11 Things I’ve Learned About Being a Pastor’s Wife

11 Things I've Learned About Being a Pastor's Wife // Jessconnell.com

I’ve been a Pastor’s wife for three and a half years. The first two of those years, my husband was an administrative pastor, which was a very different thing from the counseling and discipleship pastoral role he has now. It’s not been very long, really, but it’s been long enough to have learned a few things and made a few observations.

Here are 11 things I’ve learned (so far) as a Pastor’s wife:

  1. First, something practical. Every week, no matter how hard you work on Saturday to try to shore up the mess, by the time you get to Sunday night, the house looks like a disaster. A pair of tights here, little boys’ belts and underwear there, hair gel dripping down the bathroom counter, paper plates and random food littering every possible surface… it’s just bad. Dishes are backed up, and how did the laundry pile get so very high? And now, we’re adding to it with all the Sunday laundry! My solution? Don’t have people over on Sunday night. …Or Monday. I need LOTS of grace on Mondays.
  2. You will often know people’s most private and heart-breaking information. Medical information not known to the general church Body. Marriage strain. Who has an ongoing difficulty with whom. Financial struggles. Who’s romantically interested in one another. Legal problems and criminal offenses affecting various families. Having access to other people’s personal information is a serious position of trust and it must be even more closely-guarded than you do with your own information.
  3. And yet you are not to use it against them. It’s been a good reminder for me: God knows about every dark corner of my life– the ones He has cleaned out already, and the ones He is still working on… and yet He lavishes great grace and kindness on me. He offers me encouraging words and tender affection. I, too, need to extend kindness and grace to the imperfect people around me… and all the more when they have entrusted us with the tender and hurting places in their lives.
  4. People often feel like they know you, more than you feel you know them. This is interesting, given the truth in #2 (sometimes you do know quite personal things *about them*), but because people know your husband, they feel like they know you. They may know your kids’ names and ages when you’re still learning theirs. They may assume things about your life or draw (accurate or inaccurate) conclusions from teaching times, counseling sessions, and general interactions with your husband.SantaMonica
  5. People may think you can’t understand their real-life struggles. As if your husband is perfect, because he’s a Pastor. As if your children are perfect, naturally bent toward obedience, never defy you with stubborn hearts, and never wake up at night screaming. As if your marriage hasn’t ever faced real challenges, it’s never been difficult for you to financially give, it’s not hard for you to muster up the energy to attend that event, or as if you’ve never struggled or fallen down in your own fight against sin. The real, stinky, ugly sin. Sinny-sin. As if you can’t relate to their real-world problems and your life exists on a totally different plane. I actually forget this one very often… that people here don’t know me as the former-15-year-old rebel who had to learn to submit to Christ.
  6. We are incredibly blessed in our church family. Many pastors across America struggle financially, experience exorbitant pressure from deacons or other church leaders who act as if they “own” the pastor, are worked to death (to the point where they leave the ministry from burnout), or worse. We have not faced these challenges, and I am grateful we have not. But I wanted to mention it, because it is one thing I’ve learned… our situation is, perhaps, not typical. God has tremendously blessed us by bringing us here to this local church Body.Doug & Jess Connell // jessconnell.com
  7. It can be a challenge to develop and maintain friendships as a Pastor’s wife. The things that affect you or weigh on your mind are often things you can’t share or don’t want to burden a fellow church member with, and yet they are real challenges. The things that are affecting them may be things related to the church, which can be hard to hear when your husband is already giving so much to this Body… to feel like you’re letting down (or your husband is letting down) your friend in some way. This can make for an interesting “dance” as you figure out how to be a friend to women in the local Body and yet not become a default intermediary between women, their husbands, and the rightful authorities God has placed in church leadership.
  8. Other people often expect you to be perfect, or do the right things according to their definitions of what is right, and will be disappointed when you do not meet their expectations (which you often won’t, and can’t)I’ve let people down, especially this last year. Though I can help get someone through a crisis moment, I’m not able to be on call as a personal lifeline in an ongoing way. I’m a wife and home educating mom of seven with a fairly new baby. People may expect to be able to drop by the house and have me give attention and time to something else (I usually can’t). Some people may not like everything that’s written on this blog… and yet, I’m writing about the same sorts of things I always have. I’ve never been one to posture and try to put up a front of perfection… I guess my years as a rebellious youth helped me in that regard– I know I’m not perfect… but it can still be difficult to feel like I’m letting people downPhoto on 1-27-14 at 8.56 PM
  9. A pastor’s wife needs to be able to be her real, foibly, “messy,” normal, growing self. I’m a maturing disciple of Christ too. I’m a work-in-progress too. I’m the clay pot vessel– easily broken, but shining with the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ. I’m a needy sinner like the other people sitting in the pews behind us. I’m a tired mother, a sometimes-snippy wife, a not-always-reliable friend, and (too often) a lazy housekeeper. I’m an imperfect gal trying to grow in godliness, in keeping my home, in self-control, in purity, in discernment, in service. Our church does a great job not putting pressure on me to “do it all,” and yet I still feel the tug and have to fight against the feeling that I should be perfect or be able to do everything, be involved in every ministry, etc.
  10. Every month, Potluck Sunday is the day when I’m most tempted toward ungodliness. It’s the perfect storm: husband goes to church early… I’ve got 7 kids plus myself to feed and get ready… and OH YEAH, BONUS!! I get to make a meal and carry it to church too. :) All in the same amount of time I have on a normal Sunday (which never feels like quite enough time, does it?).  And– true story– sometimes I forget that it’s Potluck Sunday until that morning. It’s truly always a blessing to be with our church family (and I mean that genuinely), but Potluck Sundays are a serious reminder for me that I am imperfect and very very apt to fall into frustration, fits of anger, discouragement, lack of self-control, and unloving words toward the people I love most when I’m pressed with more than the load I am accustomed to. Truth be told, God is using Potluck Sundays to change my heart and expose areas of self-reliance, love of comfort, and desire for control that wouldn’t be exposed in other ways, and for that, I thank Him. Even if they are, hands down, the most difficult day of the entire month.
  11. God is faithful. He keeps leading us, as our Good Shepherd, in every stage of life, and He’s still doing it here too. When I get my eyes on me, or on people, I get discouraged… but when I keep my eyes fixed on and my ears tuned to my Shepherd, He is so faithful to lovingly lead us. He cares about me not just as a Pastor’s wife, but as a human soul… His sheep… His chosen one… the pot He has made for the purposes and good works He intended before the foundations of the world. He knows me and loves me and I can trust Him.

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:

  • Are you a Pastor’s wife? What things have you learned?
  • How does any of this compare to your experiences?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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17 Responses

  1. Nancy Wang says:

    I know what you mean about potluck Sundays! I am tempted to skip church on those days. :)

  2. I confess; I laughed through almost everything you said. So very true!!! The only one that’s not true for me is the one about people thinking they know you. Even though we have a small congregation (Spain), I think people are more interested in their own concerns to even care about any of ours. Even when my husband mentions something about our family from the pulpit, it seems there’s an automatic “not interested.” (He does it seldom, anyhow.) So, some people know me for months and are surprised when they find out I have a sense of humor. :o) Life is funny!

  3. Charisa says:

    My husband has been a pastor now for almost a year, and it’s all so true. The parts about a messy house on Sunday and crazy potluck Sunday mornings are funny and all too accurate. We live in a small town where lots of people have to work very hard to make ends meet, and they don’t realize that we’ve been there too (even though my husband has a stable salary now).

  4. Jess,
    I know this is for pastors’ wives, but reading it I couldn’t believe how many points were very applicable for pastors. I frequently found myself saying, “That’s exactly what it’s like.”

  5. Ashley says:

    Yep! Also very fortunate to be at our church, the care for us so very much. I prefer to serve where and how I’m called, not where there is need or doing what my husband does (student ministry)! I lost a dear friend when another staff family moved, and it took me a couple years to find my person that could fill those shoes. Through unlikely circumstances, God has also strengthened the relationships being forged between the other wives just in this last year, which I’m grateful for :)

  6. Kondwani says:

    That was a refreshing read. One thing I struggle most with as a home educating parent with a growing family is that inability to really really give time and resources to people who have genuine need (whereas as you say, in a crisis, or a one-off situation, it is quite different). You must struggle with that WAY more than I do because people do look up to you and have expectations of you.

  7. Melissa Couch says:

    I love you Jess! You’re a gem!! <3

  8. Very much yes to number 1! We also bring food to church 2 to 3 Sundays a month for a fellowship lunch after church. It can be very hard to coordinate meal prep along with regular Sunday morning prep. Some days my husband has to drive separately and while I understand why, it makes it all the more harder to get out the door!

  9. shannon bradbury says:

    I am not a pastor’s wife but my in laws are and I thank you for sharing. As I have been in the family for 15+ years.. I see how normal they are and we all need Grace. We shouldn’t put people on a higher level just and judge them but cause of their job!!! We should see them as real people. I sometimes get comments for being the”pastors” daughter in law..but I like to be normal.

  10. Rachel says:

    Good stuff. My husband has just started preaching in our church this past year, so I’ve been learning the ropes in that area. Often we feel like a one-man-show, since we both teach Sunday School, I’m the kitchen head (on those crazy potluck days) and I play the organ (the only other organist is having vision troubles and hasn’t played in at least 6 months). I bring food in, go over my lessons, teach the class (with fussy baby often), check on food, run upstairs to play while Daddy cajoles baby (sometimes while saying the prayer or handing her to me at the organ as he goes by). I love our small church family, but it does stretch all of us to grow in ways we may never have done in a big congregation.

  11. #10: Have your husband keep packages of Oreos at his office. Potluck Sunday? Pull out a pack or two. Maybe not what you want to bring, but seems like a great solution to me!

    • Jess Connell says:

      :) This made me smile. I would have done this in the first couple months postpartum. :) I *did* do easy things like this… maybe not quite this easy :) but still… easy, right after I had Luke.

  12. Or maybe find a gal who would be willing to make a double portion for Potluck Sunday and you could return the favor for something that matters to her. Quick sewing project. Cut her kids hair once in a while. A free hour of babysitting.

  13. Katherine says:

    I have been reading your blog for the last 6 months or so, and have been so encouraged and challenged by it – thank you! I was particularly interested in this post, as I have been a Pastor’s wife for the last 11 years… my husband is the Associate Pastor at our church – he preaches and teaches frequently, but his primary responsibility is Student Ministries. Although he has been in this position for a long time, I have just started to notice particular struggles for me related to being a Pastor’s wife over the last 2-3 years. It might just be because we are getting older, or because we now have kids, but I feel as though people are starting to creep us up onto a pedistol. I never felt like that before, but am noticing it more and more as our church is growing. The two greatest challenges for me are 1) maintaining friendships with people, and 2) being aware of my influence.

    In terms of maintaining friendships, I find this hard for two reasons. First, for the same reason you mentioned – I am often burdened by issues in the body, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about them. It can get lonely in that way, feeling like you are in kind of a unique position. But it has grown me in my dependence on the Lord – loneliness drives me to my sweet Savior. :) And second, I often stretch myself thin trying to befriend every new visitor who comes to our church. I so desire to know them, love them, and make them feel welcome – but then there are only so many hours in the day, and I of course need to prioritize my ministry to my family.

    The second greatest struggle is simply being aware of my influence. I am a fellow sinner and saint, and yet my words seem to carry extra weight with some people. So, the Lord has been growing me in being aware if my influence and in weighing my words and my counsel carefully. I would never want to unintentionally lead someone astray. At times I feel a great burden of accountability before the Lord about what I say, knowing that others sometimes take my words as absolute truth. I have never been a big fan of the term/idea of “Pastor’s wife” because of my own preconceived ideas of what that woman would be like (and knowing I don’t live up to that ideal).

    Even with these challenges, I am so thankful for His grace, His goodness, His care for me! So thankful for my local church, and so thankful to be able to colabor for the gospel of Christ and His kingdom! :)

  14. Esther says:

    I’ve learned that sometimes, I just need to shut my mouth! There are times that I want to share something with someone (personal, about myself), but it may not be wise. It’s a tough balancing act between being real and sharing TOO much. I’m learning that having a few, close trusted friends is of great value.

    Like you, I feel incredibly blessed in our situation. We have a very supportive church overall, and I haven’t experienced a lot of the hardship that many pastor’s wives have. For that, I am very grateful.

  1. December 5, 2016

    […] are hard days for me, in terms of having meaningful conversations with real people. Now that Doug’s a pastor, I feel so many different pulls on Sundays. Conversations are constantly interrupted and I’m not able to be a very good friend because […]

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