It’s taken me a few extra days to get this post together, but I’m finally back with our Pastor’s Wife series!

 In case you’re new to this blog, or to this series: My husband has been in full-time ministry as a pastor for nine years.  I’m a mama to five young children, ages nine years down to an infant.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I love connecting with other pastor’s wives and sharing my heart.  Sometimes it’s just good to know you’re not the only one who struggles in an area!  

I’ve received a lot of feedback on this series, via this blog and Facebook, from other mamas who are also pastor’s wives.  So many of these ladies’ comments resounded with me, so I decided to turn some of the comments and questions into a Q&A.  

MamaPastorsWife.banner

Below are a few comments I hand-picked from readers, along with my response:   

One of the toughest parts for me is not having my husband’s help in trying to get the kids ready and out the door for all of the services and various church activities. He always has to be there so much earlier than us! 

For me, getting ready for Sunday before Sunday morning is an absolute must.  

Nothing is more chaotic than running around looking for shoes or Bibles on Sunday morning!  A few things I strive to have done by Saturday night include:

  • Bathe the children and wash their hair 
  • Have church outfits (including socks and shoes!) laid out and ironed, if necessary (don’t iron the shoes of course)  
  • If you have babies or toddlers, have your diaper bag packed with diapers, wipes, a blanket, snacks, etc  
  • Put Sunday dinner in the Crock Pot  
  •  Help the children get their Bibles, purses, back packs, or whatever they need to take to church, ready and easy to find  

Hooks, hooks, and more hooks... perfect for the bathrooms and kids' bedrooms.

  image courtesy: Pinterest

A final thought: keep things simple!  My kids don’t wear a lot of easily wrinkled clothes (and neither do I!).

 We eat a simple breakfast on Sunday mornings.  Lunch is simple too, and supper is generally left-overs or baked sweet potatoes.

Another way to simplify is to teach your children to be independent and to help out.  Even an older child dressing herself, or helping a younger sibling brush his teeth, can make a world of difference when you’re trying to get out the door on time!

 The hardest part has been having no family around to help with the kids. Often I feel like a single mom on a Sunday at church as my husband is very focused on his message. Juggling the kids and trying to greet everyone is hard. 

Yes, it is hard.  We have never lived near either of our families since going into full-time ministry, so I relate to this mama’s struggle as well.  

Here are a few suggestions I’ve found to be helpful:

 Be intentional about training your children. They need to know what is expected of them in church, not just for the sake of good behavior, but to save you a lot of frustration.

 

 Talk to your husband about it!  Let him know you need his support.

If at all possible, find a trusted lady from church who is willing to sit with your family during services.  This is especially helpful when you have babies or very young children.

 Another challenge is knowing how to divide my time between my children and the church people. After church services and at fellowships I find myself torn between being available to church folk and wrangling my kids. It’s been hard to find the right balance. 

  I grew up in a pastor’s home.  From the perspective of a preacher’s kid, I can tell you it’s not healthy for parents to be completely distracted from their young children at church.  I’m not trying to heap guilt on anyone, as I am painfully aware of what a struggle this is!  Just keep in mind that you are a mother first.

 Here are a few thoughts and ideas: 

 Train your young children to stay with you.

 If your older kids are obedient and trustworthy, let them try their wings.  Is your child capable of filling his own plate at a church pot luck?  Then let him!  Do be conscientious, but don’t micro manage (that is exhausting!).

Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from a conversation if your child needs your attention.

Respect the fact that you are a mother with young children, and others will be more likely to respect it, as well.

How do you find time to reach out to others when you’re so busy raising a young family? 

 

At this stage of my life, I am learning to simply welcome people into my life and my home without a lot of “staging”.  

It’s true: I don’t have time for extras.  So if cooking a fancy meal, scouring the house from top to bottom, steam cleaning the furniture, and shining the windows is necessary before I feel “ready” to invite someone over for a meal… well, it will never happen because I don’t have time (or energy) for those things.

If you’re a pastor’s wife with a young family, realize that LIFE and HOME are your platform for compassion and hospitality.

Ministry isn’t so much about “reaching out” as it is about inviting people into your life, as it is, without all the extras and fluff.

hospitality

A few practical ideas:

  • Have your children make cards or draw pictures for shut-ins at Christmas time.
  • Invite a single lady or a widow over for her birthday (prepare a simple meal and just focus on getting to know her a little better).
  •  Make it a habit to drop a card or two in the mail for your church members who are sick, missed a service, have a birthday coming up, or whatever.
  • Prepare a big batch of soup for your family and give the extra to a family who is sick, lost a loved one, or has a new baby.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your friends and church members into your home, even if it’s not perfectly clean.  Will they criticize?  Probably not.  And if they do, rise above it and keep going!

 hospitality

image courtesy: Pinterest

Another tough thing for me is the higher than average expectations that people seem to have for my kids simply because they are “the pastor’s kids”. 

 This is a common complaint among pastor’s families.  While I do recognize that this can be an issue, I believe the underlying root is buried within the heart of the pastor and his wife, not so much the church. What do I mean by that?

Your expectations of your children are far more weighty then the church members’ expectations.

Do you expect your kids to be perfect at church, or at least to appear to be perfect?  How do you respond when your child misbehaves, disobeys, messes up, or embarrasses you?

When our oldest child was a toddler, I realized that my expectations of myself and my daughter were causing me more trouble than any number of expectations from our church family.  To be honest, I was embarrassed when she was naughty, or even simply childish, at church.  I felt the need to prove to everyone that WE were doing things right, that I was a good mother.

When I let go of my expectations and my need to appear to have it all together, I found that other people’s expectations had very little influence.  In fact, I rarely even think about it any more.

Yes, my children are sometimes naughty in church.  Yes, my church family sees it.  Yes, it is a big red flag that we are flawed humans.

And that’s okay.

I need God’s grace.  In fact, I need my church family’s grace!  My children need it too, but most importantly they need their mother to be a willing channel of God’s grace in their lives.

One of the best parts is the front row seat that my kids have to watch God’s working in our church and His working in our own lives through our experiences as a pastor’s family.  

I’m closing with this quote because I LOVE this mama’s perspective!

Sure, being a pastor’s wife and a young mom has it’s challenges.  

Sometimes it’s just plain hard.  

However, the challenges are temporal but the rewards are eternal!

Are you a preacher’s wife? 

What is your biggest challenge?  

Your best tip for juggling motherhood and ministry? 

 

*This post was originally published on November 13, 2013.

Other posts in our 31 Days of Grace for the Pastor’s Wife series:

To the Young Pastor’s Wife Who Can’t Do it All

Balancing Ministry & Motherhood (for the Pastor’s Family)

When You Don’t Always Feel Like a Saint on Sunday

10 Things Every Young Pastor’s Wife Should Know

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41 thoughts on “Q&A: What to do When You’re a Mama and a Pastor’s Wife

  1. Great post!

    Love Dominique x
    http://www.barenaturals.com/news

    Posted on October 17, 2014 at 9:51 am
  2. Hi,

    I can see the last comment/reply on this article was back November 5, 2013. I’m having second thoughts to leave a comment as it might not be responded anymore. But anyways I will, I need to, because this is very encouraging, practical and straight to the point. I also wanted to share my struggles as a young pastor’s wife. Well’ we just celebrated our 2nd year anniversary last September and we have a 1 year and 6 mos. old little boy. Ours was a hyper active kid and is very hard to manage during Sundays. As what other moms expressed, I end up sweating a lot and untidy to look at because I have to handle my child alone, from bathing, packing up things, and during church service because my husband have his hands full during Sundays. I can’t properly greet other members and suddenly sneak out from a conversation seeing my kid running towards the high church stairs or making his way to the front and mess up on musical instruments there. Another is my husband’s mom who happened to be very tactless and often throws unguarded words. It’s so hard to be with her that sometimes I loose my cool and just not speak a word to avoid further chaos. I love my husband so much and I want to learn to love those he does. He is aware of his mom’s attitude and he keeps telling me not to give attention to it and asks sorry in behalf of her mom when everything is past the breaking point. But to me, it’s always a struggle to deal with such an annoyance. But despite these, I wanted to do and stick to what is pleasing before the Lord – to forgive, and love anyway- Please give me some words of advice, tips to better deal with such situation and encouragement to become a better wife for my husband and a better mom to my child.

    Thanks in advance, your reply to this will be very helpful and greatly appreciated.

    Regards,
    Mitch

    Posted on October 6, 2014 at 7:27 am
    1. Mitch, thank you so much for leaving a comment here. I will give some thought to your questions, and will be back with a response soon. Praying for you today, my friend!

      Posted on October 6, 2014 at 10:29 am
      1. Thank you so much Kristy. I am looking forward to reading your helpful response.

        Posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm
      2. I’m sorry, I mean “his mom’s attitude” on my first comment…typo 🙂

        Posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:50 pm
      3. and also I mean “in behalf of his mom” 🙂 guess what… I’m running around keeping my son away from hazards while playing…

        Posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm
      4. I just want to add more personal details about me Kristy, which I think will also be necessary for me to get the help I need. I’m 23 and I am into home-based online job to add to our finances. We are living in a pastoral house which is the first floor of our church building.

        Posted on October 7, 2014 at 6:29 am
    2. Mitch,

      I’m up early this morning and decided to seize this quiet time of my day and respond to your comments. Just now, I re-read everything you shared here and my heart really goes out to you.

      First of all, I relate to you in many aspects. I was 23 years old when my husband first became a pastor. We had a very strong-willed and active toddler, (and, later, more babies came!) and we lived IN the church (we had a “living quarters” in the church, and my kitchen was also the church kitchen!).

      I know how lonely and difficult life can feel when you’re walking in those shoes. Honestly, right now I wish I could pour you a cup of hot tea or coffee and just sit down and let you talk it out over my kitchen table (that’s where I’m sitting right now). Since that isn’t possible, I’ll just share my heart with you right here: I can tell you that God sees exactly where you’re at, and His heart is very much toward you. He feels your pain, sympathizes with your struggles, and understand even when it feels like no one else could possible know what you’re going through.

      It may not seem like it right now, but you are learning and growing as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter of God. Growing can be painful, but it’s a good thing. Embrace the difficulties and ask the Lord to gently show you what He wants you to learn along each step of the way.

      Do you like to write in a journal? If that suites your fancy, start a diary or a prayer journal and begin writing how you feel, your prayer needs, and what God is teaching you along the way. I’ve kept a journal since I was a teenager, and it’s amazing to go back and read through some of those diaries. Sometimes I may have forgotten about a particular trial and how THAT became a turning point in my life, or how THAT was when God spoke certain truths into my heart.

      Regarding your children: I encourage you to read Sally Clarkson’s blog and books. I discovered Sally’s writing when I was in a very similar life situation as you are in right now, and this godly woman spoke such volumes of grace and encouragement into my life.

      Also, learn all you can about child training while your children are young. Yes, they are a handful (my little ones are still a handful!) but they do respond well to loving, consistent training. I love the practical child training ideas at this blog.

      AS far as the challenges of being a pastor’s wife and greeting people: just smile, be real, and love your church family. Seek to cultivate a genuine love for them and interest in their lives. I know it’s hard to do with you’re a tired, busy mom with babies and toddlers, especially when a lot of people tend to be self centered and you feel like you’re always the one doing the “giving”. You don’t have to be super woman. Just love them.

      And lastly, regarding your mother-in-law: I am blessed with a lovely woman for a mother-in-law, but there are other difficult people in my life and I do sympathize with this struggle, too.

      First of all, realize that she may never change and it’s not your responsibility to get her to change. I find that comparing difficult people or relationships in my life, or wishing things were better or different, just makes me feel more frustrated. Just accept that this is the way she is and that the relationship is less than ideal. That’s not your fault or responsibility; you can’t change her but you can control your own attitudes and response.

      Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in dealing with her, and then ask your husband how he wants you to respond when she says ugly or hurtful things. My personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong with having a kind but very firm response when she is being tactless or rude. Her words or attitudes should not control you, your children, or your marriage.

      When dealing with difficult family relationships in my own life, I find that it takes a lot of prayer to get me through! I pray for the Lord to help me guard my tongue (I can lose my cool too!), to give me wisdom and help me forgive, and then I pray that my husband will have wisdom in dealing with that person or situation. Difficult family relationships do affect your marriage, especially when that personal is a close relative, so pray for your husband to have wisdom in dealing with his mother. Chances are, he’s having to learn how to deal with her in this season of his life as a husband and father. He needs your support and understanding, and you need him to stand up to his mother!

      I hope something I shared here makes sense and offers a little encouragement. Please feel free to stay in touch, Mitch; you can always comment here on the blog, or you’re welcome to connect with me personally on Facebook if you have a Facebook account.

      I’m praying for you and know you’re doing a great job! Be encouraged, my friend.

      Posted on October 12, 2014 at 6:10 am
      1. Thank you so much Kristy, I will keep in mind what you’ve shared. Keep up the good work, I’d love to keep in touch on Facebook.

        I just found a friend in you! Thanks again. 🙂

        Posted on October 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm
  3. Thank you for this post! I am a brand new pastor’s wife (5 mos). Although we were in full-time ministry for about 7 years before that, this is the first time I am “alone” with my kids most of Sundays. They are 6, 4, 2, and expecting a newborn in a few weeks. Your thoughts and suggestions were helpful and encouraging. Especially the one about lowering MY expectations. I think I live with so much guilt that I’m really NOT the perfect mommy I want to be. Anyway, I will be following you. I appreciate your willingness to reach out. 🙂

    Posted on November 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm
    1. Thank you so much for take the time to read and comment, Joy! Guilt can be such a peace-stealer, can’t it? Embrace grace, my friend! Be blessed, Kristy

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm
  4. I totally agree, Nicole! The balancing act IS a two-way street.

    Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:36 am
  5. What if your church has a full staffed nursery, toddler, childrens church, etc. but your pastors wife will not use it for there on children?

    Posted on November 6, 2013 at 10:24 am
    1. Jane, we do allow our children to attend Sunday School and children’s church, but we have never felt comfortable leaving our babies and toddlers in the nursery for someone else to care for during church.

      Please respect your pastor and his wife’s decision not to send their children to the nursery or other classes. Families each have their own convictions and reasons regarding this.

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:21 am
  6. I’m not a pastor’s wife, but sill so many great tips there that I can apply to our family. Thanks!

    Posted on November 6, 2013 at 9:35 am
    1. Thank you, Deanna! 🙂

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:22 am
  7. This is great!! I know you well enough to see you living out your advice every week! Keep up the great work! Love you.

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm
    1. Thank you, Julie! I love you too!

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:22 am
  8. I’ll repeat the sentiment — thanks for this series. My husband is in ministry now, but will be officially ordained in February, and I’m feeling the pressure of my upcoming status change! (Of course I realize that nobody is thinking that but me.) We’re expecting our 4th boy in 5 years in December, and I DO feel overwhelmed by wanting to greet people, engage in his ministry, etc., and still keep track of my three toddlers. I’m so proud of my husband — I’m just praying for the grace to rise to the occasion myself. 🙂

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm
    1. God will give you the grace you need, Christine! He is very, very faithful.

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:24 am
  9. I am a pastor’s wife of 15 years and mother of 4 children. When my kids were toddlers, I dressed them in Sunday shoes that were two sizes too big – then they couldn’t run very fast!

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm
  10. What I’ve come to learn as a Pastor’s wife (my husband is one of the associates) is to remember that since people are watching our family, to make sure that what they see is a good example of a family. I know some would say that you’re putting pressure on yourself and your kids. So, let me explain. I don’t expect anything from them that I know that they simply can not do (like sit still for HOURS!). But, what I do expect is obedience and proper behavior. I try to teach them the importance of obedience and good behavior. I guess it’s due to what I’ve seen and heard from others in the past (that the Pastor’s kids are the worst kids in the church. We’re also the minorities there too). Since my husband and I both were blessed with great parents who instilled in us the importance of obedience and good behavior, we try to make sure that’s being taught to them as well.

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    1. It’s so true that people ARE watching us. I agree: good training is essential for every Christian family, and should be role modeled in the leadership of the church for example’s sake. One of the requirements listed for leaders in the church in the book of I Timothy is that a man’s household and children be in order!

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:29 am
  11. I am a pastor’s wife of 23 years and the mom of 4. My husband and I have planted 3 churches. I am also a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s granddaughter. These are wonderful ideas to help with ministry. I would encourage each pastor’s wife to remember that your primary ministry is your family and if you children are young they will take up the bulk of your time. You are the only person God has called to be a helper to your husband and that includes taking care of your home and your children. Also if your children are younger (mine are a little older now) remember that this is only a season in your family. I can promise you as a mom who had 4 boys under the age of 6 that these days will pass and they will pass quickly. Now that my boys are older I find that I have more freedom to do ministry in the church. Also I believe because my husband and I have invested time and energy in our children we are seeing them begin to do their own ministries.

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm
    1. Thank you so much for this, Robin! I love your perspective and find it very encouraging! Thanks for sharing.

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:16 am
  12. Thank you so much for this series. We are a church plant and have been in the ministry for almost 3 years now. It has been a very slow going process for us and even without very many people at our church, I often struggle with all of the above. We have 5 children and I often miss a large portion of our service because I’m dealing with the baby. Even though we have family in the area, I have often felt alone. I try to focus on my children and doing what I can for others in the church, which helps but I do miss the fellowship with other young moms.

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm
    1. I would love to connect with you because I am in a similar situation Kelly. Chrissistevens@hotmail

      Posted on November 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm
    2. Kelly my husband is also a church planter (we planted our current church 4 years ago and this is our 3rd church plant). if you ever want to chat feel free to email me or find me on facebook. Robin Carneal Fowler

      Posted on November 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm
    3. Kelly, I know that feeling so well. My husband’s first pastorate was a small church in a rural area, and I felt very alone sometimes.

      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:31 am
  13. My biggest challenge is that I cannot come alongside my husband in his ministry because there is no childcare when he is teaching the youth group on Wednesday. I have a toddler and a baby and it’s so hard with them being the age they are. I try to sit in Sunday night service with both of them but we always have to leave after the first song because one of them starts screaming. It’s such a struggle, but there is nothing I can do. I have no help.

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm
    1. Heather, I understand. There are many times that I feel like I’m not doing much to be involved in my husband’s ministry because I’m spending so much time with fussy babies and naughty toddlers. All I can say is that MOTHER IS A MINISTRY. It is our first ministry. Don’t devalue the importance of nurturing and training those little ones, even if it means you spend more time in the nursery than you do in the pew.

      Posted on November 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm
      1. Thank you. I agree, motherhood is my ministry right now. I guess I just get frustrated that I have no help. But it seems I am not alone and I guess it is my job to care for my own kids. 🙂

        Posted on November 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm
      2. You are certainly not alone, Heather!

        Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:18 am
    2. Heather, I don’t know the particulars of your situation, but as the wife of a youth minister, I can tell you that the best times to come alongside him in ministering to youth is actually before and after the teaching sessions. Then your kids can actually become your greatest ministry tool. When they see us as a family and see how we treat each other and the expectations we have for handling our children, they learn. And it helps us connect with the students in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I don’t know if that helps or not, but I wish you peace as you follow God in raising your precious family.

      Posted on November 6, 2013 at 12:43 am
      1. I so agree, K! I love your statement, “Your kids can actually become your greatest ministry tool.”

        Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:18 am
  14. Thank you for writing this! The one of inviting people into my home, I’ve slacked off in…and it’s because of feeling like it needs to be perfect first. An expectation I’ve placed on myself. That is going to change! Thanks again!

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 11:16 am
    1. Amber, I have really struggled with this one over the years! It’s so freeing to relax and live free from our own unrealistic expectations.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

      Posted on November 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm
    2. I struggled with this as a pastor’s wife and home school mom. One day the Lord reminded me that it was my pride that was keeping me from wanting anyone to see my house if it wasn’t perfect. (Ouch) So I just tried to keep the front room clean or as least presentable! Later a lady from the church told me that because my house wasn’t perfectly clean it made her feel comfortable to allow me to see her imperfect house.

      Posted on November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm
      1. You’re right, Mom: it is PRIDE that wants to make us hide behind a facade of perfection!

        Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:35 am
  15. I am a mama of 2 under 2 and a pastors wife, going in 4 years! God is good and I am glad to see that I amputting these things already into practice!!!! Thanks for the encouragement and the idea to allow people in to share life with you!

    Posted on November 5, 2013 at 9:57 am
    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, my friend! God IS so good and SO very faithful. It’s a joy to see Him leading and teaching us, isn’t it? Be blessed!

      Posted on November 5, 2013 at 10:59 am