You see her weekly—composed, polished, smiling. She sits at the front in a seat many are too intimidated to choose for themselves. She greets you earnestly, emphatically, genuinely happy to see you and the hundreds of people around you. She remembers your name, asks how the family member is feeling after you requested prayer for them weeks ago. She’s equal parts inviting and intimidating, someone you want to know but are worried for her to know you. 

She’s your pastor’s wife, and beneath the smiles and hugs and appearance and prayers, she’s most likely painfully, desperately, achingly lonely. 

When we think of the work and calling of ministry, we generally tend to think of our pastor, of his late nights, hospital visits, spiritual studies, and tense board meetings. Ministry is hard. Rewarding, but hard.

Growing up, my best friend was the daughter of our church’s pastor. I practically lived with them and saw first-hand just how much work went into pastoring a church, even a small one. I was sitting at the dinner table when our pastor had to leave and rush to the hospital to be with a member. I was up late watching movies when phone calls came in after midnight. I was at the grocery store when he was stopped and held in conversation while the ice cream melted.

RELATED: Watching My Dad Devote His Life to Ministry Has Taught Me: Our Pastors Need Our Support

I saw behind the curtain, as it was, to witness the financial stresses, the under-funded projects, the complaining and warring members, the egos and feelings and expectations that were constantly thrown his way with the expectation that he immediately solve each problem in a way that made everybody happy. 

I saw all of this, remember all of this, yet I was still not prepared when I married my husband and we dove into full-time ministry. 

I remember our pastor rushing out into the night, but I didn’t notice his wife staying behind to take care of us kids, pray, and alert other church members. 

I remember our pastor performing funerals and weddings and baby dedications but somehow had missed his wife handling preparations, schedules, meeting with grieving and excited families, being a shoulder to cry on and an expert to rely on. 

I remember the church members bringing cakes and gift cards and presents to their home during pastor appreciation month, but somehow never noticed our pastor’s wife wasn’t honored in any notable way. 

I didn’t realize until I was my husband’s partner in ministry that my calling as his wife was just as important as his, that I was as much a part of ministry as he was, that God wanted to use me even if my name didn’t have a bunch of academic letters behind it. I realized that while I felt fully prepared for the reality of ministry, I was not prepared for the reality of being a pastor’s wife.  

It took almost no time at all to realize that as glamorous as I thought it must be to be half of a holy team, it was actually quite isolating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of how important the work of ministry is, how vital the prayers and support of a pastor’s wife are. I know it’s good work, I just didn’t know it could be such lonely work. 

Your pastor’s wife, as glamorous as she may seem seated on the front row with her hair done and her smile shining, is, in all likelihood, very, very lonely.  

It’s not for lack of opportunity. Plenty of people want to befriend the pastor and his wife. Plenty of people are thrilled to spend time with them, to hug them on a Sunday and talk with them throughout the week. Lots of people want a piece of the pastor’s family, but there’s only so much to give

RELATED: Hug Your Pastor’s Wife—She’s Serving Too

The expectations of a pastor’s wife are monumental. She’s probably learned the hard way how high the expectations are and how far people will go to voice their disappointment in her for not being who they think she should be. She’s probably so well-dressed because she receives messages weekly that criticize what she wears. She likely doesn’t accept many social invitations because she knows her presence will make some people uncomfortable, like they can’t be themselves. You may feel as though she cares about you but still keeps you at arm’s length because I promise you she has been hurt, deeply hurt, by people in the very church she’s dedicating her life to.  

If her car is too nice, she’s criticized for spending too much. If she’s dressed too casually she’s told she doesn’t represent the church well. If she goes to a graduation she’s offended someone by not attending their party.

If she lets people get close, she is terrified they will hurt her. Again.  

Pastor’s and their wives can become a status symbol for church members, like trophies that tell the world how holy they are to be so close to the minister. Many people want proximity to their pastors, not relationship. Getting close to church members can be like playing with fire for a pastor and his wife.

They’ve been used, gossiped about, lied to, criticized, and deeply, deeply hurt. They’ve poured themselves into others and been told it wasn’t enough. They’ve seen members leave over petty arguments, members leave over the volume of worship, members leave over offense, leave over egos, leave over social media posts, leave because they didn’t like a deacon, a member, an offering plate.

Because of the deep connections and emotions that exist within the church, it can be a prime breeding ground for pain and resentment, gossip and strife, jealousy, and judgment. And when it comes to your pastor’s wife, it can be a place of profound loneliness.  

She’s been hurt. She’s been used. She’s been criticized. And she’s terrified of it happening again. 

She worries she’ll incur judgment for her social invitations or offense for not inviting.  

She worries that expectations will be so high of her that she can’t form a friendship without being expected to be a mentor, as well.  

She’s a normal woman, flesh and blood, with a sense of humor, a big heart, favorite shows, favorite candies.

She jams in her car, has bad days, and wakes up with morning breath. She struggles to raise kids just like you do, spends time finding the right GIF or emoji to reply with. She’s so much more like you than you realize, but she’s been told so much that she’s not allowed to be that, she’s hesitant to let anyone know it.  

RELATED: Confession of a Worn-Out Pastor’s Wife

Your pastor’s wife is probably lonely. 

But you can help. 

You can pray for her. You can greet her genuinely. You can text her, tweet at her, message her. You can contact her for reasons other than needing something from her. Invite her to a movie, to a girl’s dinner with no agenda apart from friendship. Invite her over, take her out, sit next to her in church. Pastors and their wives are often accused of only befriending elite people in the congregation, only caring about big tithers or prominent people.

The truth is that their list of friends is quite short, but not because of money or prestige—it’s because they’ve been used and hurt so much that it’s simply not healthy or safe to find friendships within their own fellowship. 

I attended Bible college while engaged and married. I took multiple ministry classes, studied Greek text, read books about pastoral counseling and pastoral expectations and pastoral meetings. I learned about church bylaws, nonprofit laws, and duty-to-report laws. But for all of my preparation for ministry, despite the years I spent in a pastor’s home, I was never prepared for being a pastor’s wife. 

It’s likely your pastor’s wife wasn’t, either. And she’s probably pretty lonely.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

God was In the Room for Our Daughter’s Open Heart Surgery

In: Faith, Motherhood
Child's hand with IV

I’ve had a strong faith for as long as I can remember, but I always felt bad that I never had a “testimony.” I had never gone through something that made me sit back and say, “Wow, God is real, He is here.” I have always felt it to my core, but no moment had ever stopped me dead in my tracks to where there was no denying that it was God. And then, that moment happened to me on December 5. After five months of fervently praying for a miracle for our daughter, the day came for her heart...

Keep Reading

A Benediction for the Worn Out Mother

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman leaning against kitchen counter, black-and-white photo

Blessed are you, Father, for bestowing upon me the honor of motherhood. For allowing me to experience the deep joy of bringing forth life—a joy I often take for granted and instead choose to begrudge. My children’s cries and demands have worn me down. I do not recognize myself. I selfishly long for the old me. My thoughts are an intangible mess of never-ending tasks, self-criticism, and comparison to those around me. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama But Your word says you are near to the broken-hearted and downtrodden. You do not forget the cause of the tired and the...

Keep Reading

God Doesn’t Forget You When You’re Lost and Unsure

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking into camera, color photo

I’ve been wandering around feeling lost for over a year. Wondering where I’m going, what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing seems to make sense. I felt purposeless. I felt stuck. I questioned everything: my faith, my marriage, my career—if it could be questioned, I doubted it. And I was completely clueless how to fix the funk. For over a year, I’ve been in the wilderness. I’ve wanted to find my way, but every path seemed like another dead end. The wilderness. I’ve been residing there. Not feeling fed. Not feeling heard. Not feeling seen. Struggling to find a purpose....

Keep Reading

And Then, the Darkness Lifts

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother with baby smiling

Today when I woke, it had lifted, like sunshine peeking after rain. And as my toddler clicked on the lamp beside my bed to see her mama, I saw me too. I got out of bed and I walked down the hall. And the coffee pot sat there waiting for me, as always, like my husband at the kitchen table with his books. He smiled at me, and I think he could tell as I took my medicine, took down a mug, and poured my coffee. I opened the secretary desk and pulled out the chair and my Bible, like...

Keep Reading

Joy in This Stillness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding sleeping toddler, color photo

I woke up suddenly in a sweat while it was still dark. Except for the humming of the oxygen machine, the house was silent. For a moment, I thought I might have time to enjoy a cup of coffee before my son woke up. However, a glance at my daughter’s crib told me that feeding my caffeine addiction would have to wait. My daughter has a terminal brain disorder called Lissencephaly, a side effect of which is uncontrolled epilepsy. Many mornings, a subconscious recognition that she is having episodes of repeated seizures rouses me from my sleep. Throwing on a...

Keep Reading

Sometimes All We Can Do Is Say How Hard Motherhood Is

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom with baby in foreground

I have been sitting in the peace and quiet of the office to do some long overdue Bible study for all of five minutes when the baby wakes up. With a heavy sigh that is becoming all too common, I go to the bedroom to pick up my fussy, probably getting sick, 8-month-old daughter who has been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. I bring her to the office and put her on the floor with some new books and toys. Sitting back down in front of my own new book of Bible maps and charts, I begin reading once again....

Keep Reading