She rejoices to see other women using their gifts and skills to build up the body because this is the sign of a healthy church body.
The pastor’s wife is not a conduit for the congregation to send messages, suggestions, or criticisms to the pastor. He is her husband, but he is also her pastor. She benefits from his teaching and preaching like the other members of the congregation. She is not responsible for the decisions her husband or the board of elders makes. So, when someone in the congregation objects to a decision and tells the pastor’s wife, she will point them in the right direction to register their opinion. In other words, she is not the complaint box.
Treat Her Like a Sister
I remember thinking that being my husband’s co-laborer was definitely more appealing to me than being his co-soldier. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in the line of fire. But a minister’s wife can’t opt out of what God calls her to do. Trusting him and following him is never guaranteed to be easy or comfortable, but he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. I think as the pastor’s wife, I have had tremendous advantages. He is available to me for counsel, for teaching, for hundreds of questions over the years. He is my pastor as well as the congregation’s, and I benefit the most from his ministry. What a joy and blessing that has been!
“The minister’s wife, it turns out, is your sister in Christ.”
The minister’s wife does not require your sympathy for the hardships that come with her calling. Every calling comes with hardships. She serves the Lord gladly at her post, and even in trials, she rejoices that God has called her to serve the church alongside her husband. But she does need and appreciate your prayers and your support. She enjoys friendships in the congregation that are centered on Christ and not centered on her position or her husband’s position. She doesn’t want the congregation to hold her at arm’s length or be intimidated by her. She wants to enjoy the fellowship and communion we have in Christ. The minister’s wife, it turns out, is your sister in Christ, striving to be fruitful and faithful in him, just as you are.