A month ago, I wrote a Facebook post about being a pastor’s spouse. It struck a cord (especially with pastoral families)! Other spouses told me what they wish they could say to you. So I decided to expand the post and share it here with a wider audience.
You know who probably needs encouragement today?
Your pastor’s spouse. (I’m using “spouse” and the global “they” because some pastors are women!)
They personally know how hard your pastor works, how exhausted they are. They know that while your family was taking one last vacation trip, the pastor was frantically trying to get fall programs in place and staffed. While you’re buying back-to-school clothes for your kids, the pastor is worried about the 2019 church budget and whether it will mean pay or staffing cuts.
And the spouse can guess how deeply that off-the-cuff criticism someone lobbed at the back door (or in the bathroom) cut. Speaking of bathrooms, they know how many times the pastor has been held responsible for changing the paper towel roll or unclogging a toilet just before the service starts.
Sometimes we wish we could remind you that we are people with feelings too. We love our spouses and when someone criticizes them (especially to us), it hurts.
And guess what? We know better than anybody that our spouses have faults, so you don’t have to “make us aware of it.” But we’re also not likely to let off steam about it with you. We fear how any complaint we might have could return to threaten our spouse’s job and our family’s security.
The pastoral spouse also feels every criticism, every whining complaint, deeply, because they know what ministry is costing their family.
They feel the stress and are desperately trying not to put any more on the pastor and so may stifle their own needs. Most of us still find it a privilege to be in ministry and want to continue to live this calling, but it comes with a cost, sometimes to our mental health.
Your pastor’s spouse also wants to be able to look you (or whomever) in the eye and say, “No, I won’t pass on your complaint to my husband” (or wife, as the case may be). We are not the conduit. Have the guts to tell them yourself if it matters so much.
Here’s another little fun fact, at least in my case: Les doesn’t tell me everything that’s happening in church and definitely not what is shared in counseling. (This is especially true of stuff he thinks would make it difficult for me to forgive someone.) I think this is a really healthy practice. When people jump in and start talking to me as though I know, I want to cover my ears and say, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you,” but usually it’s too late. I can’t ever unhear it.
When you “drop the ball” on your church responsibilities, they have to pick it up, and often our family pays the price. Once again we’re doing lock-up, the last ones out of the church, because the person on the list didn’t show up. You’re right; it’s no big deal that one time. But you would be surprised how many “just one times” arrive every week for the pastor in a myriad of arenas.
So give your pastor’s spouse some encouragement today. Tell them how much you appreciate the pastor—and them. Be their friend.
Share a laugh or a cup of coffee with them. Or pass on a gift card for a date night. Let them know they are not forgotten and they are loved.