February 8, 2023

Pastor's Wife

By: John Poundstone

One Thing She’s Not
She’s not a pastor’s wife
but she’s the wife of a pastor
but she’s not the wife of a pastor

One of the roles in which I am privileged to serve is senior leader of a local church. Folks desire to honor my wife. Or they were instilled with church tradition. Or they don’t know what else to label my wife. So they deem her “pastor’s wife.” Like all labels, impressions and expectations come along with that.

Expectations of a "Pastor's Wife"

Generally speaking, folks expect one or many of the following of a pastor’s wife: Demonstrable piety, church pianist and organist, dress certain ways, speak certain ways, wear makeup in certain ways (or not wear makeup at all), teach and lead Sunday School, at all times carry a certain demeanor and countenance, behave in certain ways, and look down her nose at the conduct and appearance of others.

Other items on the implied job description of the “pastor’s wife” include: Knowing all things about the daily operation of the church and all its ministries, serving as the central point of contact for all questions, concerns, bible questions, sermon clarifications, explanations of what outfit her husband wore, said or failed to say, and more.

Moreover, she is to at all times be able to answer for what her husband is thinking or planning, whether it be an initiative, ministry, class, project plan, etc. And, among her more important roles, she is to be a surrogate and graciously field and respond to all inquiries that could and should be directed to the “pastor” but for which a person feels insecure to just ask him.

Shedding Labels & Overcoming Expectations

I fully excuse my beautiful, powerful wife from any and all such labels and expectations. As much as I love and honor people, I refuse to in any way subject my wife, let alone Jesus’s Church, to such inappropriate expectations and dysfunction. I do so on four counts:

  • No different from everyone, my wife has a God-breathed calling and assignments that support that calling. None of those map to the role of “pastor’s wife”;
  • A hierarchical or businesslike leadership structure of the church is unbiblical;
  • The title, role and expectation of Pastor, as it is held in the minds of many churchgoers and church traditions, does not exist in Scripture. The word is only mentioned twice in the bible. It is a unique, specific calling and role utterly unlike what we today call a pastor;
  • I too have a very specific calling and assignments that support it. It is very different from the traditional “pastor”. Hence, to call me a pastor can lead to confusion and inappropriate expectations.

Get to Know Us

What should you call us? Whatever makes you feel comfortable. First name, Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, Pastor or any other title is fine. All we ask is to accept our invitation to get to know us for who we are, free us of expectations imposed by tradition, and come to know what we actually have been asked to do and lead.

Thank you. We love you. Yes, you.

Article written by John Poundstone

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