Loving the Wife of your Pastor

First of all, I realize that the title of this post is a little sexist. I know dozens of families where the wife is the minister or where both husband and wife have been called to vocational ministry side by side. But, to be honest, I can't speak to that life. I write what I know. And this is what I know. My husband is a pastor, and I'm his wife.

We don't deserve the blessings we receive. I can't keep up with all the heirloom tomatoes I'm finding lovingly tucked inside our doors. From restaurant gift cards, to written notes, to free babysitting, our church knows how to love us and love us well. This isn't a passive-aggressive rallying call for more gifts on our doorstep. Really, we're all stocked up on zucchini here.

Instead, with these words I hope to offer a glimpse into my life. And if you have a small tug on your heart to bless the one who is married to the one who ministers to you, here ya go. My take on things (with a tiny bit of Monday snarkiness :)

-I find vulnerability tricky. Do I long for belonging? More than you know. And more than a crumby kitchen floor or dirty laundry run amok, what I'm worried about uncovering is spiritual struggles. Don't be surprised if I can't really tell you about the tough times in my marriage, because truthfully, do you really want to see the human side of your pastor? Will it change how you see him on Sunday to hear from his wife about all the ways he fell short during the week? I can talk about my life, but really, don't surprised if I keep quiet about my husband. He's a wonderful provider, strong leader, and the hardest worker I know. He's also human. So just know that I can be a good listener but I might need to go outside our church to find someone to be a listener for me.

-Make us part of the fam. Most pastors minister in communities hours and even states away from their families. Added to that they fact that weekends and holidays are the most important work times for vocational ministers, and we are often isolated from family on important days. So we would love an invite for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or Mother's day. We probably won't stay long, and we won't judge your uncle who tells off-color jokes. We'd just appreciate that chance to be a part of a bigger circle and not eat our turkey alone.

-Treat us like single parents on Sunday. Of course, I have such big time respect for ACTUAL single parents and loving them could be a whole other post: but for wives of pastors, we are going it along on Sundays. So don't expect us to have it all together because Satan usually hit us hard in the A.M. If we make it out of the door without having to eat crackers off the floor or having poop on our hands, then it's a small miracle. If you need to tell me something, maybe an e-mail or a message at a later time (when the baby's not making a dash for the coffee bar) would be better. Maybe sit by me during the service so I don't have to sit alone. And if you offer to carry the baby while I make up our plates through the pot-luck line, well, I might have to kiss you.

-Expect the same commitment that you would any other woman with my age and responsibility. In cases like mine where my husband got the call and I got him, it's not fair to expect me to be a minister just because my husband is. I love God. I love the church. I love you! I'm called to make disciples and draw ever closer to God just like every other fully devoted follower, but it's not a two-for one deal. I have my own gifts, talents, and passions apart from my husband.

-I don't know everything my husband knows. Whether it's the juicy gossip about the organist or the time for the next board meeting, there's a lot of stuff that we don't talk about over dinner. Actually, in our marriage, Nathan keeps his boundaries pretty clear. We really don't talk shop about church. When he comes home, he's ready for a break, not to re-hash everything from his day. Lots of times I find out about scheduled events from the bulletin like everyone else. My pastor-husband fiercely respects the confidentiality of anyone he ministers to, so don't bother asking about it. I probably don't know :)

-Living in a parsonage can be a delicate balance of gratitude and assertiveness. Thankfully we live in a beautifully re-done turn-of-the century home with original moulding and stainless-steel appliances. (I know, right!) But I've actually heard of church boards that had quarterly inspections to see how the family was keeping their home. I've heard congregants say to other pastors "it's not your house anyway." Yikes. I've also witnessed church members just walk into a parsonage, catching my friend by surprise and grateful that she was fully dressed. It's a blessing to have a home provided and kept as a part of your compensation. Just make sure that your church is making it a blessing and not a burden for the family. 

-Realize that YOU are the normal one. If you are thinking about what your pastor's spouse is going through, then that is strong evidence that you are thoughtful, empathetic, and probably the best part of their day. If you aren't texting us at 1:28 Sunday morning, or walking into our home without knocking, or dramatically pointing to your watch in the middle of my husband's sermons (Ha!) then, don't worry about it. And if you want to see any pastor's spouse beam...just say nice things publicly about the one we love. Because when you love the ones I love, well, it doesn't get any better than that.