Recently, on my way to find the first aid kit to grab a Band-Aid for my daughter, a church staff member asked me to relay a message to my pastor-husband. Wanting to be helpful, I asked if she could fill me in as we walked.
If you’re a mom with a husband in church leadership, you know Sundays can be challenging. You’re often parenting solo as your husband serves. Or you feel torn as a church member shares her heart, and your son tugs on your hand that he needs to use the bathroom.
Being a mom of young children and a pastor’s wife are both wonderful callings, but they also bring responsibility and can sometimes be unpredictable. Is there a way to balance it all?
For me, “balance” means loving my children and my church simultaneously, in both the big-picture and nitty-gritty details. It’s taken time to learn this—and I’m still learning.
What does it mean to be a pastor’s wife?
Most of us know what motherhood is, but what does it mean to be a pastor’s wife? While Scripture presents qualifications for elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16) and exhortations for pastors (1 Peter 5:1-5), there’s no job description for a pastor’s wife. She is who she is—a beloved daughter of her heavenly Father and the one who caught her husband’s eye and affections. She’s “a helper fit for” her husband (Genesis 2:9), and since he’s a pastor, she happens to be a pastor’s wife. As a pastor’s wife, she takes an interest in and joins in his ministry to the flock as she’s able.
The Lord stirred my heart for career ministry even before I married my husband Scott (who wasn’t a pastor at the time), but that’s not always the case for a pastor’s wife. And though I love participating in church life, over two decades of membership in the same church, Scott’s role has changed multiple times (and mine by default). He’s served as an intern and staff pastor in bi-vocational and full-time positions. Sometimes I’ve felt confused—am I a pastor’s wife or not?
Despite Scott’s changing ministry roles and responsibilities, I remain his wife and mom to our kids. Similarly, although it’s looked different in various seasons, active church involvement has always been a priority. Through it all, I’m learning that love for family and the church don’t have to conflict but can complement one another, and being a pastor’s wife can bring them together beautifully.
Serving my family is one way to love the church
Our children have some underlying medical conditions, and as much as I love my church, there are Sundays when I need to stay home and care for them. Not only do I sometimes feel disconnected from my church family, but it’s tempting to think that I’m sidelined from real ministry. But the Lord kindly reminds me that some of my most important work as a pastor’s wife includes releasing my husband to serve. It’s sending him out the door with a smile and a kiss, praying for him as he meets with church members, and doing it all with a glad rather than complaining heart.
Sometimes the best way a pastor’s wife can love her church is by serving her family, and sometimes the best way she can love her family is by serving the church. Let me explain.
Whenever a pastor’s wife cares for a newborn or sick child at home, she can “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord [she] will receive the inheritance” (Colossians 3:23-24). The Lord sees her service, and he will reward her.
But there are more ways a pastor’s wife serves than sending her pastor-husband to fulfill his church obligations. Daily attending to the needs of her family is an important way she shows love to her church. When she cares for her children’s practical demands and spiritual well-being, she helps her husband “manage his own household well” (1 Timothy 3:4-5) and stay qualified to serve the church body.
A pastor’s wife also sets an example for other believers in the church when she prioritizes her family. As it says in Titus 2:3-5, older women should teach the younger women “what is good…to love their husbands and children…that the word of God may not be reviled.” When a pastor’s wife makes time to train, instruct, play, and pray with her kids, she does so not only for her family’s sake but also for those who are watching. Why? That God’s word would be seen as good and worth following.
Serving my church is one way I love my family
Ministry life is often a busy life with a full calendar. A pastor may work long hours or odd hours. A pastor’s wife helps him bear burdens and pray for church members. How does she balance it all and not feel resentful, and how does she help her children see the blessings of church life as greater than the costs?
It helps me to remember that serving my church is one way I love my family:
- It’s good for our children’s hearts to learn early “to look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). While this never means neglecting our children and their needs, it does mean teaching them to consider the needs of others.
- We want our children to “lay up for themselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). When they see us teach a class, drop off a meal, write an encouraging note, or pray for a church member, they witness our investment of time and energy in caring for God’s people, Christ’s Bride (Matthew 16:18 and Revelation 19:7).
- We’re part of the Body of Christ, so we shouldn’t neglect meeting together but keep encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25). We want our kids to see going to church and serving God’s people as a big “get-to,” whether it’s Sunday morning worship or helping at the food pantry on Tuesday. Our attitudes and words make a difference in how they perceive church.
Sometimes my child must wait while I text, email, or phone a congregant. Sometimes I ask a church friend to hold her thoughts while I fetch a snack from my purse for my hungry child. Loving my children and my church means doing both. I don’t do it perfectly, and I don’t always do it in a way that pleases a church member or my child. But my aim is to be faithful in the call and good work God has given me, including motherhood and being a pastor’s wife (Matthew 25:23).