The Pastor’s Spouse

When we think about caring for clergy, we need to include in that care a concern for the spouse of the clergy. Hear Martha’s story. She is married to Jacob Wilson, pastor of a small Presbyterian church in the Mid-west. (Names are fictitious)


It is not always true, but Martha did know that Jacob wanted to be a pastor before she married him. What she did not know was what that would mean for her. Finances were often a source of tension within their family. She was grateful that the Presbyterians, at least, had a minimum wage that they agreed to pay. Yet as a couple of children came along, it was necessary for Martha to find employment to meet expenses.

Many families have financial tensions. What she did not realize were the other pressures that came with her unique position as pastor’s spouse. Since her work was during the week and his included the weekends, it meant they rarely had free time just to catch up with each other. Child care and housework were mostly her responsibility. Since he was expected to be available at all times to meet the needs of his congregation, many times the events they did plan together or with the family were interrupted by the unexpected phone call.


Still, there was a sense of nobleness to his profession that she could admire. It felt good when people would speak to her about the way he had been available to others in times of need or the excellent skills he demonstrated in guiding the congregation. What she was not prepared for was the unexpected feelings of jealousy when they would praise him but did not seem to recognize her efforts as well.


When the inevitable criticisms occurred, she could immediately see that he was wounded. It made her angry that people complained about petty things when he worked so hard and sacrificed time with his family. It was like standing at the bedside of a loved one who was being eaten away with cancer. You wanted to do something, but you were helpless to change things. Even as a member of the church, she was not really free to speak out at congregational meetings or ask the pastor to speak to the inappropriate parishioner. Having grown up in the church, it was strange for Martha to realize that even though she was a member of the church, she did not have the freedom to participate as a normal member. Everything she did or did not do reflected on the pastor.


Has anyone thought about acknowledging the unique pressures on a pastor’s spouse and showing a little appreciation for his or her efforts?

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