Scripture provides no list of qualifications for a pastor’s wife. Pastors and deacons are covered in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, but the pastor’s wife? She doesn’t show up, at least in terms of suitability for an office.
Nevertheless, some churches have their own set of unwritten qualifications for the pastor’s wife, many of which create unrealistic expectations and abundant misconceptions. These can place undue pressure on the wife of a pastor. This shouldn’t be the case, however, since Scripture knows no such formal category.
Here are five popular misconceptions about the pastor’s wife:
1. You have it all together.
Some will assume you’ve worked through all your issues. Sure, you may struggle, but not with anything “major” (whatever that may be).
Oh, sister, may I encourage you? On this side of heaven, we will always have battle to do with our flesh. Will the Father give relief at times? Yes! But “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We’re off the hook, not to sin so that grace may abound but to live a life pleasing to God—a life bought by the perfect blood of Christ, not our own blood, sweat, and tears to “get it right.”
Three years into Matt’s position as pastor of The Village Church, I entered a 12-step program. Let me quell the questions: I didn’t “work the steps” because he became a pastor. I needed to recover from the addiction of being a good girl and performing my way into God’s good graces. I said with my lips that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. I even thought I believed this. But in my heart of hearts, I functioned as if it all depended on me. With my life I said, “God, thanks for saving me, but I’ve got it from here.”
So one Thursday night at the church, in front of those who only knew me as their pastor’s wife, I stood up to say, “There’s something the Lord is asking me to surrender.” The weight of what people would think of me nearly glued me to my seat and kept me from standing. But I felt something incredible the moment I rose to my feet. I felt weightlessness. I felt relief. And there were tears—lots and lots of tears. In all my anxiety over what the people would think of me—the gasps and whispers I thought I’d hear—I instead found fellowship. I wasn’t untouchable or unrelatable. I became real to them—in real need of a real Savior.
2. Your gifting should match your husband’s.
Although you and your husband are one flesh, you are not the same person. God made you differently. And yet he knew what he was doing in putting both of you together. He doesn’t make mistakes.
By God’s grace, be the best “you” that you can be. Do you enjoy hosting people in your home? Do you love to teach? Do you come alive when you sit across from another woman pouring out her heart?
Matt is an exceptional preacher and teacher. I’ve received and accepted multiple invitations to speak and teach, but it’s not a burning desire within me. I say “no” more often than “yes.” Leading worship, on the other hand, is something I eagerly desire. It excites me to lead 5 or 500 people in song. Matt loves to sing, but you don’t want him leading worship in song. Trust me.
I am not Matt and Matt is not me. Praise Jesus.
3. Kiss having close friends goodbye.
There’s wisdom in carefully choosing with whom you disclose your hopes, desires, and struggles, especially when doing so sheds light on your husband’s flaws. Not everyone can handle such information with grace and maturity. Don’t buy the lie, though, that you can’t have close friends. Doing so will only isolate you and your husband from good fellowship with other believers. Everyone in your church should know you and your husband are sinners, not because you blatantly participate in sinful acts but because of 1 John 1:8.
My closest friends for the past 12 years have been either on staff, married to church staff, or covenant members of our church. I also have dear friends in ministry in other cities, states, and even countries, but there’s something special about having day-in and day-out friends. They can see the inconsistencies in my life and can speak into them.
Have there been awkward seasons and disagreements? Yes. But God’s steadfast love has shone the brightest when we’ve addressed the awkward, and generously forgiven and loved one another in the middle of the mess.
4. You must be friends with everyone.
Even if you’re not a pastor’s wife, how deeply are you able to know everyone? It’s impossible to be the same kind of friend to everyone. You can try, but most—if not all—of your relationships will only be an inch deep. We are limited! We practice humility when we acknowledge we can’t be close friends with everyone and must trust the Lord to meet that need in both us and them.
That said, if your friend circle is so tight that it hasn’t changed in years, examine your heart. Is your group of friends hospitable or alienating? You can’t control what others think, but you can be warm, amiable, and flexible. And you can protect yourself from trading depth for width.
5. Your kids are the most sanctified in your church.
Faith isn’t an inheritable trait. Although our homes should model what Scripture outlines for a family, our children are individuals with their own faith. As my husband often says, we can put all the kindling we can find around their hearts—family devotions, discussing Scripture as we go, modeling forgiveness by asking for and giving it freely, expressing our own need for Jesus, praying for their salvation—but it takes the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame of faith.
Our kids are like anyone else’s. They’re going to fail. They will choose poorly. My kids are at church a lot. They know all the nooks and crannies, all the stashes of mints and crackers. The staff knows them, and they know the staff. This comfort factor often gets them in trouble. Unlike most of the non-staff kids at church, mine let their guards down. They don’t always feel the need to be on their best behavior. We train them to be respectful, but they have their bad moments—we all do. My kids need Jesus just as much as the next kid.
Whatever misconceptions you may face, sister, remember that your ultimate identity is in Christ’s performance as your Savior, not in your performance as a pastor’s wife.