In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, I’d like to pass on some things I have learned, from my perspective about growth, friendship and community…for a pastor’s wife.
First of all, there is no such creature as a “perfect pastor’s wife” in the sense I often hear it used.
The best pastor’s wife for your pastor is the one he has. When you call him to your church, you need to accept her for who she is…and who she isn’t. Then learn to love her! She is his wife and mother of their children. She is not in charge of the church or responsible for all that happens there…only her family and whatever church involvement she chooses.
Forget the past. For any of those favorite previous pastor’s wives, remember them with fondness, but realize that this is now. GOD has something different and new for your church now.
Unfortunately, she may not fit your plan for what you were wanting or may have thought you needed...at least not at first. If you keep in mind that you have hired only the pastor and not his family, you will do fine in terms of expectations.
Encourage, Build up, Give Grace
You will be amazed how both the wife…and the pastor you have, will flourish in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and encouragement! Personally, in most of the troubled churches where we served, and I won’t discuss how many there were, they were living in the past and had a former pastor and/or his wife who were their ideals. I can tell you that we served more than one church that lived in this paradigm.
It kept coming up frequently how wonderful Dr. A did X or Pastor J did Y. But for the most part, those people were no longer alive. Their time in that church was past. Sadly, the people in these churches had difficulty letting go of that time in the history of their church and moving forward into a new season of their church as well as a different generation in the culture around them.
Instead of accepting the people they had now, for their strengths…or even taking note of them, they wasted a lot of time wanting them to be the same as those from long ago… despite demographic and cultural changes along the way. Don’t do that to the people GOD has brought you for what you need now. It is painful to them and it is harmful to the growth of your church…to say nothing of your own personal growth!
When I talk about encouragement, I’m talking about Biblical encouragement. It includes admonishment. It is not sweet and syrupy. It is genuine. It encourages another to grow in grace. But in the beginning, it will be encouraging in the sense of building up. You don’t start with criticism if you want to build a friendship or even a good relationship! While there will be a time to speak the truth in love, you need to find your common points and develop some love for each other before speaking the truth part.
How Does a New Pastor’s Wife Settle in?
I’m not talking about the ones who make it look easy. I’m talking about the ones of us who struggle. Unfortunately, you don’t always know which ones are struggling and which aren’t…at least for awhile.
- She may have left a stressful situation and has been hurt badly, making it difficult for her to make new friends. Find ways to give her grace. Love her in the way you would want to be loved if the roles were reversed.
- She may have had to leave a great support system, maybe even a wonderful job to come to your church. Give her time to grieve, but also give her reasons to enjoy her new church home!
- She may be in a new stage of life that is foreign to her…other than the move to your church. She may be pregnant, trying to get pregnant, adjusting to a new baby, have children that are moving to new milestones in life, a newly emptied nest, or… the list is long! She may even be adjusting to adult life if just out of seminary! Dealing with career issues instead of classes is very different and can be uncomfortable.
- Show that you like her kids. This is an area that indirectly will tear down walls…or build them. Whether her kids are “likable” or not, find ways to connect with them and love them.
- Also realize that not everyone who appears to be doing well really is. Of course, this holds true throughout the church. There are many who seem to be doing fine, have a smile on their face every time you see them…but inside they are crying their eyes out…or are flamingly angry…about things that have nothing to do with you or your church!
The reason I’ve made a partial list here is especially for the women in a church, to realize the importance of praying not only for their senior pastor’s wife, but for the wives of all the staff pastors and other ministry women. (Our denomination doesn’t have women pastors, if yours does, of course you need to pray for them!)
I can’t emphasize the importance of praying for the wives! We women can pray for them from the perspective of empathy, but also pray for them in terms of growth for them in transitional times that can be trying…even if you don’t see their situation as a difficult one! There are enough topics they can’t always discuss fully for a variety of reasons, especially confidential ones. We may not agree where she draws the line, but it is hers to draw.
When I talk about empathy, I mean that you may need to ask GOD to give you the grace to have empathy for her in her adjustments. It is so easy to fall into a competitive stance with new women. *Being kind, compassionate, empathetic…these are not natural to us! The Holy Spirit needs to work them in us. Sometimes we are impatient with the process another person is going through. That is when we need grace even to give grace.
The ultimate success of your pastor in ministry in your church in most ways could be dependent on how well his wife adjusts to your church and the area…and how she grows in that adjustment. As women in your church, you carry a large responsibility here…as you do for all the women in your church. It doesn’t need to be a burden, but it certainly is a responsibility before GOD.
Pray instead of Critique
Your prayers for her instead of criticism and your consideration of constructive ways to show encouragement and friendship to her will also develop traits in you that will draw other women into your church because there will be an environment of encouragement and building up that will be attractive.
Before I hear a chorus of comments telling me things like, “But I’ve tried to be friendly to her and she seems so aloof.” or “I just don’t get her.” Let me tell you about some of my failures as a pastor’s wife, particularly in terms of friendship…and how I grew from some miserable failures!
But that will be next time. I’ve already used too many words today.
And the third post in the series? It is here.