Serving, Struggling, and Thriving as a Pastor’s Wife

A Conversation with Gloria Furman

Where can a pastor’s wife take all her cares, burdens, anxieties, and even ministry-related complaints?

If you’re like me, the easiest thing to do is to take them to another pastor’s wife you respect or maybe even to someone outside the church. Now that pastor’s wife and author Gloria Furman has written a new book titled The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love [review], you might be tempted to take all your questions to her. However, Gloria would be the quickest to point us to Jesus for all wisdom, guidance, and grace. Whether you’re enduring late-night counseling sessions or complaints over your husband’s preaching, she assures us Christ stands ready to help.

I corresponded with Gloria and asked her to expand on a few ways we pastors’ wives can lay down our ministry-burdens before the cross. These questions seem to always be at the top of the list for many pastors’ wives. I can assure you that both her short-form answers in this interview and her new book offer good encouragement for pastors’ wives in every season of ministry.

In your new book, The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love [review], you write, “Sometimes we think of letting our light shine before others (Matt. 5:16) like it is a fireworks show. We need to keep the people ooh-ing and ahhing in new and surprising ways while we impress them with our astonishing godliness and perfections.” What’s the best piece of advice you could offer a pastor’s wife who regularly struggles with the desire to impress her husband’s congregation?

I would advise her to resist the temptation to see her church through “selfie mode,” constantly scanning the ministry scene for opportunities to look good in front of others. Instead, be a grace detective and look for evidence of God’s grace in the lives of fellow church members. What is the Lord doing through your brother while sharing his faith at work? How do you see God growing your sister’s faith through her trial?

If you meditate on the Lamb’s accomplishments and accolades, then your heart will be enamored with what he’s doing in the church: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).

How and why does the pastor’s wife serve the church?

Some pastors’ wives may be paid workers on the church’s staff team, and that’s great. You won’t find a formal job description for the pastor’s wife in Scripture, though. But this doesn’t mean it’s silent on her role in the church. She should see any passage on serving in the church the same way other members do. The pastor’s wife serves as a member of the church because that’s exactly who she is—she’s a member of the body of Christ.

How does serving alongside your husband in ministry tempt you toward idolatry?

I’m tempted toward idolatry when I feel like I should be thanked for everything. The desire to receive gratitude and recognition from God, my husband, and the church grows when it feeds on the roots of bitterness in my heart. So I need to cut out those roots by laying the axe of Scripture to them, and by repenting and confessing my sin.

You point to a time when you laughed at the thought of being a chauffeur to your pastor husband. You also note that ministry often requires us to take on unglamorous roles and duties we never dreamed. What’s been the most important thing for you to remember as you strive to serve your husband joyfully, even when that looks different than what you imagined?

I didn’t always laugh to myself. If I’ve caught a glimpse of God’s “humor,” then it is completely owing to his grace.

The most important thing for me to remember when ministry looks different than what I imagined is this: Consider the source. The sovereign God we serve is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. If he’s given you a certain ministry task or role, then he will certainly provide everything you need to do it faithfully.

God doesn’t run “catch-22 ministries.” He doesn’t hand out roles and circumstances just to sabotage his children and rob them of joy. God loves his glory, loves us, and loves to glorify himself through us. When he gives us difficult ministry tasks or roles, he still acts in accordance with his character, his purposes for his glory, and for our joy.