In many churches, the most thankless job is that of the pastor's wife. Though the pastor alone is paid, the pastor's wife is often still saddled with a host of responsibilities and expectations. She is expected to be a model wife, nurturing mother, friend to everyone, run a women's ministry, throw every baby shower, and cook every meal. These expectations are often unfair, unhelpful, and most importantly, unbiblical. "Pastor's Wife" is not a secret third office of church leadership. The Bible contains no job description for the pastor's wife, which is why extra-biblical expectations are often placed upon her.
Biblically, the only expectations you can have of your pastor's wife are the ones Scripture places on all Christian wives: She should love Jesus, respect her husband, shepherd her children, and serve the body with the spiritual gifts the Spirit of God has given her.
Instead of enslaving the pastor's wife with expectations, we should seek every opportunity to love and serve her; this is especially necessary on Sunday mornings, as she doesn't have the help of her husband. So here are six simple ways you can serve your pastor's wife on Sundays when your church gathers for worship:
1. Remember that Sundays are different for her
Sundays are different for your pastor's wife. It's a work day. She is essentially a single mom on Sunday because her husband is preaching, leading worship, or shepherding others throughout the day. Furthermore, if all goes according to plan, she will always attend church by herself and will rarely, if ever, experience the joy of attending church as a family. Remembering that Sundays are different for her will radically alter your heart toward her.
2. Pray for her
I can't speak for all pastors' families, but my family never experiences more spiritual opposition than on Sundays. The devil doesn't want us pointing people to Jesus. More often than not, it seems the devil is lobbing all he can at us on Sunday mornings. Don't just pray for your pastor, pray for his wife. Pray that Lord would protect her. Pray that she would hear God through the preaching of His Word. Pray she would connect with others in a way that's edifying. One of the most important ways you can serve your pastor's wife on Sundays is by praying for her.
3. Have realistic expectations of her
No two pastor's wives are the same. Some love having others in their homes. Some sing or play an instrument. Some love shepherding the women around them. Some are extremely outgoing. Interestingly, those tend to be the expectations that are placed on all pastor's wives. The problem is that some pastor's wives are very shy. Some don't like large groups. Some find it difficult to build relationships. Pastor's wives, just like every other group of people, are different. Have realistic expectations. Some people expect their pastor's wife to be someone God never intended her to be. This is simply unfair. Have realistic expectations of your pastor's wife.
4. Encourage her
It's hard, often-discouraging work to be a wife and stay-at-home mom (as ALL wives and stay-at-home moms know). It's also difficult to be married to a pastor. He's pulled in many directions and doesn't always steward it well. His mind is often occupied by leadership challenges, sermons he's writing, and trials he's facing. All of this weighs on his wife in a way that few understand. Encourage her. Tell her how much you appreciate her service (especially if it's behind-the-scenes, "wife-and-mommy" service). You can never over-encourage anyone, especially your pastor's wife.
5. Go talk to her
If your pastor's wife has young children and stays home, Sunday is one of the few opportunities she has to connect with "big people." One of the ways you can serve her is simply by talking to her. Ask how her week was. Ask how you can be praying for her. Ask if you can get some coffee for her (unless your church doesn't serve coffee). And if your church doesn't serve coffee, you should find a church that loves Jesus and serves coffee (just kidding -- sort of). If you would like to get to know your pastor's wife on Sunday morning, don't put the responsibility on her to find you. Just go talk to her.
6. Don't forget she has kids
This is obviously applies only to moms in general and moms of young children in particular. Our kids are about to turn 5, 3, and five months. This means that any trip into a public place is one click from chaos. In the midst of trying to talk with and encourage your pastor's wife, don't forget that she has kids to keep an eye on. Furthermore, her husband is probably trying to connect with, pray for, and shepherd the church God has called him to, so he's not available to help her. If she's a bit distracted, or has to interrupt your conversation to keep one of her kids from diving off the stage and into a an ER bed, don't take it personally. Her first responsibility is to her kids, and she wants to talk to you -- she's just being a mom.
Tami and I are blessed. Our church is amazing to us -- both of us. We are well-cared for.
Sadly this isn't true for everyone. Regardless of who you are, or where you go to church, we can all do a better job of loving and serving the women married to those God has called to lead our churches. So how will you more intentionally serve your pastor's wife this Sunday?