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Advice about the Stressful Life of a Preacher’s Wife

Stressful Life of Preachers Wife

Would you like some advice about how to deal with the stressful life of a preacher’s wife? Or are you someone who can’t imagine that a pastor’s wife would be stressed? One of my (Melanie Lewis) Covid projects is downsizing old files. The other day I happened across a college paper I wrote in 1983 entitled The Stressful Life of a Preacher’s Wife. All the information and advice was gathered from five wives who know what it is really like to be a preacher’s wife.

What’s your opinion?

We would love to know if you think the issues these women struggled with are still struggles for Christian leaders’ wives in 2020. Do you struggle with any of these issues? Has life in the ministry changed? If so, how?

Opinions from July 1983

It has been said that pastors and pastors’ wives do not have any more stress than anyone else, they just have different kinds of stress. This is a statement that must be seriously evaluated on an individual basis before a conclusion can be reached. To help establish your opinion on this matter, some evidence will be presented which may influence the final decision. You decide.

A pastor’s wife should be “put together.”

Before a pastor’s wife can be effective in any area of her life she must first have herself “put together.” One major stress that arises here is the fact that so many people seem to be expecting so many things that it may be difficult to decide what pieces to put together.

Some advice for this stressful situation:

  • Please the Lord – if someone else is pleased along the way, good.
  • Realize that it is the other person’s problem if they do not like you.
  • Realize, “I am not, nor can I be, anybody but me.”

How far can I go without being offensive to people?

More stress can arise as one is trying to decide “How far can I go without being offensive to people?” It is important to find the boundaries. This is an area that is also imperative for preacher’s kids to understand.

Advice:

  • Learn where your rights end.
  • Ask, “Is someone seeing me that I can hurt?”
  • Learn eternal responsibility.

Should a preacher’s wife have friends?

What can be done when the preacher’s wife feels threatened by these stressful situations? She must find some outlets. In the life of a “normal” wife friends provide a good outlet. Should it be different for a preacher’s wife? The opinions vary. Jealously may arise in the church family, but then doesn’t jealously occur when others have close friends too?

Some advice:

  • One needs to know where to draw the line.
  • As in any relationship, a wife’s best friend should be her husband.
  • In larger churches, preachers’ wives may fellowship with associates’ wives.
  • A preachers’ wives fellowship once a month maybe a good outlet. (It does not have to maintain strict denominational boundaries.)

What if a pastor’s wife has no friends?

Perhaps if a wife feels she cannot have close friends, she will have no friends at all. As a result, this wife may slip into the background with no one remembering her birthday, or no one even realizing that she exists! The husband and family play an important role in resolving the stress in this situation.

  • The husband must make sure that his wife feels important.
  • If a wife can get praise from her husband and family, what difference does it make if she does not get it from anyone else?
  • It is important that a wife receives her “roses” when she gets home.
  • Realize, “I’m not so-so, I’m special.”
  • Introduce yourself by your name, not “I’m the pastor’s wife.”

Some general advice about the stressful life of a preacher’s wife.

  • Stay in the Bible.
  • When stress filled, think of God’s blessings, the joys of heaven, and the “well done” you will receive there.
  • Roll with the punches.
  • Don’t complain.
  • Don’t feed negative thoughts – that’s Satan’s attack.

Pastors’ families are normal.

Contrary to popular belief, preacher’s families are normal. They have their problems and stress too. It is unfortunate that the problems that the preacher’s family faces become so blown up and people do not rate them realistically. Needless to say, this can be quite stressful. Pastors and their wives especially need to constantly work at and maintain their marital relationship. Since they are normal, they have normal marital stresses.

Some general advice that a preacher’s wife must remember to aid in these stresses of her life:

  • You are #2 to the Lord.
  • You can make or break your husband.
  • Cultivate a strong relationship.
  • This is a job that both of you are involved in – you must learn together and grow together.
  • Turn adverse situations to your advantage.
  • Open communication is a MUST.
  • Be a help – you have no choice to be a hindrance.
  • Take care of the preacher.
  • Keep the preacher happy – it helps him cope with the stresses and burdens if he knows he has a loving, happy home to come to.

What if the pastor’s wife doesn’t agree with the pastor’s decisions?

As in any marital relationship, stress may arise when the wife does not agree with her husband’s decisions.

Some advice:

  • You are not your husband’s Holy Spirit.
  • God gives sufficient grace.
  • Turn to the Lord.
  • Never say “I told you so!”
  • Accept the decision and go on – it’s not your responsibility, it’s his.
  • Make it work – it becomes our decision.

But what if we have poor communication?

Again, as in any marital relationship stress arises from poor communication. Unfortunately, men have a tendency to keep to themselves. A “talk” time may be beneficial to resolve this stress. A wife needs to gain and maintain her husband’s trust in confidential matters. Communication is as important in a pastor/wife relationship as it is in any other marriage.

We don’t have enough time together.

A stressor that seems to be predominant with pastors’ wives and families is the lack of time spent together with their husband and father. There are times when a wife may even wish that her husband had an “average” job which he could easily set aside when he came home. There are disrupted plans and mom often gets stuck explaining that “Dad can’t” and may end up as a middle man or referee.

Some ideas that have been mentioned to combat this stressful situation:

  • The husband should set aside specific daily and weekly time that the wife and family know are theirs – this gives them something to look forward to.
  • The wife and family could understand the demands more if they knew they had a special time.
  • Help children to understand there are times when people need their dad more than they do.

Noisemakers that rob family time

The telephone and doorbell are two noisemakers that help contribute to the stress of lack of time with family.

Consider these ideas concerning the special problem of the telephone:

  • Don’t have both a church phone and home phone in the house.
  • If busy, laugh, and let it ring.
  • You don’t have to drop everything – if it’s a real emergency they will call back quickly.
  • Unplug during devotions.
  • To get rest, unplug in the bedroom, and let the kids take care of it.
  • Cope.

A preacher’s wife may be monopolized on the phone by others. Some important advice for this stress is:

  • Use the phone only for purposeful calls – no gossip.
  • Work while you are on the telephone.
  • If someone is especially monopolizing your time, ask one of the kids to go and ring the doorbell and say, “Someone is at the door. I have to go now.” (No, that is not untruthful, it is just one of the tricks of the trade!)

We don’t have any privacy.

What happens when people do drop in at all times of the day and night, sometimes entering without even knocking? It has been reported that one woman made it her business to stop by the preacher’s house every morning to report on the condition of the house to the other members.

What can be done about resolving some of this stress due to lack of privacy?

  • Have at least the living room neat.
  • Your house should be a livable home, not a museum.
  • It is a home and a place for you and your family to feel comfortable.

Special stressors regarding retirement

Another stress that is related to the home especially for pastors who live in a parsonage is the fact that when retirement comes the family has no home to call their own. This is a stressful thought that needs to be resolved on an individual basis.

The preachers’ kids (PKs) have their own stressors.

Along with the stressors previously mentioned, PKs suffer in other areas which result in added stress on the preacher’s wife. PKs are not regarded as “normal” and they are constantly put on stage. The kids need to be encouraged and maybe advised that “We’re standard setters, not followers.”

People take their anger out on the pastor’s family.

More stress arises for the parents and children alike when people are angry at the preacher and take it out on the kids. Much time needs to be spent communicating with the kids and helping them to cope. It is not abnormal for people not to agree with the pastor and when this stress arises, wife and children alike may benefit from this advice:

  • Win people through interpersonal relationships.
  • Search for areas you can win them – mutual interest, interest in their lives, etc.
  • The principle is more important than popularity.
  • Keep kids from feeling resentment.

What should the pastor’s wife do about the pastor’s stress?

Perhaps one of the greatest stresses for a preacher’s wife is seeing the stress on her husband. When there is a lack of growth and change in the people she may feel helpless and wonder if perhaps it may be her fault. People are taking her husband’s time, but in reality, they do not want his help. This seems to be one of those stressful situations where the preacher’s wife must just pray and cope.

What’s the role of the preacher’s wife?

Other stresses are placed on the preacher’s wife by the church because of their expectations concerning her position. It has been said, “If you’re too involved you get raked over the coals. If you’re not involved enough you get raked over the coals.” For the women who are expected to fill a lot of roles comes this advice:

  • Learn to say “No.”
  • Delegate.
  • “Get ten men to work instead of doing the work of ten men.”
  • It has been said, “Most women who are expected to do too much have allowed it to happen.”

The church has expectations for the pastor’s wife.

For the woman who finds that she needs to be available for counseling, visiting, etc., there are two routes that can be followed:

  • Set a schedule.
  • Roll with the tide.

Whichever avenue the wife chooses depends on the demand of her time. Flexibility and balance are the keys.

A preacher’s wife has a position of honor.

A preacher’s wife has all the demands and stress of an “average” wife. Her husband’s position also places her in unique stressful situations which most people (often preachers’ wives themselves) do not realize. In spite of the heartache and hurt, a preacher’s wife has a position of honor. One wife stated that she feels more privileged than Nancy Reagan to be in the position that she holds.

In conclusion, much good advice has been given by these preachers’ wives, all of which are worthy of our consideration. As wives prepare to enter the ministry with their husband, they need to realize the stresses that are before them and have some answers and a plan for how they will handle these situations. Education and preparation will certainly be a great help in coping with the stressful life of a preacher’s wife.

What’s your opinion about the advice from these preachers’ wives given in 1983?

We would love to know if you think the issues these women struggled with are still struggles for Christian leaders’ wives in 2020. Do you struggle with any of these issues? Has life in the ministry changed? If so, how?

We would love for you to share your opinions in the comments below. I’m sure others are curious to know what you think or if you have any advice about the stressful life of the preacher’s wife.

If you are a preacher’s wife with a stressful life, we are available to help you through the struggles. It’s also one of the reasons we wrote Marriages that Minister. Contact us if you would like some help dealing with ministry stressors.

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Marriages that Minister by J. Kirk and Melanie D. Lewis

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Read more from Marriages that Minister: A Portrait of Christ and His Bride.

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