The Preacher’s Wife (Part 1)

Through the years, I have heard many people express themselves concerning what they believed to be the role of a “preacher’s wife.”  Since I’ve been pretty close to a “preacher’s wife” for the past 28 years, I thought I would risk presumption and weigh in as well.

So here are my thoughts.  The role of a “preacher’s wife” is (drum roll, please)  the same as a “plumber’s wife,” a “doctor’s wife,” a merchant’s wife,” or an “engineer’s wife.”  What I’m trying to say is that she is no different than any other woman.  Her role is to be a faithful Christian wife.  To expect more is extra-biblical.

Extra-biblical?  Yes, extra-biblical.  Consider how many times in a preacher’s life he has had to explain to well-intended, but misguided people that he is not a “pastor.”  What would we think of a preacher who embraced the role of a “pastor,” because after all, those are the expectations of the people?  We wouldn’t tolerate it.  We’d remind him of his proper role, wouldn’t we?  We’d teach people the difference between a “preacher” and a “pastor.”  But what we wouldn’t do is say, “Oh well, that’s what people have come to expect, so we need to just roll with it.”

So here’s my question, “Why shouldn’t the same rules apply when it comes to the role of a “preacher’s wife?”  Where does the Bible outline such a role?  What are the qualifications placed upon her from Scripture?  Where does the Bible say she is to be a leader, a Bible class teacher, a Ladies’ Day speaker, a model hostess, or an event planner?  These expectations should no more be placed on her than any other Christian wife.  We must not be guilty of creating an extra-biblical role with a set of self-imposed rules, and lay them on the shoulders of Christian woman who happen to be married to men who are preachers.  In fact, rather than perpetuating these extra-biblical expectations, we should be trying to correct them.

The role of a preacher’s wife is to be a faithful Christian wife;  period.  She should be involved in the work of the church to the extent that her talents allow her, just like any other Christian wife.  Because she is married to a preacher, she will face many unique challenges, but let’s not be guilty of adding additional expectations upon her.

So there you have it.  What do you think?

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26 Comments

  1. What he said! I think PW’s are also supposed to be able to make Poppyseed Chicken. It’s a biblical requirement! ;) On a more serious note, can I also add that I think sometimes in our eagerness to be “the perfect preacher’s wife” or even the perfect Christian we place unnecessary expectations on ourselves that simply are not there (in some cases). I could talk for pages on this subject but I’ll stop. Thanks for the props!
    – Not another Preacher’s wife ;)

  2. Very perceptive view indeed. Every woman should be a faithful Christian (single or married). The same can be said for a man. Aspiring to be a pastor (elder, bishop) or pastor’s wife can arguably be the highest biblical calling of a Christian. Although the vocation of an evangelist is different than other vocations, the spouse of such a person remains special to God. But more special than any other spouse? Nay, it is not described as such in Scripture. Thank you for the thoughtful words.

  3. Amen! Thank you and their children are children of God, etc. not held to higher expectations than that of their peers in the church, but that’s for another day… Thank you for explaining what I’ve come to know and strive to live out. Love it!

  4. We read nothing of the wives of the prophets or of the apostles, except for a brief mention that some of them were married. Otherwise the Bible remains silent on what they may have or may not have done.

  5. I have often referred to myself as the “preacher’s wife’s husband” to point out the fact that she has an identity and ministry of her own, defined by the Lord, not by the church.

  6. As a preacher’s wife i appreciate this article and agree with you. There have been times I was told (by a former congregation) to follow a list of to do & not to do, and that only my example as a Christian woman counted- the remaining women could act however they wanted. They basically wanted a spokesperson. In anything we do, we should be Christians first.

  7. Absolutely! I would add however, as a preacher who is NOT married, that it does take a special kind of woman to be a preacher’s wife – even if her responsibility is no different than that of any other wife.

  8. While all that you say is very true, in “real life” we are expected to do a little more, and are held to a higher standard than the average. It’s okay, most of us knew what we were getting into. I think the church needs to be reminded of these things once in a while, and I thank you for doing it.

  9. What a wonderful and inspiring article. Being the husband of a preacher’s wife, I know how much of a strain that role can be in some congregations. Well, I know that being my wife should come with an award all on its own. Thanks for making my wife feel better about her choice of husbands.

  10. As the husband of a “preacher’s wife” I wholeheartedly concur. I’m tempted at times to say, “If you want to give her the title give her the salary to go with it”, but that would just perpetuate the error. The same could also be said of the “preacher’s kids”. Thanks for the article Steve.

  11. When an eldership hires a preacher, they not only hire the man but the family too. If the wife were not able to be friendly and have a Christian attitude and the children were unruly, the preacher probably would not be hired. So therefore, there are certain qualities that the wife of a preacher should possess. It seems to me that if anyone is going to be Godly, it should be the wife of a preacher. If she loves God and wants to go to Heaven, she certainly should be more likely to live a good life if she is married to someone who studies the Bible daily, who insists on family devotions each night, who tries to teach, along with his wife, a love of God to their children and who tries to influence others to live a Christian life. And just as every Christian should desire to teach others about Jesus, she should try to become a teacher of others too.

  12. Libby, thanks for your comments, but I must say I don’t agree completely. I understand that for any preacher to be successful, he needs a good and godly wife. I would further say that the more she can do to accentuate his work, the more successful he will be. I certainly affirm that. But that’s not what my article was about. My article was about people placing “preacher’s wives” on a higher plane and expecting more out of them because they are the wife of a preacher. That, I believe is unfair and an imposition of man, not God. Where is the verse in which God requires more from a preacher’s wife than other Christian women? If there is none, then to expect more is to impose a man made creed, not a God given role.

    You said that “it seems to me that if anyone is going to be Godly, it should be the wife of a preacher.” I would suggest that if anyone is going to be godly, it should be a Christian. Period. Again, where does God impose a higher standard of conduct on a preacher’s wife than any other Christian lady?

    You also said of the preacher’s wife, “If she loves God and wants to go to Heaven, she certainly should be more likely to live a good life if she is someone who studies the Bible daily…” Well, a couple of matters here. First, I would say that anyone who wants to go to Heaven is more likely to live a good life, regardless of who they are married to. Second, you’re talking about issues of character development not qualifications. Certainly, one who has a godly spouse has a great advantage over one who doesn’t. However, that doesn’t equate to rightfully placing man made expectations on her that aren’t on other Christian women.

    Finally, I agree completely with your last statement, which is what I was trying to say in the article. “Just as every Christianshould desire to teach others about Jesus, she should try to become a teacher of others too.” That’s my point exactly – “Just as every Christian…” Again, my point is that God never created a role called “the preacher’s wife.” He gave no qualifications. And He gave no expectations. Therefore, neither should we. A woman who is married to a preacher should strive to serve the Lord to the extent her talents allow her, just as every Christian woman.

    Hope this is helpful.

  13. Steve, If a man is a physical fitness guru and teaches others to live by those principals. One would expect the man’s wife and children to be more physically fit than the average person on the street. My point is that as the wife of a minister, it is natural for people to think that the minister is living and practicing a more Godly life than the average person in the church. All one has to do is look around at the church of today and see that that is true. There are those in the church who live Godly lives but my point was that not every one of the women in the church have the blessing of living with someone who is, hopefully, devoting every minute of his life to serving God. I was a minister’s wife for 21 years until my husband died of cancer.I did not mind if people held me to a higher standard because it only made me want to be better at being a preacher’s wife and a Christian. While I was married to my minister, I grew and developed as a Christian and I believe it was easier because I lived with this Godly man. Look around the church, and hopefully you won’t see many women that are more loving toward the congregation, more willing to teach and more devoted to God than the preacher’s wife.

    And as far as paying the preacher’s wife. I felt that when the church hired my husband, it was a package deal. We got one salary but we all worked for the church.

    I am sure you are right in some of your points but when I lost my husband, I lost my job as preacher’s wife. And believe me, I miss that more than I can tell you.

  14. Libby,
    Thanks again for your reply. I think we are on the same page in everything that is said except for the point of the “preacher’s wife as a role.” I agree that she has a tremendous advantage. I believe that she will have far more opportunities to serve than other ladies. The difference is summed up in the statement you made, “I did not mind if people held me to a higher standard.” Well, that may be the way you feel about it, but that’s not the way that other Christian ladies feel about it. On the contrary, many other women labor under this man-made standard, and struggle with resentment and bitterness as they attempt to bear up under the double standard imposed upon them and by which they are judged.

    You made the comment that, “It is natural for people to think that the minister is living and practicing a more godly life than the average person in the church.” You see, I just don’t agree with that. Because I am a preacher and my friend is an electrician doesn’t make me any more godly than him, nor do I think it follows. In fact, I am constantly humbled, taught, challenged, and encouraged by the godliness of my brethren. The height of godliness isn’t expressed in become a preacher, but in submitting one’s will to God’s in whatever profession one chooses.

    The point of my article is that while there may be some people who are able to say, “bring it on, I can handle it and live up to this higher standard,” not every woman can. So, shall we perpetuate a wrong way of thinking (God has standards for the preacher’s wife that he doesn’t have for other Christian women), or shall we work at debunking such thinking and expectations? I want us all to be content with the divine expectations God has given, and not presume to add to his expectations.

    Countless preachers are no longer preaching today because their wives couldn’t bear up under the double standard that was imposed upon her. Had she just be allowed to be a Christian lady, she would have been fine, but it was the higher standard to which she was judged that she could not bear up under. Thus, a man is left with a decision…do I keep preaching and lose my wife, or do I quit preaching and keep my wife.

    I very much appreciate you, and am sorry to learn that you have lost your husband. I am also happy to know that your life was enriched by being married to a preacher. That’s wonderful! It’s my prayer that God gives you many more years of service to him in his kingdom.

    God bless.

  15. Fantastic article!!! After 11 years as a “PW”, my wife Lorie has been thoroughly vetted. I am thankful for SEIBS (formerly ETSPM) Preachers wives training classes. They were an excellent foundation for her to build upon, and an eye opener to what she could expect. Yes, preacher wives are unfortunately held to an unfair standard, (doubtless this will ever change) but at the very least the wives of preachers graduating from many of our schools of preaching, are also getting some training, and dare I say forwarning of what to expect. Thanks to SEIBS/ETSPM & all the other schools for the efforts made on behlaf of the wives of preachers! Behind most faithful men, are equally faithful and dedicated Christian wives.

  16. Great comments. We as Christians all have a special call on our lives, whether it be pastoring etc or being a witness in your job. we will all be rewarded or not at the reward seat of Christ for being faithfull to whatever he has called us to. A lot of Christians put so much on the pastor and leave it to him to do the work of ministry but fail to see that they too have a plan for their life to fulfill. They judge the five fold ministry gifts and expect so much of them, but need to realize they are called to live godly upstanding lives and if they are called to serve in the church setting
    they need to help the pastor and wife fulfill their call so they can help the congration find their call
    and fulfill it. I agree with the pastors wife to help her husband fulfill his job and she will be rewarded as much as her husband at the reward seat of Christ. Also she may enjoy teaching or
    have gifts to contribute to the church too.But I believe her first call is to be a helpmate to her husband. If the lord has showen her other areas where she can minister it will work in with her
    husbands call. I believe he calls both husband and wife together and their roles complement each other. Maree

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