I must be honest, the best part of our new book, The Pastor’s Family, is my wife’s chapter on the struggles and joys of being a pastor’s wife. She lists 9 struggles, then concludes with the joys of being a pastor’s wife. It is tremendously insightful.
Here are the 9 struggles:
1) Dealing with Unrealistic Expectations
The list of expectations for pastor’s wives to lead, attend, and fulfill is endless: children’s ministry, church events, every worship service, baby showers, funerals, weddings, lead small groups, host missionaries, and on and on. “A pastor’s wife once told me,” Cara writes, that the wife of a pastor should be seen, but that doesn’t mean we have to ‘do it all.’” (68-69)
2) Struggling with Loneliness
Even though the pastor and his wife is known by lots of people, “there are very, very few people who actually ‘know’ who we really are.” Sorta of like the President and his wife. Because of this and other reasons “it’s hard to escape the fact that being a pastor’s wife can be very lonely.” (72)
3) Overlooked, Yet Looked Over
“…our husbands ministries are public and visible. They are in front of the people, preaching and teaching. While this is happening, we are often in the nursery or in the pews trying to keep our children quiet. While out husbands are out meeting and fellowshipping with other members, we are often stuck home with sick kids! Our needs and our contributions to the family and to the church tend to get overlooked.” (75)
4) Learning to Handle Criticism
Cara says that dealing with criticism has been one of her greatest challenges. “But it’s not criticism of me that is hard—it’s when people criticize my husband and my children.” (76) Whether complaints over sermons, leadership, church direction, or whatever, handling criticism is hard for pastor’s wives.
5) A Demanding Schedule
Cara has found that full-time pastoral ministry isn’t all that different from life as a doctor. “My family doctor and I have often commiserated together when we discussed the similarities between our lives and the chaotic family schedules we manage,” Cara confesses. (79) We know this and they know this: Pastor’s don’t really have a day off, and that’s hard on families.
6) Confidentiality Matters
Cara helpfully points out that when we share details with our wives about sensitive issues in the church—regarding the organization, people, families—the temptation to share that information with people will increase with that increased knowledge.
7) You Don’t Have to Be a Theological Giant
Wise words here from Cara: “It’s important for women to be in the Bible, learning the Scriptures. We need to study God’s Word, but we do not have to be theological giants just because we are married to a pastor.” (85) And pastors, know there is a pressure for our wives to have the theological answers that people are looking for from us.
8) Avoid the Stereotypes
All Pastor’s wives have certain ideas of what they should be. “These ideas feed into the existing expectations we place on ourselves, as well as the ones placed on us by the church. We need to remember that each ministry is unique and each marriage is unique, and God has uniquely gifted us for the position and role we are in.” (86)
9) Fight the Spiritual Battles
We know our struggle is not against “flesh and bones” but against Satan himself. And the thing is our wives are in that same struggle every bit as much as we are. Which means they need to be on guard and take steps to put on the armor of God and fight. It also means the Enemy will target them with temptation, depression, discouragement, and a whole host of things that will try and take them out in order to take us out.
To read the rest of this excellent review organized by Jeremy Bouma, go here.