The Pastor’s Wife in the PCA

 

How do pastors’ wives in the PCA feel about their unique place in the life of the church? We wanted to find the answer to that question so we asked them. Using an anonymous survey, we asked a series of questions to better understand life from their perspective. Here are three important insights we discovered.

  • They are treated differently than other women in the church.
  • They face seen and unseen expectations.
  • They love the church.

Pastors’ wives are put in an almost impossible situation. While many of them love their church, it is often difficult for them to form relationships with members of its congregation. Additionally, they face stressfully high expectations to minister to others while appearing put-together and welcoming, all without having much of an outlet to express their own struggles. We sent out a survey to over 100 PCA pastors’ wives and the results show how dire this situation really is.

When asked if they thought they were treated differently than other women in the church as a result of being the pastor’s wife, an overwhelming majority of respondents answered “yes.”

graph 1

One respondent shared her own story on how pastors’ wives, especially the wives of senior pastors, are treated differently than other women in the church.

It’s a lonely life. Before becoming the senior pastors’ wife, I was the assistant pastors’ wife. Once that “senior” mantle was placed on my husband, I have felt as if I am now being treated differently, like the ladies who I used to talk and laugh with over everyday life and children “stuff” are now afraid to share with me. In turn, that makes me feel as if I can no longer confide in them–my fears/sins/etc. may affect the way these ladies (and subsequently their husbands) view my husband and his ministry to them.

In addition to being excluded from normal conversations, pastors’ wives also face a variety of expectations and fulfill a number of duties in the church, despite the fact they do not receive any kind of payment or title from their work. When asked what spoken and unspoken expectations pastors’ wives face that other wives in a church do not face, our respondents said this:

graph 2

The results from this question show that pastors’ wives are heavily involved in church activities and face greater scrutiny than other wives when it comes to their families and marriages. Additionally, “other” responses show pastors’ wives face high expectations when it comes to how they show hospitality, how they answer theological questions, and even what careers they choose. Read these comments from two of our respondents:

People think I should know what’s happening all the time and they expect me to know answers to bible questions.

[I am expected to] greet visitors, speak on parenting & marriage issues and know what’s going on with everyone. 

Pastors’ wives make valuable contributions by serving the church, ministering to others, and being the primary support and sounding board for the pastor. When asked what they thought their most valuable contribution to their church is, nearly half of all respondents said they contribute by supporting the pastor and bearing his burdens. The other half responded by saying they contribute by ministering, counseling, showing hospitality, and being open and honest about their struggles to others.

graph 3

Pastors’ wives fulfill a number of jobs, but the combination of being treated differently and being burdened with constant expectations is wearing and stressful. When asked what the leading cause of stress was, nearly half of respondents said it was related to their relationships with their church.

graph 4

Despite the stress, pastors’ wives do love their churches and they want to see the congregation flourish. It is the job of Christians and church members to ensure that pastors’ wives receive the counseling and care they need so they can continue to their ministry. When asked how her church could help, here’s how one pastors’ wife responded.

Being a pastors’ wife is undeniably difficult but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it’s in the stress and mess, the pain and work that I have seen God work mightily. Through the difficulties, He has grown me and brought glory to himself! I do think counseling could be helpful – I feel like I can’t talk to just anybody in my community about issues because their expectations and assumptions may prevent them from understanding the difficulties we face.

We asked our respondents, on a scale of 1-10, how likely they would be to use free or low-cost confidential counseling with a professional counselor. The average score was 8, with 57% of respondents answering with a 10.

graph 5

If these results show anything, it is that pastors’ wives, like anyone else, need nurture and support. However, due to their role, it is difficult for them to receive this kind of care from their peers, which is why we have Cherish. Cherish provides PCA churches a practical way to cherish pastors’ wives with the encouragement and assistance they’ve requested through affordable access to confidential Christian counseling.

Click here to learn more about Cherish and how to give PCA pastors’ wives access to someone outside their church with whom they can fully and honestly process life and ministry.

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