I was speaking at a minister’s wives retreat when a woman tearfully recounted how she and her marriage was affected by some gossip. This pastor’s wife overheard two women at church disparaging her because she didn’t take a rotation in the nursery during the service. The women had no idea that her husband had asked her to support him while he preached.
My husband, also a pastor, asks me to do the same thing. During my more than two decades as a pastor’s wife, my husband has asked me to sit in the front row during his sermons. My ministry is to the minister. Being seated in the congregation where he can see me encourages him in his work.
It was the same situation for the pastor’s wife crying at the retreat. The words she overheard at church that day cut to her heart. But she secretly slipped away, holding back tears as she settled into her seat in the sanctuary.
When the pastor’s wife told her husband of the gossip, he said she should ignore it. I’m sure her husband was trying to diffuse the situation, but his response left his wife feeling betrayed.
“If another woman had told my husband she overheard gossip, he would have addressed the issue and resolved it immediately,” said this pastor’s wife. “But for me? Why won’t he come to my rescue?”
You may be thinking that since she’s a pastor’s wife, she needs to be mature enough to handle this type of insult. And you’re right. But being wounded by the people you minister to is painful. And how these wounds are handled can cause stress upon ministry marriages.
Did you know that 80% of pastors surveyed believe ministry has negatively affected their marriage and families? Pastor Appreciation Month comes every October but caring for your pastor’s marriage is something you can do all year round.
So how can you support your pastor’s marriage and keep him from joining the 80% statistic? Consider these four practical ways:
1. Believe the best
1 Corinthians 13:7 teaches that love bears all things and believes all things. This means love “believes the best” of others. To genuinely love your pastor and his wife, choose to believe the best about their motives and actions. Don’t keep a record of how they do not measure up to your expectations. Rather, choose to think about what is good, right, and honorable about your pastor and his wife (Philippians 4:8-9).
Even when you don’t say anything negative, people know when you disapprove of them. Your pastor and his wife are no different. If they sense your disapproval and judgment, they feel misunderstood and isolated. So take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 ) and train your mind to assume the best about your pastor, his wife, and his children.
What if you believe the best about your minister and his wife? While most pastors are leaving the ministry because of stress on their marriage, your support will encourage their marriage and ministry.
2. Be loyal
Does your pastor and his wife know you’re a loyal supporter? Do you follow them as they follow Christ? During Pastor Appreciation Month and all year long, you can show your loyalty in the following ways:
- Show up. I’m not talking about logging in on Sunday to virtually catch the message. This pandemic practice has created a culture of virtual attenders who are disconnected from their church. This is not what God intends for His people. Be the person your pastor and his wife can count on to show up.
- Serve. Do all you can to help them shepherd their flock. God has granted you gifts to serve His body. When there’s an opportunity, be there. Don’t expect the pastor and his wife to do all the work. They need you — your gifts, talents, and energy. Let them count on you to help them spread the Gospel and make disciples.
3. Be their friends
Almost half of all ministry couples — 43% — feel lonely and isolated. Some have been wounded by a friend who has betrayed their confidence. So they feel safer keeping people at arm’s length.
Other ministry couples try not to show favorites, so they miss out on close friendships. This lack of fellowship can leave them longing for the comfort of real relationships. While Jesus cared for many disciples, He also had an inner circle of trusted friends with whom He shared secrets and experiences. Your pastor and his wife need loyal and trusted confidants.
Whether you become part of your pastor’s inner circle or someone he and his wife can clown around with at the church Christmas party, know that your friendship is of great value to your pastor and his wife.
4. Be their prayer warriors
Imagine how the fiery darts of the Enemy work to discourage your pastor. Your effective fervent prayers will avail much against Satan’s schemes to come between your pastor and his wife. Daily intercession for your pastor and his family is gold. Remember Moses on the mount praying for Joshua (Exodus 17:10-13)? Your prayers are more powerful than you imagine.
When our family was young, Steve and I were covered by the most amazing prayer support of elderly women in our church. Each week they asked Steve for our family’s prayer list. From their frailty they powerfully moved heaven and earth on our behalf. Our family was blessed because of their intercession.
During Pastor Appreciation Month, a card is a kind gesture, but showing up all year through is the greatest gift. You may never know the difference you will make in your pastor’s marriage. But take it from this seasoned pastor’s wife — your loyalty, friendship, and support matters far more than you can imagine.