By Daryl Crouch
“Did you hear about the changes in the Christmas program? I wonder if your husband had something to do with that?”
“Would it be possible for someone to turn up the thermostat in the sanctuary?”
“Could I talk to you about a problem I’m having in my small group? You might have a little insight for me.”
The pastor’s spouse gets all kinds of questions.
Sometimes church members assume she knows more than she does. Sometimes people see the pastor’s wife as a surrogate who will leverage her influence for their cause.
At other times, people just like the idea of being closer to what they perceive as the inner circle.
Without question, the pastor’s wife is an invaluable part of the ministry of the local church, but not for all the reasons you might think.
While she, like her husband, loves Jesus and the church, and serves according to her giftedness, her calling is unique.
While he preaches, cares for, and leads the flock, he has the opportunity and responsibility to directly influence the church ministry. He stands out front as a visible reminder of what the church is doing to fulfill the mission of God.
Her role, on the other hand, is usually more obscure.
Sure, she gets a front role seat as Jesus transforms lives, as the church grows, and the city flourishes. But she’s also in a spiritual battle by her husband’s side.
She’s bearing the weight of the lostness in the city, of broken marriages in the church, of disgruntled and disheartened believers, and of complicated decisions that go with spiritual leadership.
She rejoices with her husband in moments of victory, but she also weeps with him through the dark nights of the soul.
People see the work of their pastors, but the congregation has limited opportunity to understand or identify with the mysterious work of their spouses.
That puts them on an island of sorts. No one is to blame. It’s just an odd spot.
So while you may have a few questions for your pastor’s wife (or any church leader’s spouse you know), the next time you run into her, consider one of these first:
1. Would you like to go to lunch or get coffee sometime?
Everyone’s time and availability is limited and not all personalities mesh, but every healthy relationship begins with an invitation.
So take a chance. You might be surprised.
2. What’s going on in your world?
Church leaders and their spouses answered God’s call to serve people. We care about people. So in a sense, the door is always open and the “How Can I Help You” sign is always on.
But to build loving relationships, we all must put others first. So take an interest in the life of your pastor’s wife.
Ask questions about how she met her husband, what life was like before children, what’s most challenging for her right now, or how has ministry life has shaped her.
Ask good questions, and then just listen. It may take a few tries because trust must be built, but your genuine efforts will pay off.
3. What does a typical week look like for you?
The rhythms of ministry, marriage, and childrearing are often atypical. There is no 8-to-5 lifestyle, and the work is more than work.
Friendships, employment, and church life are all woven together. Pull one string, and they all get bunched up.
So over that cup of coffee, ask how they emotionally and practically manage that. Ask how those unique dynamics influence her walk with Jesus.
You may not totally understand everything she says, but an empathetic ear makes a big difference.
4. What do you enjoy doing?
Pastor’s spouses love the church and they love their family, but that’s not all they love.
They are humans too who enjoy all kinds of things that you may not know about. So while you only see them at church or know them as a wife and mother, discover who they are as fellow sister in Christ.
Find out what fills their emotional tank, what makes them laugh, what books, movies, or Netflix series they enjoy, or what kinds of interests inspire them.
5. How can the church family support you?
The nature of church life means pastors receive a great deal of attention. Pastors get the pats on the back and we also get paid.
But knowing how to encourage or support the pastor’s wife is more difficult to understand. And it will be different for all spouses.
So if you want to know, just ask. Ask what the church could do to create a healthier environment for her marriage or family.
Ask if the church expectations on her seem reasonable or overbearing. Ask what the most challenging issue for her is as her husband serves the church.
The answers to these questions can provide amazing insight that will serve both the church and the church staff well.
6. How can I pray for you?
Ministry isn’t a hobby for your pastor’s wife. She, along with her husband, is daily engaged in a spiritual battle for the souls of men, women, and children.
The enemy works to steal her joy, destroy her marriage, and turn her children away from the Lord.
So being her friend will be a delight as you join God’s activity with her, but it will also call you to your knees to push back darkness with her.
Ask how you can specifically pray for her and with her, and then pray diligently for her and with her.
Pastor’s wives are heroes of the faith. They walk with Jesus. Strength and dignity clothe them in the power of the Holy Spirit as they love their husbands and serve their church.
But not even the heroes can go it alone. So reach out in friendship. Ask a few good questions. And love your pastor’s wife well. Everyone will be better for it.
DARYL CROUCH (@darylcrouch) is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.