So God Made a Mother is Here! 🎉

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 new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

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.

I Buried My Heart with My Baby but God Brought Me Back to Life

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman in a sweater standing outside looking at sunset

Recently, my world felt as if it were crashing around me. I was so angry I think my rage could have burned a small village. Unfortunately, that rage was directed at God though I knew that wasn’t what I needed to be directing toward Him. He owed me nothing then, and He owes me nothing now; however, my heart was shattered, and for a while, it seemed as if my faith was crumbling with it. I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. I stopped all positive feelings and allowed myself to succumb to the pain and the anger. When...

Keep Reading

Dear New Mom, God Is Only a Whisper Away

In: Baby, Faith, Motherhood
New mother holding baby on couch, eyes closed

While we were waiting to adopt, I would wake up in the middle of the night panicky. My mind would wander to the thought of suddenly having a baby. With groggy eyes and a cobwebbed mind, I would ask myself, “Could I get up right now to go soothe a crying baby?” And then the insecurities would flood me as I thought through the difficulty of dragging myself out of bed to give milk to a fussy newborn. I didn’t know if I could.  With each application sent to agencies and social workers, the possibility of adopting a baby became more...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, You Gave Me Purpose

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

Dear daughter, Before God knit you in my womb, I was wandering around aimlessly, searching for a purpose. I had changed my mind several times about what I wanted to do with my life. I felt so much pressure to figure out what I truly wanted. I rushed into career ideas, only to realize I wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of them. I started grad school, only to quit in three weeks. I was crushed and defeated. I begged God to show me His plan, to give me a purpose. I begged Him to give me something I...

Keep Reading

God Holds Her Every Step of the Way

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding infant baby's feet, color photo

We were told she wouldn’t make it to 20 weeks. When she made it, we were told she wouldn’t survive to full-term. When she survived to full-term, we were told she wouldn’t grow properly. When she grew, she thrived. When she thrived, she confused the doctors. RELATED: Keep Fighting, Little Miracle When the doctors tried to find the science to explain away her defeating all the odds, I had the answers. God. Prayers. Miracles. At 10 weeks when I found out about her condition, I prayed. I gathered my prayer warriors, and we prayed. Ultrasound after ultrasound, the technician was...

Keep Reading

Your Marriage Can’t Sit in a Laundry Basket without Getting a Few Wrinkles

In: Faith, Marriage
Couple doing laundry in front of washing machine

Bring on the bottled scent of fresh mountain breeze and seaside lavender. I’ll happily perform the swivel dance of transferring clothes from washer to dryer. I’ll hang those darlings with delicate personalities to gently air dry. I don’t mind the doing part. I’ll do laundry ’til the cows come home. It’s the folding part that I tend to put off. The cows have come home and gone to pasture several times, and that basket of clothes is most likely still sitting there developing more wrinkles than a baby bulldog.  And don’t even get me started on ironing. Let’s just say...

Keep Reading

Overwhelmed Mama, Take a Moment to Sit at the Feet of Jesus

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman sitting in hallway, black and white image

Mama friend, I know you’re exhausted. It feels like you have nothing left to give. You know you need to take a moment for yourself, but you don’t know how. I know it all feels endless—like it will never be any different. I know you long for a week, a day, or an hour to yourself but take this moment. Put the baby in the playpen. Tell the kids to play in their room. Sit down somewhere away from the dirty dishes in the sink and the pile of laundry that has been waiting to be folded for days. Step...

Keep Reading

The Ring Came from a Stranger from Heaven

In: Faith, Living
Large ring on woman's hand, color photo

This ring is not much to look at now—a well-worn piece of turquoise costume jewelry, its cheap metal revealing its quality and insignificant cost. But the value of this ring, “The Ring,” rivals that of my diamond and gold wedding band. It is priceless. For me, it is tangible proof of how an unseen God orchestrates events, circumstances, and people to remind me that miracles do happen and that He hears me—especially when I hurt. I happened upon this precious keepsake at a time in my life when things seemed to be falling apart and when I was feeling very sorry...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Day Kintsugi Birdhouse: Beauty from Brokenness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Broken birdhouse lying beneath tree, color photo

Seated at the sunroom breakfast table, mouth full of Special K, I glance out the row of windows. A flutter of gray-blue against white paint catches my eye. I quickly swallow. “Y’all, a bird just went inside the bluebird house!” We all stand in a row, mimicking the windows. Yes, my sleepy morning eyes did not deceive me. Tail feathers were protruding from the circular opening. At last, a bird had found its way to this little white house with a tin roof nailed to a lone holly tree in the middle of our backyard. This was not the original...

Keep Reading

A Mother Gives Everything for Always

In: Faith, Motherhood
Young girl kissing mother on cheek

My eyes flickered open and closed as I lay on the hospital bed after giving birth to my first-born daughter. The lights above me felt painfully bright as my eyes fought hard to stay open. Almost lifeless, my body had never felt so depleted. I lay there in a dream-like state, watching the world go on in full speed around me while inside I was in slow motion, barely strong enough to partake in the joy of bringing my daughter into the world. I had given every last ounce of myself, poured out until there was not much left. My...

Keep Reading

My Sensitive Son Is a Friend Who Prays

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother kissing son goodnight, color photo

Last night, I sat on my youngest son’s messy bed, and we said our nightly prayers. I went first, as usual, and he followed up, mentioning a little boy’s name I had never heard. When he was finished with his prayer, I asked who so-and-so was. He explained that he is a student in his fourth-grade classroom, who was crying during class yesterday morning. The teacher asked him what was wrong, and he said his dog had died. My heart immediately went out to the young little boy, facing what may be his first major heartbreak in life. I was...

Keep Reading