The problem with the title “Pastor’s Wife”

Besides being married to the President and receiving the title of First Lady, there aren’t many professions where the spouse receives a title by default. The professor’s wife? Nope. Open Heart Surgeon’s wife? Never heard this. Even CEO’s wife has not graced my ears. Yet, there is one title that I hold simply by marrying a man who is a Minister – I’m often referred to as “The Pastor’s wife”.

“Pastor’s wife” is a title that carries with it certain expectations. Here are some (just to name a few): homemaker, hostess, piano player, children’s ministry worker, women’s ministry leader, dresses up often (but not so much that she seems rich or conceited), etc. Interesting that she is assumed to hold so many positions and yet the “Pastor’s wife” has never received any training to give her that title. She hasn’t been to school for pastor’s wifery. She also will never receive a paycheck for being “The Pastor’s wife”.

These days, many a “Pastor’s wife” works outside of the home. Often they are working 40+ hours a week and expected to fulfill their role as “Pastor’s Wife” at church. It’s understandable why “The Pastor’s wife” often feels as if she is failing (Why the Pastor’s Wife is the Most Vulnerable person in your church). She is given a title with no clear expectations, no support for it, and is supposed to thrive in making everyone happy.

I wonder if the title “Pastor’s wife” was no longer used if she’d feel less pressure to perform as a result. Instead of, “this is our Pastor’s wife”, what if people said, “this is Sally”. What if instead of, “our pastor’s wife is great”, people said, “Claire is a great person!”

I love being married to Derek. He’s my best friend. He’s also a pastor. I desire to support him, cherish him, and cheer him on. I also enjoy serving in the church, although I ask myself the following before committing: “would I do ________ if I wasn’t a Pastor’s Wife?”. I try to make decisions based on personal convictions and passions rather than what others may expect of me.  But it’s not always easy.

Maybe the wife of the pastor would feel less pressure if she was referred to as “Sally” instead of ” Sally the Pastor’s wife”.  Maybe the title “Pastor’s wife” holds more weight than we realize. Maybe it’s time for a change.

10 thoughts on “The problem with the title “Pastor’s Wife””

  1. Makes ME smile…..I have NEVER been referred to as the Opticians wife, but I honestly HAVE been referred to as Belle’s mother!!! (She’s lovely and blonde and very well behaved, but she IS a dog!!!) LOL. I hate all labels.

  2. What is fascinating to me is the demands on your time. I’ve always had the impression that Pastors and Pastor’s wives are burning the candle at both ends, with everyone in the congregation calling them to counsel, visit, marry them, etc.

    1. In some congregations the time demands are daunting. I can’t imagine how some women work outside the home, raise children, and are ubber involved in various “Pastor’s Wife” roles at church. I’d imagine something or someone (her husband or children) suffer.

  3. In some churches they are called “The First Lady” 😀 This was a recent revelation to me.

    I loved your post, especially the admission you had not been to pastoral wifery school. I can’t wait to ask the woman married to our pastor if she’s been (she wears pants too).

  4. This topic is near and dear to me 🙂 When my husband was worship leader at a different church a couple years ago I definitely felt like being his wife came with all these other expected responsibilities within the church. Within one week people had signed me up for nursery duty, bulletin board duty, made sure I was attending the women’s bible study, asked me to open in prayer at other meetings, etc., on top of the ministry I had already chosen to help out in. There was actually an elderly couple in the church that introduced themselves to us and after finding out that this was my husband’s second job on top of his already-full-time job, and that I also worked full time, their jaws literally dropped. I applaud women that are happy devoting a lot of their time to the church, but some can’t, and if that is the expectation it can cause a lot of feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Sometimes I think people assume that because the husband (or wife) was called into ministry, then their spouse automatically is in ministry as well. While I can see how that makes sense in some cases, I think spouses should be free to be themselves, in whatever profession their gifts and skills lie, without being dragged in to the ministry scene full-force with the assumption they should devote all their free time to the church.

  5. I married a seminary student 5 months ago, so i’m a future pastor’s wife. I know I have so much to learn. Like you said because of your husbands role, all eyes in the church are on you. I look foward to reading your posts and learning from others.

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