A few years ago, someone asked me an impromptu question at a ladies retreat:
“What is your favorite thing about being a pastor’s wife?”
I was on a Q&A panel with another pastor’s wife and had a microphone in my face, so I knew I had to answer quickly.
Hardly before I knew what I was going to say, I opened my mouth and out came the words:
“Being a pastor’s wife has given me more opportunity to grow than almost anything else in my life.Â I think that’s what I like best about it.”
After the retreat was over, my sister commented, “I liked your answer, Kristy.Â It kind of surprised me though!”
Well, I was surprised that I said it too.
All the challenges, struggles, blessings and burdens of ministry over the past decade-and-a-half have greatly shaped me.
And, I hope, it’s been for the better!
I wouldn’t have signed up for these challenges, but they are part of my life just the same.
If you’re a pastor’s wife, they might be part of your life too.
I originally wrote this post,Â 10 Things Every Young Pastor’s Wife Should Know, in October 2013.
At the time, I felt like I was writing to an audience of one:
Little did I realize that this simple post (which I almost didn’t publish) would go viral and quickly become one of the most trafficked articles on this humble blog.
My honest heart cry as a young pastor’s wife opened a door of connection with many other ministry wives.
If you’re a ministry wife searching for community and a safe place to be encouraged and understood, please consider joining my private Facebook group for pastor’s wives. (You can request to join here.)
Here are ten things every young pastor’s wife should know…
10 things that will very likely shape the kind of woman you will become over the course of your lifetime.
1. You don’t have to be perfect.
You really don’t.
Your husband doesn’t have to be perfect, and neither do your children.
Embracing transparency as the wife of a pastor has been one of the greatest challenges of my life.
After all, who gives us permission to be real?
We have to give it to ourselves.
I grew up in a preacher’s home and knew how to protect myself from getting too close to anyone.
(A life of self-protection is lonely and small.)
After fifteen years of marriage and nearly that many years in full time ministry, I’ve experienced ample opportunity to remove the heavy mask of perfection.
I continue to find the effort required to live “real” with people to be very rewarding, and very much worth the effort.
2. You will get lonely.
For some reason, this came as a bit of a surprise to me.
As an introvert, I’m not a socially high maintenance person.
In fact, I very much need alone time!
But like every other woman, I long to be known and understood.
Those needs are not always met within in the context of ministry life.
You might look for friendship within your church congregation and realize you don’t have a confidant.
Sometimes you will feel misunderstood.
Other pastor’s wives may be too busy to listen or connect.
You may experience loneliness in your marriage.
Then there is the loneliness of physical distance from familiar places and family…
Yes, you will sometimes walk a lonely road.
If your wholeness does not come from within, it might be a very broken and disappointing road.
3. You need a mentor.
You NEED a mentor.
Ask the Lord to bringÂ a Titus 2 mentor into your life.
She might be an older woman, or even a writer or blogger.
Find someone who is a little ahead of you in life’s journey and heading in the direction you want your life to take.
Then become a student of that lady.
I’ve been blessed by friendships with women who have (and continue to) shape and mentor me as a younger pastor’s wife.
If your heart longs for a mentor, please check out my posts on Biblical mentoring here.
4. Your husband needs a cheer leader.
Your husband will get enough “on the job” criticism, griping, and opinions.
He needs someone who believes in him, and he needs you to be that someone.
Yes, you already know all his faults.
Believe in him anyway.
And tell him so.
5. Ministry is Team Work
Satan would like very much to sabotage your husband’s ministry by destroying, or at least weakening, your marriage.
Consider investing in the health of your marriage an utmost priority.
If you feel like you’re doing all of the investing, let me recommend two books:
Love and Respect, by Dr. Emmerson Eggeriches
Boundaries, by Drs. Cloud and Townsend
The best investing I’ve done in my marriage is growing in my own space as an emotionally healthy Christian woman.
I read a lot, try to implement what I’m learning, and seek sound, Biblical counseling when there are issues in my life that I can’t work through on my own.
Only when your marriage and home life are healthy can you truly begin to invite others into that safe place for mentoring and influence.
6. Your Kids Need A “Safe Place”
Preacher’s kids need a safe place; the chances are high that church is not it.Â
People are going to have expectations of your kids.
It just comes with the territory.
Some kids will struggle with this more than others will, and the older PK’s get the more they realize that more is expected of them that their peers.
Mama, you MUST be your kids’ safe place.
Don’t hold your kids to a higher standard just because they are the pastor’s kids.
Give your toddlers permission to be toddlers, not little saints.
It’s okay for your teenagers to be teenagers.
They are humans, after all, and they need space to grow, stretch, question and learn from mistakes.
I realized early on how easy it was to make normal toddler (or teen) issues into a huge deal; not because I felt like it was a big deal, but because I felt pressured by church members to react a certain way.
Your child doesn’t have to wean, walk, potty train, read, play an instrument or volunteer in the nursery just because Mrs. So-and-So thinks it’s a good idea.
Make room for your kids’ humanity and personalities.
Give yourself permission to always be on a grace-filled journey of learning how to love your kids the way God wants you to love them.
Stay connected, especially as kids grow into the teen years.
It’s okay if they sometimes say they don’t like ministry life, or being the preacher’s kid.Â Who says they have to love it all the time?
Let them vent, push back, question and be honest with you.
It’s not your job to turn your kids into trophies or to make them love living in the fish bowl.
It’s your job to be their both their boundaries and their safe place.
7. Personal Growth Isn’t An Option
As emotionally healthy Christian women, we must choose be aware.
There is too much at stake in our lives, homes, and churches, for us to live in a state of being reactiveÂ instead of proactive.
How well do you really know the women in your church community?
It’s easy to jump in with excuses right here, isn’t it?Â Well, no one ever tries to get to know ME…
If that’s true, then you choose to initiate.
Do you want to influence the women God has placed in your life as a pastor’s wife?
Then you must intentionally invest, with no strings attached.
A wise pastor’s wife once advised me, “Try to learn the love language of each of the ladies in your church.”
I took her advise, and I am still working on that project! Â
Learn what makes them tick.
The power of understanding is life-changing and you will find it easier to extend grace to people in your church family with whom you may not naturally bond.
8. Resilience Is a Really Big Deal
Those who anger you control you.
Reject pettiness and take the high road when people are rude, tactless, or simply careless with their words.
I won’t pretend this is easy, because it isn’t!
No one really likes to have to be the “mature” one who doesn’t speak her mind, defend herself, or take offense in difficult situations.
I’m by no means suggesting that a pastor’s wife should never speak up for herself.
Sometimes setting a healthy boundary in relationships or conflict is the most loving and mature thing we can do.
A woman who is petty and easily offended will find ministry to be a very difficult and frustrating space.
9. You Can’t Rescue Everyone or Fix Everything
But you will probably try.
And it will probably wear you out, burn you out, and make you crazy.
Because God never called you to rescue anyone or fix anyone’s problems.
You are called to love well.
God is the only One who can rescue or fix.
It will be easy to try to play God in people’s lives, and sometimes people will expect you to.
But at the end of the day, let God do His work of mending up what Satan and humanity have made a mess of.
10. Prepare to Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
Most of us prefer our comfort zone.
Anything that pushes us away from that safety net can feel like an unwelcome threat!
God will very likely allow you to be pulled and stretched far beyond your natural level of comfort.
You may leave the comfortable setting of home and family and live among strangers.
You may be asked to lead in some capacity within your church or community.
If you are a natural “follower,” this might be hard for you!
God may also give you opportunities to take the back seat, to lay aside your great ideas, roll up your sleeves, and support someone else’s agenda.
If you are a natural leader, following someone else’s lead (sometimes even your husband’s!) might be hard for you.
Whatever your personality, resist the urge to stay in your comfort zone.
Let God stretch you.
Let people and circumstances stretch you!Â
They may be God’s tools for cultivating the deepest and most lasting growth in your life.
What would you add to this list?
Is there something you wish you would have known early on as a pastor’s wife?
Here’s to living and loving well-