It’s risky to talk about pastors, which is what we do a lot here. But it’s even riskier to talk about the pastor’s spouse! Our goal in this article is to recognize the pastor’s spouse, and discuss the often-overlooked importance of their role. Every church is different. Every marriage has its own unique characteristics. Every family holds distinct variations on family life. Thus, there are no sweeping declarations that we can make regarding the pastor’s spouse. Instead, we have suggested the corrective to some faulty ways we’ve viewed and treated the pastor’s spouse.
Don’t take the pastor’s spouse for granted.
In one of my seminary classes, my professor explained that there is no such church office as “pastorswife.” We have overseers, and deacons — those are obvious. But there is no such biblical church position as “pastorswife.”
His comment was, of course, intended to be humorous, but he also wanted to make a point. All too often, we take for granted the fact that the pastor is married, and that the pastor’s spouse is expected to do the typical duties of a pastor’s spouse.
When we take the pastor’s spouse for granted, we tend to minimize that person’s significance and unique role in the church. The pastor’s spouse has gifts, just like every Christian has gifts (2 Cor), but there ought to be no expectations of the spouse other than those that Scripture suggests.
When discussing the requirements of an overseer, the Bible states simply that the overseers are to be the “husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:3; Titus 1:6). In a passage discussing the qualifications for deacons, the Bible makes clear that “their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things,” a statement which can presumably be applied to the overseer’s wife as well.
To take for granted the presence of the pastor’s spouse, and to expect this individual to fulfill some clearly-defined role other than what the Bible says is misguided.Let us be thankful for the pastor’s spouse, and the role that they play in the church. But let us not take them for granted.
Don’t push the pastor’s spouse too hard.
One of the problems that stems from taking the pastor’s spouse for granted is pushing them too hard. In my Christian tradition, it was sometimes joked that a good pastor’s wife should be able to play the piano, sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, and make an amazing meal for Sunday dinner after church. In my Christian college, the “preacher boys” were supposedly on the lookout for a “godly but good-looking girl” who could fulfill all these important obligations.
If this quip were followed (and in some sad cases, it was), it would be demeaning to the God-given individuality and uniqueness of the spouse, let alone the “varieties of gifts” and “varieties of activities” given by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-5).
The pastor’s spouse is in the first place the pastor’s spouse — whatever that means in that particular family and marriage. Spouses love one another, help one another, are in union with one another, and if God gives them children, they raise those children together. Their marriage is central to who they are and what they do. Church ministry is a part of the spouse’s life, just as it is the part of any believer’s life.
Wipe away any preconceived obligations of what a pastor’s spouse is or does, and don’t push these folks too hard.
Don’t overlook the pastor’s spouse.
When you are the spouse of a pastor, there is the risk of fading into oblivion. The pastor is the one speaking, leading, guiding, teaching — the one in front. The pastor’s spouse on the other hand, may become marginalized.
Some pastor’s spouses may prefer it this way — to say out of the limelight and attention. Keep in mind, however, that the pastor’s spouse may value the ministry and encouragement of the church body just as much as the pastor.
Being the spouse of a pastor isn’t an easy job. There are unique challenges that come with the territory. Few, apart from pastors spouses themselves, understand such challenges. Don’t let your pastor’s spouse become neglected or undeserved.
Don’t place the pastor’s spouse on a pedestal.
The pastor’s wife, like the proverbial pastor’s kids, are expected to be on their best behavior at all times. Somehow, because of the marital tie to the Right Reverend, the spouse must possess the holy glow of perfection at all times.
No human being is capable of withstanding such sanctimonious scrutiny. The problem is that we compulsively look to such people as a model of right behavior. The pastor’s spouse becomes the standard of the godly spouse, and all look to them for their example. The line, “I saw Pastor’s Spouse doing it, too!” becomes either a bit of juicy gossip or an excuse.
Please recognize that the pastor’s spouse is mere mortal — a growing, struggling, sometimes-sinning Christian. You’ll have to look elsewhere for your super saint.
God has given us pastors and even the pastor’s spouse, if there is one, for our edification. But, as we’ve often said, ministry goes both ways. Instead of taking them for granted, expecting too much from them, overlooking them, or placing them under holy scrutiny, let us encourage them, befriend them, and treat them like normal people.
Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.