What Happens When A Pastor’s Wife Gives Up

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“Ministry is not for me.”

“I want to leave my pastor husband.”

“My husband is a pastor but I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife.”

“This is too hard.”

“Help! My husband wants to be a pastor. What should I do?”

These and many other similar search terms come into the dashboard of my website on a weekly and daily basis. Desperate cries come into my email inbox privately. And I hurt with these dear women, pray for them fervently.

For as invisible as it may seem to most people, there is a tremendous battle being waged for the hearts of pastors’ wives everywhere.  While we speak of the husband being the head and leader of our homes {and he is to be that, biblically}, a great amount of life and influence hinges on the pastor’s wife- first in her home and family, and secondarily in her church relationships.

The temptation to quit is a common human plight that troubles even the most successful of people. And oh, how the tempter especially likes to whisper taunts to the shepherd’s wife:

“You’re not making any difference.”

“You’ll never be able to minister to that person.”

“All that criticism? That’s who you are.”

“You’re a failure.”

“Why do you even try? Those people don’t even care about you.”

“God isn’t using you.”

“God doesn’t have anything special planned for you- just more of this non sensical mundane service that doesn’t yield any results.”

“You shouldn’t be a pastor’s wife if you struggle with that.”

“You can’t be a good mother because you’re a pastor’s wife.”

“You don’t have to take that abuse. Just look out for yourself, ’cause nobody else will.”

On and on the list goes, for satan never runs out of one liners. Whether it’s a thought coming into your head, or whether it comes out of the mouth of a person not right with God, discouraging phrases do a lot of damage to pastors’ wives. Consider this statistic:

  • Fifty percent of pastors/wives are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. {Statistic obtained from Focus on the Family and other reputable sources}

Pastors’ wives give up all the time. Some actually throw in the towel and walk away {you don’t want to know those statistics}, but still others give up in a more subtle way. They keep up the appearances of ‘the pastor’s wife’, but inside, in the deep places of the heart, they. are. done. They can’t handle the unfair pressures, criticism, and unkindness for another minute. And so quietly, they retreat. And a great battle is won. But yet another, more important battle is lost.

So what happens when a pastor’s wife gives up?

Satan wins. He renders them discouraged, and therefore unproductive.

This is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics- to dig at and pick away until one is utterly exhausted. Striving for the cause of Christ ceases, passion is lost, and real ministry dies. Survival mode kicks in, and this is how the enemy likes us best. Unproductive and unusable for Christ. Serving self- ‘just taking care of ourselves for once, since nobody else will’. And a slow death begins to take place. One that will ultimately harm, if not end, our husband’s ministry. One that grieves the heart of God.

How can I speak such things as this? Well, I have lived in these places myself.  I have completely fainted, bone weary from criticism, attacks, and accusations.

I have rendered satan more powerful than God as I sank into survival mode.

All the while I hoped that no one would notice that I had given up. I was done trying, and God just needed to show up and take care of things so that ministry was enjoyable again.

Well, He doesn’t usually work that way, does He?  Instead, He woos us back to Him, and pulls us close to His heart, where He binds up our wounds and pours in oil and wine.

He works His healing and then He infuses energy into even the most faint of hearts.

I have seen God do this in my heart even recently. He has filled my empty places with fresh passion and vision. He has brought people {from my church, from the general public, and even through email} across my path daily and has shown me ways to minister and encourage, to pray with them, to cry with them. He has whispered in the darkness when I couldn’t find my way “It may be hard, and you may be alone sometimes, but I can still use YOU. Let me show you how.”

And with a humble awe, I watch my God at work in a dark place. And through the haze of not fully understanding God’s eternal plan, I see it.

He’s using unworthy, imperfect, totally incapable me. In the same place where I had before given up. He’s come alongside and said, “Let’s walk this road together. Don’t give up, because our path ends in heaven.”

Oh, the grace. It leaves me speechless, bowing in worship, asking for more.

Therefore, my beloved brethren {sisters}, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

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Let’s Connect: Dear pastor’s wife, have you been in this place before? Are you there now? Have you lost sight of why it even matters to go on? Have you seen God come alongside and strengthen you when you had given up in your heart?  I’d like to invite you to be part of one of my private online support groups for pastors’ wives- I promise that you will be blessed and encouraged. At this point, several hundred pastors’ wives are finding community and sharing hope in the 9 Heart-to-Heart groups. Email me at Leah@embracingrace.com if you would like to join!

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About Leah {Embracing Grace}

Leah Highfill accepted Christ as her Saviour and became a child of God at the age of 18. Originally from the USA, she and her husband moved to the mission field of Canada in 2005, where she served in full time ministry as a pastor's wife for 10 years. During their tenure there, they became dual citizens. Leah and her family recently returned to NC and are currently enjoying a much needed sabbatical for the year of 2015. She homeschools her children {Small Son is 9 and Tiny Daughter is 7} and teaches private piano lessons on the side. She can be found reading, writing/blogging, playing the piano and violin, or ice skating. A friend to ministry wives everywhere, Leah has a passion to inspire hope and to encourage women in their walk with God. Her first book, Expecting Grace, was published in 2013. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah's experience and survival of a life threatening pregnancy, and of many medical and financial miracles along the way. Her second book is currently in process. Join her grace-filled journey right here at Embracing Grace!

82 thoughts on “What Happens When A Pastor’s Wife Gives Up

    1. WOW!!!! Thank God for this article. My wife and I just read this together and it ministered to us BOTH! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! God Bless you.

        1. It’s been a year and 5 months since my husband excepted a Pastoral calling in Rockland County Ny. We served at our church in The Bronx for 27 years in various capacities.. We were the property care takers, we were in the music ministry, my husband a Youth Sunday school leader…we worked side by side with our Pastors & his family.. Our two sons were born and raised at this church.. I so miss that church!! God calls husbands and people don’t realize how this submissiveness that us wives go thru is so against our will and natural state of being… But because we love The Lord and our husbands we ” take a deep breath” and we do what we have to do to help our husbands and don’t think about ourselves… But it is sooo very difficult.. I find myself saying ” I want to stay , I want to leave, I want to run” ..Why is this such a pattern? Why are the church members so ridiculously in sensitive…( not all but some) …can we pleAse be loved for who we are? Can we please be accepted for the ministry that we came with already ? Please don’t ask us to do things in different areas just because we are the ” Pastors Wife”.. ( deep breath……..) I did take a vow at the altar 30 years ago before God and men ….I knew I was marrying a man who wanted to be a Pastor…I’m just physically ,emotionally and mentally tired of walking up the steps into the Church building with an ” invisible protective wall”… And it’s only been a year and 5 months……

          1. I hope and pray someone has reached out to you by now. But if not I just wanted to say God will not forget your labor of love.

          2. I am in awful state of mind. Words cannot express. But I’m here still here! Please pray for me! Been married for eighteen years and 16 years spent on ministry.

          3. I feel like I just read my own story… I feel like my life is out of control I did not sign up for all this .will everyone see past the facade? “Many are the plans of man but God’s plan prevails” I hear God say but I miss my church family where I was. I don’t want to let anyone down. I know I have been raised in digging in deeper so I don’t let the storms of life blow me away. I know I can do all things through Christ but I am still human too!

          4. I feel your pain! I deal with the very same feelings! You are not alone and it’s good to know that I am not either.

  1. Thank you so much for this post. My heart has been in that place so many times. God has been so faithful though! Thank you so much for your ministry. I am passing it on too!

  2. OH Leah!!!!!! what a blessing. I don’t think you could have nailed this any better. I felt every letter of this post as i read it. Why? I have seen many a weary sister warriors, including myself, though it be through a season of sickness, business, ministry upheavals or whatever, just check out, walk away….. give up. The enemy knows if he cant take the Pastor down, then go for the wife. I see a serious spiritual warfare against PW’s, I have seen suicide, discouragement, even a dear friend of mine walked away from not only the ministry but her entire family, to which it just crushed me, and so much more. By the way I have only been a Pastors wife for 7 yrs! I see us Pastors wives as a vital shield for our husbands and our ministries….. especially a shield of Prayer! The last line of defense per-say for our Pastor husbands. If Satan can get us off focused enough, we will check out and spiral to a place we never dreamed we would be, while all the while our shield is down, and our husband is open for attack. (now understand i know many people pray for our husbands, but what if no one does or is? who will love and pray for them more than us?) (who understands them in the fold like us? who?) I just had this reality check a little while back, if you remember me commenting on one of your posts about a friend out of no where telling me not to quit????? Not sure if you remember, but either way, Praise the Lord for the messenger!!! I know the enemy is real and wants me to quit, i feel the attacks, the oppression etc. buuuuut I also see my warrior Savior who comes and protects me and helps me and sends the messengers to encourage me, feed me, uplift me etc.
    well again I have said enough 😉 Thank you sister!!! Great post!!!

    1. Yes, I definitely remember that comment when you told me that someone had just encouraged you not to quit. God is faithful, isn’t He?! We all need that reminder from time to time. I guess, judging by the response to this article, that it was much more needed than I even dreamed. I, too, have seen ministry casualties and they are heartbreaking. We just need to stay close to the Lord so that we won’t become one of them. ((hug)) to you, friend!
      Leah recently posted..31 Days of Fishbowl Grace: LEAD {Day 31}My Profile

  3. The Mrs-Call to the Ministry
    Pastor Ron Boersma Bsc Dip Tchng NZCS MNZAMT
    Christchurch Baptist on Burwood
    New Zealand

    There are certainly dangers and definitely misconceptions when a man enters the pastoral ministry. The first problem that I see is this; there are few men willing to answer God’s call into the pastoral ministry. Why is that? There are a variety of reasons which I will cover later. But this problem has left many congregations without a pastor and many are often reliant on lay preachers or a church accepting a man who may not be called by God. A congregation without a shepherd opens the “sheep” up to “wolves” that will devour and scatter the “sheep”. A church without a pastor opens the church up to satanic attacks.

    Some men enter the ministry because of the pressure that may face through parents, church, or teen camps. Others enter the ministry for the prestige they may receive – double honour. Among many who enter universities or colleges to study for the ministry, there is a misunderstanding between the general call for all Christians to go out into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 16:15) and the specific call to the missionary or pastoral ministry. Obviously not every man is called to be a pastor (Ephesians 4:11). Those that desire the office of a pastor desires a good work (1Timothy 3:1) but desire does not equal a call. It may lead to a call but it isn’t a call. Clearly every Christian should be involved in Christian work and use their God-given talents for Him (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26).

    Assuming then the young man is called by God to be a pastor. He must fulfil the qualifications of a pastor as laid out in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). This shows that the pastor should be married. Here we begin with the greatest misconception by church members. What part does his wife play in the pastoral ministry? Is she called to be the “pastor’s assistant”? Is she called to take the ladies Bible studies? Is she called to preach to the ladies as does Joyce Meyer for example? Is she called to speak to ladies at conferences? Is she called to minister to the ladies as a counsellor? Is she called to the music ministry? Is she called to be the Sunday school teacher? Is she called to be the crèche worker? What university or college should she attend and what courses should she take to qualify her for “Pastor’s Wife”?

    No doubt the pastor’s wife is very important and plays a very important role in the life of the pastor but there are many misconceptions concerning the pastor’s wife and her role. If any of the answers to the above questions are “yes” then the young man who is called to enter the pastoral ministry must now seek a wife who is also called to enter the pastoral ministry. He must now frequent colleges “looking” for such a young lady for a spouse. What if he is already married? Is the wife called too if the husband is called? What if he is and she isn’t? or did the Lord already work that out before they were married? What if he is called and she does not want to fulfil the role of “pastor’s wife” as outlined in the misconception above? No, the pastor’s wife is not called to pastor, nor be the pastoral assistant, she is simply the pastor’s wife no more and no less.

    The pastor’s wife is simply a homemaker and she should understand that that is all she is. This does not mean however, that she has no ministry, of course she has. We all have been called to the great commission. This still applies to her (Matthew 16:15). Her talents in the church is still needed and needs to be used (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26). But beyond this she is the pastor’s wife, a mother to her children, a labourer in the home. She is not to be the pastoress (if there is such a word), assistant pastor, or even assistant to the pastor. Her activity in the church is like any other lady within the church. Her first responsibility is to her husband and her family. The Lord may have given her specific talents. She may be available to counsel women but certainly not be the only counsellor. She may be used by the Lord to minister during a conference or such like to the ladies if the Lord called her to minister in such a way.

    Many of the church membership (including those who are pastor’s wives) have lived with this expectation of the role of pastor’s wife which has been stressful for many of them which of course adds stress to the family and on the pastor himself. Sadly many pastors feel that for the sake of his family and sanity of his wife he needs to resign from the ministry simply because of the misconception of expectation of the role of “pastor’s wife.”

    I can understand how this has come about. I believe it has come about because many churches have been started by a missionary and his wife and their children. In such a small church all the people must be involved in “growing” the church spiritually and numerically. The pastor’s wife then has to play a major role in this as there is no one else. We understand then that the members with the required talents (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26) have not yet been placed in the church. The wife then helps out where she can. However, this has led to wrong thinking over the decades that the pastor’s wife is part of the leadership team of the church but there is definitely no Biblical mandate for this.

    The pastor is to pastor. You will not find any biblical reference where the pastor’s wife is the pastor to the ladies and the husband is the pastor to the men. You might argue that Titus 2:3 and Titus 5:2 could be used to show that the pastor’s wife is involved in pastoral work but the word “elder” does not mean pastor’s wife. It simply means the “aged” ladies of the church are to teach the “younger” ladies. I need to reiterate that the pastor’s wife is the wife of the pastor but that doesn’t mean that she has no role in the church see 1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26.

    There are no specific duties for the pastor’s wife. You will find scriptural references for the pastoral duties for the pastor but there are no such references for the pastor’s wife. The pastor’s wife is just like any other lady in the church. She will, with her God given talents, serve the Lord and “pitch in” where necessary. This may be to teach Sunday school, ladies Bible studies, visit old people in nursing homes, speak occasionally in a ladies’ conference, counsel ladies in the church but these are not solely the roles of the pastor’s wife, if at all, unless she has been gifted in that way. There is a real danger of making the local church “pastor’s church” allowing too many to sit on their hands and warm the pews and be entertained by the pastor, his wife, and children.

    There are no Biblical standards for the pastor’s wife. You will find Biblical standards for the pastor (1 Timothy 3 and 2 Timothy 2). It is such an important office that God saw to it that there are Biblical references in His Word for the pastor as leader of His flock. But there are no such Biblical references for the pastor’s wife. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord say that the pastor’s wife must be apt to teach, that the pastor’s wife is to rule her household well, be married to one husband. The only reference to the pastor’s wife is that the pastor is simply to be married to one wife – the pastor’s wife.

    The danger is the danger of expectation. Are we placing an unfair expectation upon ladies of the church that if they are married and if the God calls her husband to be the pastor then she is expected to be his associate in service? This of course is contrary to Scripture. 1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    We also run into the danger of married couples unable to serve because the wife does not have the God-given talent or ability to fulfil the duties of the role as “pastor’s wife”. The wife will become disheartened, distressed, sad, depressed, and useless as the “pastor’s wife” as the expectation grows and mounts upon her. What will happen then? The ministry has been set up to fail.

    The young man who then has been called to the pastoral ministry and desires the office of a bishop must then look for a wife that has these God given talents and she will need to be apt to teach, sing, counsel, be an orator, and serve under him as a “help meet” in the ministry. So now a church pulpit committee must not only look for a pastor but must also look for a pastor’s wife to serve with him. This is utter nonsense. It is hard enough to find a man to fulfil the pastoral position let alone adding unscriptural, unbiblical expectation of service on the wife.

    What is the role of the pastor’s wife then? She is the homemaker. She is his help-meet in the home.

    Let me quote Charles U. Wagner in his book The Pastor, his life and work.

    She must seek to maintain the privacy of her home, to meet the needs of her husband and children and to lead a normal Christ life. Should she neglect her home while doing the business and participating in the activities of the church, she is a failure.

    She should be careful not to criticize her husband’s sermons in public, nor in any way to undermine him or speak derogatorily of him. She should be careful not to tell the congregation how much better her lot was in the preceding pastorate. She should not be excessively talkative. Her conversation and deportment should be an example to every member of the church.

    It is advisable that the pastor’s wife not be employed by the church in any capacity; i.e. secretary, clerk, etc.

    The pastor’s wife should be careful not to take over the choir or music of the church, nor to insist on playing the piano, even though she may be most talented. In this respect she should take a place in the background and be used occasionally when called upon.

    She should have the work of the Lord at heart and encourage her husband in it. Under her prayerful care the parsonage can be a place where there is a happy atmosphere, a place where the children are raised in the admonition of the Lord and have a healthy attitude toward the things of the Lord.

    It is indeed a shame for a pastor to be involved in instructing other families when his own family is not in subjection. This often ends in tragic bitterness. Both husband and wife must pray fervently for wisdom and direction of the Lord in this respect.

    In conclusion, we must break this expectation mind set of the pastor’s wife. If we want men to serve in leadership roles then please don’t lumber the pastor’s wife with “if your husband is the pastor then you must take the ladies Bible studies, you must counsel the ladies, you must speak at conferences, you must model yourself after Joyce Meyer, etc. etc. She must nothing! The expectation of the duties of a pastor’s wife is incorrect and unbiblical. These roles need to be filled by the church at large or else we will end up with the situation that no one can serve because the pastor, pastor’s wife, and children do all the work in the local church. The pastor’s wife is just that, the pastor’s wife, no more, no less. She is simply a Christian lady seeking to serve the Lord with her God-given talent(s) in whatever form that may take. If that happens, just maybe we will have more men step up and take the opportunity to serve the Lord as pastor what a blessing that would be for our churches with vacant pulpits!

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective! While your position of “she must nothing” sounds nice, it doesn’t seem to be accepted in our western culture (perhaps it is more where you are?!) and it is virtually impossible for a pastor to have a successful ministry if his wife does absolutely nothing in the church. Even the general members are expected to be involved, so why not the pastor’s wife? Certainly there is a balance, but by default she is exposed to the same hardships that her husband is, for the most part- it’s just the nature of the calling. I would love to see your model in action, but as yet I have not seen it work successfully in our culture. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts! God bless you in your ministry!
      Leah recently posted..31 Days of Fishbowl Grace: LISTEN {Day 27}My Profile

      1. Hi, I know this was written a year ago but I felt I must reply to your comment. I feel like you misread what “Pastor” said. They said that…. “The pastor’s wife is just like any other lady in the church. She will, with her God given talents, serve the Lord and “pitch in” where necessary. This may be to teach Sunday school, ladies Bible studies, visit old people in nursing homes, speak occasionally in a ladies’ conference, counsel ladies in the church but these are not solely the roles of the pastor’s wife, if at all, unless she has been gifted in that way.” They did not say the wife is to to do nothing as you seemed to suggest. They said they ” “must” nothing “- ie. there should not be an expectation that they have a particular role or roles because they are the pastor’s wife.

        I think “pastor’ hit the nail right on the head. My husband is a pastor and we currently are the missionary family in a small town with a dying church trying to breath some life back into it. There is no one else to do things and so our family has had to do pretty much everything including maintaining the huge grounds and buildings, setting up everything for church, child minding, caring for all the sick, running bible studies, fundraising, visiting people in the nursing home, evangelism …….. of which I have little training or giftedness for most of them.

        I am at the point of burn out and I am just noticing that people who are quite capable and were helping out a lot more before we came here are now sitting on their hands and watching us do all the work This is building up quite a lot of resentment in me and I am unsure of what to do about it as there is still things that need to be done. Also I am hardly being fed by God’s word at all because I am out every week trying to teach the children in Sunday School. My husband is always stressed and barely gets a day off and when he does all we talk about is church anyway which leads to a lot of arguing and tension in our home ……. The amount of times I have thought of leaving my husband and moving back to be closer to family is uncountable.

        I might be wrong but I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing for our church to go without a pastor at all for a while to see that it’s not just up to my husband or anyone who is in paid ministry to do ministry – it is up to the whole church.

        1. I know that your post is old, but I am going through the exact same thing!
          From cleaning the church to teaching children’s church every service, etc. So discouraged!

  4. Thank you so much for addressing this issue. This is that quiet thing no one wants to talk about and something I’ve been contemplating for many years. I have been in and out of ministry over the past 27 years of being married to a man who is called to the ministry. One thing I have struggled with is there being a “position” of “pastor’s wife.” In my experience, this takes precendence over being a believer, a fellow believer, or even an unbeliever (Heaven forbid!).

    I once had a pastor friend call me and ask if I would make friends with his wife. She was very lonely without any other pastors’ wives to fellowship with nearby. We were two hours from them! When I asked if there weren’t any friends she could make among the congregation, he flat out told me that was impossible because it could cause strife among the other women if one or more were singled out as her friends. These things ought not so to be.

    I believe pastors, their wives, and congregations are going to have to stop this false heirarchy in the church if there is ever to be any healing for pastor’s wives. It isn’t even healthy for them to be put on a pedestal and worshiped as I’ve seen some congregations do. Let her be a PERSON.
    Marcia Wilwerding recently posted..Free Recipes and How To’s For An eHomebody ThanksgivingMy Profile

    1. I completely agree with you- these things ought not to be!! I have a passion to portray through my writing the realities of being a ministry family. We are normal people with the same human struggles, yet perfection is often expected of us. It is sad. I hope and pray that we can change the culture in this way, a little at a time. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!
      Leah recently posted..31 Days of Fishbowl Grace: LEAD {Day 31}My Profile

  5. And not many seem to consider the associate pastor’s wife either. My husband is an ordained minister whose main ministry is music and senior adult pastor at this time. For at least half or more of being a pastor, he has also been primary in visiting ill and elderly members. He has been music and youth pastor, worship and education pastor, as well as the evangelism pastor. He has also been the only pastor when we had pastors that left our church. God has gifted my husband with spiritual gifts of service and mercy, and more. And, I was always involved in the music, until the last couple of years–not because I had to, but this was an area God called me to many years ago.

    However, I’m not involved in the music now, because it is all I can do to be a homemaker, and I can no longer do that the way I used to. Whereas, I used to cook mostly homemade, I now rely on my husband’s help in this area. Often, I rely on frozen food. It is rare that I am able to make a whole supper by myself anymore. I do not have the energy. My health has suffered, and I have been hurt that many leaders in churches seem to consider pastors and families expendable. Even some pastors seem to consider other staff members this way. We sing of the family of God, yet some people do no treat their pastors that way. I have seen my family hurt for no good reasons. We have stayed at churches when I could see the writing on the wall, because my husband would not leave, until God made it obvious to him, it was time to go. Because of the church, our son totally turned away from Christ for a time, but he came back, as he lay in the hospital.

    By the way, I fully supported my husband being in the ministry, but there have been times I felt I could take no more. However, I know he is where he is supposed to be and I honor that. I support him and pray for him, even though I am often too ill to attend a service. I never thought that would be the case in my life, but it is my cross to bear. God has taught me much and showed me other ways to minister.
    Deborah recently posted..Clean Is PossibleMy Profile

  6. Deborah, I’m sorry that you find yourself in this position now. But I’m sure that God is using you through prayer and encouragement even if you can’t serve actively in person.

    Your ministry experience sounds a lot like mine and my husband’s- we’ve done a bit of just about everything, and have twice been left to hold churches together when the senior pastor left. Those were some of the toughest times for us. I’m so thankful for God’s grace!

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. God bless you as you continue in ministry!
    Leah recently posted..31 Days of Fishbowl Grace: SHOW {Day 28}My Profile

  7. Thank, Leah, for this piece. You are right about Satan gaining a foothold. Honestly, I’ve seen so much discouragement among PW’s, but many times it is that we take our eyes off the Lord and begin focusing on problems or people or just become too wrapped up in this world. Lesser things will always keep us from properly pursuing the Holy One. Thank you, friend, for your encouragement to keep our eyes on Christ!
    Sarah Beals recently posted..Comment on Thoughts on the Doug Phillips Resignation by Bible Abuse – a quote to remember | Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After AnotherMy Profile

    1. Sarah, yes, it is so easy to get our focus off the Lord and on ourselves and others. I think it happens more when we are tired or burdened, and Satan knows he can discourage us more easily. Distraction is one of his main techniques.
      God bless you in your ministry! Stand strong, don’t give up! 🙂
      Leah recently posted..31 Days of Fishbowl Grace: LEAD {Day 31}My Profile

  8. Wow! That’s all I can say. I am so in this place right now and I’ve been praying everyday for God to bring me out and help me with my attitude, everything. Thank you so much for this! God bless you!

  9. Thank you for showing pastor’s wives all over the world that they can overcome Satan’s ploys to deceive them and ultimately make them give up. Any ministry wife would be blessed by this!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this post, Leah! It is heart breaking to see how insidious Satan’s lies can be, and YET! Oh, the grace of God that is offered so freely to pastor’s wives!!! You shared my life verse- 1 Corinthians 15:58. I find myself often repeating it to myself. Because we don’t serve because it is easy, we serve because God is great. Thankful for the opportunity to link arms with you, my fellow pastor’s wife!
    Becky Daye recently posted..On Being the Wife of the PastorMy Profile

  11. Thank you so much for being so real! I am in this place right now, quite discouraged. Thank you for sharing the encouragement, and also to the other ladies that were willing to post comments also. It was timely words for what I am walking through at the church where we currently serve. I know our battle is not with flesh and blood, but it certainly feels like it sometimes!

    1. Julie, I am praying for you! Yes, you are right that the battle feels like flesh and blood sometimes, but it is not. I find that as soon as I recognize satan’s attacks/involvement in a situation, it immediately takes pressure off and restores hope. Keep your eyes on the Lord and don’t let the tempter win! I’m praying that God will restore grace, hope , and peace to your heart.
      Leah {Embracing Grace} recently posted..5 Common Misconceptions About Pastoral MinistryMy Profile

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this! I am right there, right now. My heart is aching, and ministry is just so very hard. Thank you for this post, and for the comments that let me know that I’m not alone in how I feel. Did anyone know it was going to be like this? I expected the hurt from the outside world, but not from God’s people.
    Mandy recently posted..Be Anxious For Nothing…. lessons learned in lifeMy Profile

    1. Mandy, you are not alone. Hang in there- be faithful- someday it will all be worth it!! I’m pretty sure that all of us knew in our heads that opposition would come, but when it actually happens it is hard to believe where it comes from. Even so, God gives abundant grace to forgive and to love. I’m adding your name to my list of pastors’ wives that I pray for. God bless you!
      Leah {Embracing Grace} recently posted..What I Want to Whisper to Weary Ministry LeadersMy Profile

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  14. God is ever a present help in times of sorrow…for the first time in 7 years of ministry, I released a sigh of relief. I thank God for giving you the unction in your spirit to write this article. Being a Pastor’s Wife or “First Lady” of a church had got to be one if the most difficult jobs in ministry. I could relate to everythinh in thr article…EVERYTHING! Without going into great detail…I want to add an issue that is mine personally…but, if we were very honest…it’s one that is shared among the pastor wives…and that is when it seems as if your husband/ pastor can not see his role in aiding the ill-will and sentiment of attacks and criticism.

  15. Thank you Leah for this, it’s SO easy to get discouraged. The scripture from I Corinthians really spoke to me. I’m going to print that out and post in my home. The biggest and most frustrating thing I personally battle with as a Pastor’s wife is the guilt over not doing enough. I should visit this one, send a card to that one, make a meal and deliver it. Sometimes the guilt can be consuming. Thank you so much for your encouragement for Pastor’s wives, you has a special ministry her.
    Abby recently posted..Thankful for the Small ThingsMy Profile

  16. I am a pastor wife and also the assistant pastor
    We have been in the ministry for over 17 years
    My husband works 3rd shift now so I have been preaching on Sunday and taken on the role of pastor for now
    I truly love the Lord and want to be in his perfect will
    Bit I get discouraged when I give 100% and the members barely tithe and we constantly robbing Peter to pay paul
    I
    I have been praying that’s God turn things around in the munistry
    I just want members that take ownership in their ministry
    I may be wrong but I am praying for like minded members

  17. Dear Leah, well I don’t even know where to start. As we speak, I am currently writing my resignation letter and plan to give it to the church committee this coming December 1st. 7 years ago my husband was called into Ministry and planted a new congregation where he is currently serving as the lead pastor and I have been alongside of him since, serving as sunday school teacher in women and children class, worship leader, ministry assistant, event coordinator, clerical, translator to name a few. All positions were I served and currently serving are all VOLUNTEER. Then, August of last year (2013), 8 months after giving birth to our first child, the most wonderful gift from God, I had experienced for the very first time in my life the trial of sickness from which I’m still recovering but God brought me out of it after 7 different physician specialists couldn’t. To make a long story short, some members were very happy that I was sick and didn’t expect me to return alive and that was on top of their existing unfair treatments and unkindness. I was born into a Christian home, beed and grew up in church and I consider it a true favor to do God’s work but a that point I’m about to wash my hand and I truly can’t take it no more.
    Shardy recently posted..Why I’m Giving Up Daily Devotions For AwhileMy Profile

    1. Shardy, it can be frustrating when our volunteer work as pastors’ wives comes with a list of expectations from people. This is why we have to do it “as unto the LORD” and not for men. I, too, have experienced health issues that nearly took my life. Hindsight, I would have focused on getting well instead of trying to continue to please the expectations of others. Just do what God wants you to do, and let the rest go. Easier said than one, I know. But God will give you grace! Praying for you today!
      Leah {Embracing Grace} recently posted..To the Pastor’s Wife with Chronic Health Challenges…My Profile

  18. I am so deep in the pit I think I will have to crawl out just to throw the towel in.
    We are so hurt and weary. We want to go on, but the road is SO rough and full of huge holes and people waiting to throw stones.
    I am so. done.

  19. I have a two year old, 11 year old, and a 16 year old. My husband and I have been at our current location for 6 years. I have recently discovered that I have SLE . The church has recently informed my husband that they don’t want their minister’s wife being late to church and not participating at the level that they wish. Up until this year my husband and I have been almost completely conducting what children’s ministries that were done. I AM EXHAUSTED and needed to step back. My husband and I have had to be the preamble to any ministries. Our kids have also been a greatness in evangelism. Even though my husbands serves as their secretary,minister and director of most all ministries—- These people have begin to see that we are tearing up their brand new museum style house and that we are more a problem to them than an inspiration. 20 years of this same junk is getting unbearable. Finances are tight, tensions about keeping their brand new house perfect. I am not well and incapable of keeping a museum style home.
    My kids and husband stay busy. Finances are low and don’t allow for a house cleaner. Church refuses to understand and support the impact on our lives. I am angry and disgusted that all my family seems to do is fuss and fight over issues surroundings the excessive stressful upkeep of the monolith if a home ( people’s sudden, unsupportiveness don’t help). Suggestions or resources of help are appreciated. I have struggled my entire life with building self esteem. This truly don’t help.

  20. I’ve been a pastors wife for 18 years and I’ve given up without my husband knowing. We have two teenage children a girl 15 and boy 14 but ministry at times can be so hard. I am so exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually that I don’t know where to begin the healing process but I know God has a calling for me and I need to walk in my calling as well. I know that God led me to your article tonight. I’m so thankful I read it because it ministered to me and reading the other post from the other pastor’s wives I know I’m not alone. Looking forward to receiving the encouragement.

  21. Thank YOU….ALL of you who have posted….I know how difficult it must be to be so transparent. I have just recently noticed that I am beginning to feel like something in me is dying…that my ministry in the church is out of my own control. We are trying to cover positions that no one else will….BUT maybe that’s the problem. If WE DO IT…perhaps the one that the Lord would use WON’T step up. So now my dilemma is HOW? How do I step down from temporary positions that I feel are causing this war within me? I have the gift of helps and that is just it…I want to help, but when no relief comes….I wear very thin. The answer will come and The Lord will provide.

    1. Oh Carlene, this is so tough! It is SO hard to know when and how to say no, especially if you feel that it is a vital ministry that will be lacking. However, you cannot do everything- that will surely lead to burn out. Sometimes people need to see the need and then they will step up. Other times no one steps up. And it’s ok. I am not saying that this is easy- I definitely learned this lesson the hard way myself. Try to listen for God’s direction in your life and know exactly what He wants you to do and how much. Let the rest go. He will give you peace. ((hug)) Praying for you today.
      Leah {Embracing Grace} recently posted..Ministry Should Make You WeakMy Profile

  22. Thank you.
    Being a pastor’s wife is a night mare, especially when the husband is the one who does not encourage or speak a good to you. I love my God. But being this pastor’s wife is very painful. God is withe no doubt about that. But it could be even greater if I’m by self with Christ’

  23. I’m 20 and I pray for my future spouse and what I want him. Godly, faithful husband, and etc but I as I pray for him I always tell God that I don’t want to be a preacher’s wife (I don’t think I could handle it) but as I’m praying or just thinking about it I know God will never give me something that I can’t handle. So deep down I really don’t know if I want to be one or not. I don’t have a love interest or anything right now in my life……so who knows what the future will hold. I admire those ladies out there who are preacher’s/pastor’s wive though! But we all know that God has a sense of humor!

  24. My question is what happens when the Pastor gives up? How do you get past that? Its been 5 years now since he lost his faith, quit pastoring and quit church altogether. Our entire family is floundering. Including me.

  25. What a wonderful article. I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 30 years, and in the full-time ministry since we married almost 36 years ago. I have wanted to quit, I’ve wanted to leave the ministry, and I’ve wanted to leave my husband. By the incredible grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am still here. I home schooled 4 kids for 20 years, and during that time, I put my “pastor’s wife” duties aside. God called me to be the wife of my husband and the mother of his children. The Lord raised up wonderful women in our church to run our women’s ministry and teach Bible studies. When my kids were in high school, I worked a seasonal summer job as a lifeguard. I eventually became an aquatics manager and taught swim lessons and water aerobics. When home schooling was done, I began to teach Bible studies again. I continued with my lifeguarding. When the economy tanked in 2008, I took a seasonal job at Best Buy, so I was working year-round. I still teach a Bible study. I do a lot with the church but I have to work right now. Our church has suffered with the economy and my husband has took a cut in salary in 2009. I love the Lord, and I love the people in our church. There are times when I still long for a “normal” life, but after a while I think I would miss being in the ministry. As long as my husband is called to be a pastor, then I will be there by his side. I almost left once, and the Lord took me behind the woodshed. I studied Philippians chapter 2, and began to see that a life of service is what will truly bring joy to my life. God is good!

    My heart hurts for pastor’s wives who are defeated, discouraged, hopeless and filled with sorrow and anger. I would love to minister to pastor’s wives, but I’m not quite sure how to approach it.

    God bless all you ladies here.

  26. I just found this post tonight as I was searching for articles relating to what happens when THEY leave a church. I have been a PW for six and a half years. In November my husband came to me and told me he thought the Lord was leading us away from our small country church. Our first pastorate. We prayed about it, but both believed this was what God was calling us to do. When my husband made the announcement to the Deacons, it was met with tears. We were very sad to be leaving. All that would change in a week. Suddenly we were being verbally attacked at meetings and just totally disrespected. It had been the straw the broke the camels back for me. We ended up leaving at the end of December per the churches wishes. I left with so many things I wanted to say, so many people I had “words” to give. But, I didn’t say anything. Just a thank you and that was that. By February, we found out they had hired a new Pastor. That had hurt. My husband did not seem concerned about it. He let’s things run off his back pretty quickly, but to me it felt like my recent ex-boyfrined found a new girlfriend immediately. I’m still friends with some from there through social media, but I’m tired of reading how wonderful they are, how great they are. I would really like to unfriend all of them!

    Looking back on our time there, I realized that I had given up a long time before that. I was misused, talked down to and I was so done. Forget about letting the Holy Spirit in! I was tired and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I basically shut down. I didn’t care at all. Until reading your blog I had not thought about Satan doing that all. I thought it was all me. I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t play the piano, I didn’t dress like a 90 year old woman. Surely I was not meant to be a PW.

    “I have rendered satan more powerful than God as I sank into survival mode.”

    This was/is me.

    Thank you for posting this. Thank you for writing what my heart couldn’t express. I thank God that he put people in my husband and mines lives that have helped us heal…..and continue to help us heal. Satan will not hold power over me any longer.

    1. Jennifer, what a great testimony!! Those dark, hopeless places are so tough! Yet, we do have a choice whether or not to let satan continue to lead us down that path. I know exactly what you mean about leaving church feeling like a break up, a grieving process. Embrace the process, and let God heal you little by little. I’ve done it twice and I can say that God is faithful and He does heal! ((hug)) and prayer for you today!

  27. Thank you for writing this. Often, I as the pastor have felt the way you describe. Thankfully, my wife has been the strength and encourager in such times. She has her moments, but I must admit, she is often stronger than me.

    One thing that helps is driving away for a couple days and getting a hotel near a few things our family enjoys just to unplug. We get one with a pool, a Starbucks nearby, and a Barnes & Noble just around the corner. These little retreats strengthen us as a family, which helps refresh our zeal for life and ministry.

    I hope this little tip is a big help to someone.
    Estevan Montoya recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

    1. Yes, getting away does wonders to refresh! I love your description of the perfect getaway. And, isn’t it neat how God puts couples together who complement each other during times of weakness and strength? Thank you for sharing!

  28. I just asked my husband to step down after 5 years. We lost out marriage and family to ministry. I am going to still follow God, how can we ever turn away from Jesus. I believe God has more for us when we let go of something damaging…there was no reprieve ever and people were not committed. Everyone wanted to be a part of the Sunday show but no one really wanted to be in the ditches it’s hard to do it without committed people. I am not going to recieve projection that I am ruining my husband’s call..he is called to his wife and family, God will bring something that we will both have joy in serving.

    1. Robin, I’m so sorry. I can certainly relate to “no reprieve” in ministry. That is one of the very reasons that we are on a sabbatical right now. Your description fits perfectly what we and many other ministry couples face. I will be praying for you. ((hug))

      1. Thank you so much for this great artiche, the have really lifted My spirit. We are Just few yrs to d Ministry but the attitude and characters of the members is very discouraging. No respect for the pastor and the family. The Headly come for the weekly ativities. For the interccessory prayers most times My husband, My self and our children do it togerther with out any members showing up. In the choir, the choir master always authorising me without respect to always take up the praise and worship session. When i told him that Am the pastor’s wife and that he don’t need to order me around the way he usually do, and that is not a must that i must be in the choir. So he became very angry and ask why i should make such a comment that Am a pastor’s wife and that i must not be in the choir. As a result of this, himself and his wife made me their enemy. To the extent that they do not pick My calls and also that of My husband Who is their pastor. And they are begining to Sow lies to the other members that are close to them. As a result of this Am begining to get distracted and don’t like the feeling. Do i need to be pushed here and there Just because Am the pastor’s wife?

  29. I just need prayer. I’m a Pastors wife-10 years. This has been the worst year ever! Even worse than the year we lost our daughter in a wreck. It has been non stop stupidity and I can not handle ANY more

  30. Leah,
    Positive is good. Encouraging is good. Loyalty is good. God is good.
    I’m interested in what you have to say to abused Pastors wives.
    How would you counsel these women who have sustained unbiblical, immoral treatment as well as those who have been traumatized by even more horrible things such as marital rape? (Or even more, if you think that even actually exists based on what you have taught or understand yourself. If not, please explain why.)
    One of the things I have found is that these women are anything but rare, sadly. Many times, they do not know what to do or who to reach out to. They fear for their livelihood, want to be good wives and protect their children. They tend to literally plaster on what I like to call ‘perma-smiles’ every Sunday morning right after their clergy spouses obliterate them psychologically, emotionally or verbally; sometimes combined. Or even worse, they put on more clothes or make up to hide the consequences of physical abuse.
    I know your core is affected by those that ‘give up.’ Rightly so. The end of any marriage is not the way it was intended.
    But my experience has also lended me a humble wisdom that exceeds the topical and typical reactions, phrases and even chiché’s we tend to hand over to people as it pertains to marriage.
    Leah, please ask for discernment regarding these instances. Unfortunately, there are typically grave consequences to women and children who stay in all kinds of abusive marriages. Generations are bound by the wrongs of those who came before them and continue to perpetuate the same actions, the same consequences and subsequently carry along the same chronic wrongs to the next generation. It’s time to get real about these very real things. Quoting scripture to an abused clergy wife is sometimes the last typical thjng they need. Sometimes the need is to just be a better example of Jesus to them, how about listening? Intervening appropriately when necessary? At what point does that become necessary?) in contrast to the wolf in sheep skin that they are married to, who are nothing at all like the men they present themselves as at he pulpit.
    Yes, divorce is not ideal. Sometimes it’s downright wrong. But sometimes it’s far from being the worse thing.
    It’s it an easy topic to cover, but you have done it and kudos to you. You have offered some helpful insights to some people.
    But I feel very strongly compelled to challenge you to expound on the reality of clergy spouse abuse. These women need to know that our Abba is practical and understands their value as well as their responsibility to not coincide with the unbiblical and or depraved actions that are perpetrated upon them. We have no right to present a Godly woman as a powerless, insignificant, woman being.

    1. Oh dear Lu….Your cry has not gone unheard. I receive many, many emails from pastors’ wives in your situation. I have been praying and mulling over how to write about this for awhile now. It seems to be a growing issue in our churches- ungodly pastors who are abusing their wives and children. I am so very sorry for the pain you are enduring. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your heart and making me aware (again) of this great and deep need in the lives of pastors’ wives. I will be writing about it in the near future. Pray that God will give me wisdom and grace as I choose my words. Sending a hug to you today and wishing we could sit down for coffee and prayer together! I am praying for you this morning. May you feel God’s loving arms around you in a special way today.

  31. I need some counselling and help. My husband is a Christian and I a non believer. We married 14 years ago, got children. Since 6 years he is a pastor with our own parish. I was always pretending and tried my best to support him. Now is the point coming that he is blaming me the church is not growing and moving forward. Privately we are having a lot of problems now and I want to leave the church. I need help to write a letter. My husband is nigerian and I’m german and we’re living since 10 years in England.
    King regards
    Ute Araoye

  32. I am there now as a pastor’s wife. Extremely weary of the criticism and feeling of failure in ministry. Thank you for expressing this. Pray for me.

  33. I arrived here somehow. My wife is on the verge of walking out on me after 13 years of marriage and many years of ministry together. My heart is heavy. I try to listen and hear her pain. I fear we are headed towards becoming yet another statistic.

  34. Wow, I am so thankful I came across this on a friends page. I know it is an old post but it is something I needed. My husband and I have been married for 16 years and in ministry that whole time. He has pastored 3 different churches but the last two have taken our breath away I guess you could say.
    We were there nearly 5 years and God did amazing things and the church had almost trippled in size and hadnt had much dissection. My husband and I had gone to minister to a missionary couple sent from our church who wete discouraged on their field all approved by the church. While we were gone our assistant pastor and another man and couple started and uprising against us and started spreading rumors. When we returned after 11 days of counseling this couple and we were physically exhausted and emotionally and spiritually we found out they wanted us to resign. Things started to unravel and they had no proof of their rumors as they were just that rumors but apparently it been happening for some time and causing a lot of problens we weren’t aware of behind the scenes. It was so bad we could no longer stay there because we did not want to subject our 3 young children to what was taking place so we left. We had 6 families that with us and were so living and kind to us. Thank God for them. We ended up at my parents church and decided we needed time to heal and seek counsel
    After an entire year of healing, seek Ij ng counsel and waiting on God’s timing my husband waited for me to tell him when I was ready because I had gone thru some deep depression for which I found godly counsel. We had been candidating for a church and we truly felt it was God’s will for us to come and the people were so loving we received a 100% vote so we came! About 3 months into it something wasn’t right and some pieces of the puzzle began to come together. One of the men who was in charge of the pulpit committee felt he was in charge of the church to and wanted to run everything. He didn’t want a pastor he wanted someone to fill the pulpit each week. We began praying for wisdom and it just kept getting worse and worse. The man had a horrible temper and the other people in the church followed him like a leader! We realized we made a horrible mistake. After several months of prayer and seeking wisdom my husband stepped down and 4 other families left because they saw how he was doing and it was wrong. We found out later he had caused trouble in at least 3 other churches.
    I say all of that to get to this I was at the point of quitting. My husband just was voted in as pastor last week in a another church and I am scared to death. I am so tired of moving, people begin so manipulative to my family. Mostly I am scared my kids are going to grow up and resent God and church. We have done all we can to shelter them from everything that has happened but they’re not stupid.

  35. Hey Leh !!

    Its nice to read you content. The writing is amazing.I appreciate it.For the most part, the pastor serves as the spiritual leader, the overseer of the church, teaching, preaching, and counseling others. He may challenge or encourage his flock to draw closer and dedicate one’s life to the Lord. In doing so, a pastor is forever trying to lead others down a path of righteousness, which means a change for many of many of our members. Some are willing and some are not so willing.

    Thanks for such post.
    Keep post such articles.
    Have a nice day
    Tyler Lubben recently posted..Tableau Mapping Home Offices & Client OfficesMy Profile

  36. I needed this so much today. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in ministry, the devil knows how to “kick the door” in on you. It’s so easy to go through the motions of being a pastor’s wife while withdrawing into your protective shell.

  37. Thank you for posting this. I do need to ask HOW I get out of that place, though. I have prayed, sought God, talked to my husband, stayed in Scripture and I can’t seem to figure out how to get dug out of this pit. I have been pleading with God to bring me out, but see no light at the end of the tunnel.

  38. Wow. Just wow. Thank you for writing this (even though it was four years ago). ☺️

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