Life is different when you are married to the pastor. The pastor’s family is more aware of the sadness and sorrow within the church. The pressing need interrupts a family activity, and a phone call pulls the pastor away to the hospital. The death of a church member not only throws the pastor’s weekly schedule out the window, but it also has ripple effects on our family’s schedule as well. Ministry can be tough on the pastor and the pastor’s family.
As the pastor’s wife, you can’t make all the problems & challenges at church magically disappear, but there are ways that you can help your husband be a better pastor, husband, and father. If you are married to the pastor, here are my seven practices to minister to your spouse. (These are great ideas for any spouse, even if your husband or wife isn’t a pastor.)
#1 When you are married to the pastor, you need to encourage them.
Ministry is hard. There are as many bosses as there are members of the church – and they don’t all agree. Most pastors I know LOVE the Church. They spend hours thinking about how to do things better, how to help the church be healthier, how to equip the church live out it’s calling, and how to reach the lost. They worry about the discipleship of their youth, the health of the marriages in their church, and the spiritual growth of their members.
When their passion is met by a lukewarm response by members, they take it personally. The pastor’s spouse needs to encourage them regularly. They need to be their cheerleader who sees their love and devotion and recognizes it. Give them positive and honest feedback on the sermon, even if you already read through it for them as they were preparing for Sunday.
Organize celebrations of the anniversary of their ordination and of their ministry at the church they are serving. Write them notes of encouragement and mark their successes. Encourage them to record these successes and keep the letters from you and others as a reminder during the frustrating seasons of ministry of the good times of ministry.
#2 When you are married to the pastor, you need to help them discern.
We all need help in understanding how we truly come off to others. Sometimes we intended to say one thing, but others perceived it in another way. It is helpful when our spouse can lovingly help us see another point of view, but also helpful when they can defend us when the issue is truthfully the other person’s personal baggage.
Discernment is also for understanding the relationships and culture of the church. A wise, observant wife can be a huge blessing to her pastor-husband. She can be the coach from the sidelines that can point out other things happening on the field that the pastor doesn’t see from their vantage point.
#3 When you are married to the pastor, sometimes you need to distract them.
When you live, breath, and drink the church every day, sometimes the current ministry challenge can grow out of proportion. Sometimes our husband needs us to distract them. We need to remind them that God is in charge and loves their church more than they do.
We can be worried about the challenges of their job too. What if this issue grows and they lose their job? We need to manage our fears and encourage our spouse to have hope. They need us to turn them from fear and focus on something joyful and fun for a while. Limit the “shop talk” and focus on the relationships and ministry goals within your family.
#4 When you are married to the pastor, you need to encourage them to practice self-care.
Ministry can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Pastors do not make their best ministry, marriage, or parenting decisions when they are drained.
A pastor’s spouse can provide them accountability to eat healthy, get moving, and get enough sleep. We need to remind them of the importance of taking some weekly time off. We need to guard vacation time not just for our family but also that our spouse has time to decompress.
#5 When you are married to the pastor, you need to remind them that family is #1.
Frankly, churches come and go. A church can hire a new pastor, but the pastor’s family can’t hire a new father. At the end of your ministry career will you lament not attending enough church meetings or enough of your child’s events?
The pastor’s first responsibility is to his family. 1 Timothy 3 talks about the qualifications for elders and pastors in the church. One of those requirements is to manage his household well. He is to be a good husband, a good father, and to raise good children.
You can’t do these things if you are always at church or thinking about church. To be qualified for ministry, pastors need to have the time and energy to nurture great relationships with their spouse and children.
Your husband-pastor needs to feel empowered to know that they are not depriving the church, but ultimately serving the church through their witness of the importance of family. Church members in secular jobs need the witness that the family comes first as well.
How would it feel to bring thousands of people to Christ and yet for your own children to walk away from the faith? The pain of loss would be immense. When seasons of church conflict and stress are waging war in the pastor’s life, a healthy marriage and family life are just the anchor that is needed.
#6 When you are married to the pastor, they need you to help them put God first.
To God, they are not the pastor, but a beloved child. Their worth to God is not found in what they are accomplishing at church. They don’t have to have it all together with God, because God knows that they are sinners too. The only perfect man was Jesus; pastors are not perfect men.
The only pedestal in the church is not for the pastor to stand, but to be used for the pastor to place the word of God on it. It can be easy for pastors to wrap their identity around being the pastor, but their most important identify as a child of God.
Are they getting in daily Bible study and prayer? Prepping the sermon does not count. They need a relationship with Jesus outside of “being the pastor” to stay spiritually connected. Martin Luther, the renowned pastor, and leader of the Protestant Reformation, said that “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
It is not by our own might and power that the church is transformed, but by the power of God working through us. It is God’s work, not ours. Prayer is the most important task of the pastor.
As moms, we know the struggle of taking care of everyone else’s needs and neglecting our own. Self-care is a struggle your husband has as well – regardless of their job.
Seek out Bible studies that you think that they might be interested in. Research retreat centers in your area. Gather information about different conferences for which your husband might be intrigued. Even Jesus took time to go off by himself and pray, how much more so does your husband need that precious prayer time.
Pray with your husband. Yes, both of your days are full, but prayer equips us to meet the challenges of each day better. Praying together also strengthens are marriages and blesses our children.
# 7 When you are married to the pastor, your husband needs you to pray for him.
Your husband needs to know that you have his back. He needs to know that there is one person that no matter what is consistently praying for him. He needs to have someone who he can honestly share his struggles and the specific, concrete ways that he needs God’s intervention in his life. As a wife, we often also see areas where God needs to work which they themselves don’t even see.
The stress and strain of ministry can wear on the pastor’s marriage. Prayer is one specific way of bringing healing and deepening the intimacy and connectedness of our marriage. If you are married to the pastor, above all, he needs you to pray for him earnestly.
More than the Pastor
We are all called to vital Kingdom ministry, whether it is in the home, in the church, or in the workplace. Our identity is not in our vocation as either a mom, a pastor, or any other occupation. Our identity is in Christ. These seven practices can bless our spouses regardless of where they labor for the Kingdom. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let us build one another up as we mutually serve in building the Kingdom of God.
Looking for more ideas about serving your spouse in ministry? ChristianWomenOnline has a great article.
Ministry life can be LONELY. Moving and trying to form friendships in a new community can be challenging. I have some words of encouragement for you in “Dear Not From Here.”