Church leaders are continually in the front line when it comes to leadership, but there is also another group of people who are impacted by the fallout and the collateral damage: the pastors wives. Because of their proximity and loyalty to their husbands, they are often the silent and unheard walking wounded in the church. They see and hear more than almost anyone else, but don’t always have the authority, network, relationships or platform to healthily work through challenges they face. So how do we protect the wives of pastors in the midst of the struggles that could come their way?
Interestingly, the scriptures don’t say anything about the qualifications required for the wives of elders. There is something said about the qualities expected of the wives of deacons, which we can apply to elders wives because eldership is the ‘higher’ role. But many expectations put upon pastors wives are just cultural or personal preferences and can be treated as such.
Incidentally, if you are a female church leader, or your church is led by a woman, this article is still just as relevant to the husbands of pastors and church leaders. Just to make that clear!
Protect wives by helping them cultivate authentic friendships
Yes, this might mean friendships outside the church… even with non-believers (shock, horror!) It’s hard to share things with someone in the church when you know you need to be discreet, loyal and not critical. But having someone who doesn’t have a stake in the church there as a support… it’s gold. We all benefit from having people in our lives who don’t see us role-first. Pastors wives can’t be best friends, or even friends, with everyone in the church.
Protect pastors wives by being available to them
Church leadership is busy! So as church leaders, it’s important we manage our time and prioritise family – our wife included, not just children. Challenge anyone who will not honour that boundary. But before you do that, you need to have the boundary up and treat it like one. Have non-negotiable date nights. Stick by that!
Protect wives by defining expectations
Strangely, some people in churches consider pastors public property – which also means their wife and children. So they’ll have expectations about your wife – and your children – that she and they won’t know about until she fails to meet them! That’s draining and hard to live by. No-one should be setting irrelevant and unscriptural standards of activity, dress, conduct or whatever else in your marriage. Support your wife by protecting her by working with her to define what your family expectations are. If you both are on the same page, it’s easier to ignore the critics and uninvited advice-givers.
Protect pastors wives by bolting the gate
What do I mean by ‘bolting the gate?’ I’m referring to the strange phenomenon that pastors wives often encounter, which is being used as messengers for people who want to say something to the pastor but won’t for whatever reason. The gate is open when people freely think this is OK. So close the gate and bolt it shut. Redirecting people firmly but with a smile will soon show that it’s not OK to treat pastors wives like that. Related to that is when people ask pastors wives questions about the church – admin, or events. Kindly redirect them to the appropriate people – again, with a smile on your face!
Protect wives by letting them determine their own ministry
Some people expect pastors wives to hold pudding sales, church fetes, embroidery classes or parenting groups. For some wives, they love that. For others, it’s their idea of purgatory. Pastors wives have their own struggles, yes – but also their own unique call, gift and passions that is actually separate to the role. Make room for them, like you would anyone else. Empower them – and let them be who God has made them be. Pastors wives shouldn’t be considered employees of the church unless they are genuinely on staff – and even then, they need a clear job description to protect them from becoming a jack of all trades for all kinds of requests!
Protect pastors wives by giving them their time
Do pastors have to be at every meeting, function, conference, event or gathering? I sincerely hope not! Clear expectations and boundaries for the pastor, his wife, and the church are helpful here. Otherwise, you’ll end up living in church meetings and could end up resenting it.
These suggestions might help protect pastors wives as they navigate the struggles that unfortunately come with the job. To find out more about how I can coach pastors and their wives through the challenges of church leadership, click here.