When your church hires a new pastor, chances are he and his family are also brand new to the community. The pastor’s wife is not only adjusting to the expectations of the congregation, but going through her own emotional journey of a move.
Reach out to her in friendship and invite her to be a part of your next After the Boxes Are Unpacked study. She’s been uprooted and needs a safe and supportive place to let go, start over, and move forward. Don’t be disappointed if she declines. The important thing is that you’ve reached out to her.
We recently asked a few wives of pastors to give us their feedback regarding being new to a community and congregation.
Keep these suggestions in mind as you reach out to her. (Most of these insights apply to ANY pastor’s wife, whether or not she’s new):
What do you wish the congregation would know about you?
- The church hired my husband, not me. I’m not his secretary or courier.
- I’m a real person and not perfect or always have it all together. I have the same fears, struggles, insecurities, and flaws as everyone.
- I’m a person, not an entity.
- I’m a member of the church with gifts and abilities just like everyone else. I don’t necessarily have more gifts or abilities.
- I have bad days too.
- What I look like and how I worship and respond to the message or the service is not a subject for comment or gossip.
- Who I’m married to doesn’t define who I am.
- I’m learning right alongside everyone else and I don’t have all the answers.
- Treat me as you would want to be treated. I’m just another Christian woman doing the best she can to follow Jesus.
- Don’t assume I’m too busy; let me be the judge of my schedule.
- I may not know all the details about every church event. I also may not attend every church event.
- Don’t view our relationship as one in which I meet your needs.
- Don’t put unrealistic expectations on me to know all the “right” answers, quote a Bible verse every time we talk, be “perfect”, or have it all together.
- No two pastors’ wives are the same. Some love having others in their homes, some sing, some love leading, some are very out-going, others want to be in the background or are shy and don’t like large groups. Some find it difficult to build relationships. Just as all women are unique, so are pastors’ wives. Have realistic expectations of your pastor’s wife.
Sunday mornings for a pastor’s wife:
- I’m essentially a single mom on Sunday, which makes that day more stressful for me. My husband leaves two hours earlier than the rest of the family and I need to get the kids ready, arrive on time, and show up at church with a smile, and expected to encourage and offer gentle wisdom to every congregation member I run into.
- Sundays can be very lonely as a pastor’s wife. I look around at other families who are able to worship together. It’s something I long for, but will not have.
What are the best ways we can reach out to a pastor’s wife and her family?
- Try to know something about the wife before you do anything. I am an introvert and like to be left alone. Others may want to be invited to everything.
- Have my family and/or me into your home for a meal, coffee, etc. Your invitation is a gift that creates an environment for me to feel welcomed, comforted, and appreciated and can set the stage for a growing and deepening relationship. Many feel that it’s the job of the pastor to reach out. This is true, but I see it as a responsibility that we ALL have when we choose to be part of a church body – we reach out to one another.
- Introduce yourself. I may not remember your name because I’m meeting so many new people, but I’ll appreciate your friendliness.
- Ask about me. Get to know me.
About her husband:
- His family is his first priority; not your house christening or rehearsal dinner or your kid’s grad party.
- He has bad days too.
- My husband is not perfect.
About her kids:
- Don’t make their haircut, earrings, or tattoos the subject of your conversation.
- My kids have lives and friends of their own.
- My kids are not perfect. They are not special and well-behaved because they are a PKs . They are normal kids.
Are your friendships different being a pastor’s wife? How?
- Friendships are very limited. I have two friends I can trust. It’s hard to trust and open up for fear it will be talked about and shared with others.
- Be my friend because we “click”. Like me for me, not because it’s cool to be the friend of the pastor’s wife.
- I don’t always want to talk about church. I have real interests, hobbies, dreams and a real walk with Jesus that doesn’t revolve around the life of the church.
- It’s refreshing and surprising when someone talks to me as though I’m a woman and not just the pastor’s wife.
- Help unload the moving van when we arrive, bring meals, invite us to dinner and small groups, help paint our house, etc.
- Restaurant recommendations are helpful. Want to give a welcome gift? Gift cards to those restaurants (especially ones the kids would like) are greatly appreciated!
Serving your pastor’s wife
- Pray for me and my family.
- Encourage me.
- Don’t criticize my husband. No pastor is perfect.
- Introduce me to others with my first name and not “the pastor’s wife”.
- Love me and love my children just the way we are.
What counsel would you give to pastors’ wives as they become a part of a new congregation? (As an After the Boxes group leader, you may find yourself in a position to offer this wisdom.)
- As much as possible, operate within your personality, gifts and abilities.
- Search out and make some best friends
- Be confident in who you are and serve where you want to serve, according to your passion and spiritual gifts. Be who God created you to be.
More: Sabrina, a former pastor’s wife, offers advice for other pastors’ wives