My Life as a Pastor’s Wife (PW)

There have been several anonymous blog posts making the rounds lately. It tends to happen right around seminary graduation time.

These posts are brutally honest about the downfalls of being a pastor’s wife.

The problem is, these posts are not about one person. They are the conglomeration of what you get when 30 PWs sit in a room sipping coffee sharing “war stories”.

Yes, we PWs have war stories. Many of us have battle scars.

But, I’m here to tell you, that scarred or not, I would not trade the vocation of Pastor’s Wife for anything.

Yes, I called it a vocation. A calling. Not everyone can do this. The vocation of PW, like most vocations, and life in general, is not for the weak of heart.

We’ve spent years at seminary in what could be called abject poverty. At one point, we were not sure if Dakotapastor would even have a church to shepherd. And, through it all, God was with us.

And so, tonight, I’m not going to swap war stories. They rarely do any good.

I’m going to share my heart, and share the many blessings that our family has received from living in the fishbowl of parish life.

These are my top 10 Pastor Wife Perks:

10. Front Row Seating Yes, ma’am. The front, left-hand row does not need a reserved sign. Our kids never have to wonder where to sit.

9. More Grandmas than I can count. Yes, our family lives far off. We are not likely to live close to relatives this side of paradise. But what we do have is an unlimited number of grandmas (and grandpas too!) willing and ready to fill in the gap for our parents. And when our parents visit, they regale them with stories of their wonderful grandchildren. It is a beautiful relationship! (If you are reading this and live far from your own grands, feel free to “adopt’ some church grands, it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

8. Extended Family. While somewhat related to #9, this is a little different. The pastor’s family often becomes a de facto member of many families. I cry at church member baptisms, weddings and funerals as if they are close family members. Because they are. These are the people I am blessed to pray for on a daily and weekly basis!

7. Generosity. We have been the recipients of much generosity in our time as a seminary family and as the Pastor’s family. Just knowing that these wonderful people think on us and treasure us, warms my heart.

6. My own, personal, spiritual adviser. Yes, living with the pastor has perks. While he may have to work late with meetings (don’t most working men?), he also is usually willing to answer my sometimes silly theological questions.

5. Watching him grow. Yes, this is a big perk for me. I had the privilege of watching my husband be confirmed. I watched him stumble through Greek texts. I made coffee for sem wives while our husbands debated theology until the wee hours of the morning. I watched him give his first, halting, practice sermon. I tagged along on vicarage. I beamed proudly from MY pew when he was ordained. I watched him baptize half of our children. I was a witness in the wedding he solemnized for his best friend. I watched him, quite literally build a church. Do you have any idea what an incredible privilege this is?

4. Watching our Church grow. Our pastor is the most humble person I know. And so, as our little mission start blossoms and grows, all of the credit goes to God who gives the growth. And what an honor it is to witness this flock entrusted to my husband’s loving care.

3. Watching our children grow up in the church. This is often seen as a negative in parish life. The pastor’s family ends up having to spend too much time at church. And, while sometimes it seems burdensome to be the first to arrive and the last to leave on Sundays, we know that our children have been given a gift. We make a strong effort not to “overchurch” the kids (whatever that is), and we shield them as much as we can from negative things within the church (filled with sinners as it is). We have found that the church is a place that our children want to be. They enjoy worship and even the youngest participate with gusto. The girls even have an occasional “work day” with daddy at the church office when daycare does not quite work out (they beg for more). I hope for at least one pastor, but at the very least, I pray that our children will feel comfortable with a generous church activity level as adults.

2. Watching our church family grow up. What a joy it is to see the children that I nurtured in Sunday School take Confirmation vows. How sweet it is to see the babies grow up to sing Jesus Loves Me. And how wonderful it is to watch couples become a family, then parents, and then grandparents.

1. God richly blesses us. Not always in our time, not always with our plan. However, to look back on our 16 year journey so far and see the loving hand of God is incredible. He has never left us. We have never gone hungry. We have always had more than we needed (Though not always everything we wanted). He has given me the great gift of contentment. So no, even though we will never have a million dollar career (can you imagine the taxes?) and even though my husband has to work nights, weekends, holidays, most family birthdays and anniversaries (we knew that going into this, right?), I still think my husband has the coolest job ever. The saying goes something like “Choose a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, that is Dakotapastor’s job. He’s pretty blessed to have it, and so am I!

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Comments: 27

  1. Shannon May 21, 2013 at 6:32 am Reply

    You are blessed. I’ve always loved church life as a parishioner; I love the idea of all those grandmas! A close church family saved me when my parents died. It’s a fine thing you do—your husband is blessed to have to have you right there by his side :)

    • Laura May 22, 2013 at 9:57 am Reply

      It might be a blessing, but I wonder if sometimes it’s not to annoying: everybody looking how you act, what you do, etc. Too much attention isn’t too stressful? It’s like a gate that you keep open to everybody, but for yourself, for your frustrations.

  2. indianajane May 21, 2013 at 8:04 am Reply

    Beautiful, Pam.
    (And wordpress wants more words, so here are a few more. ) ;)

  3. Beth S. May 21, 2013 at 8:52 am Reply

    I too and a PW and #9 is a top highlight of mine too!

    • Dakotapam May 21, 2013 at 9:34 am Reply

      It really is so special to me. I love to watch those relationships flourish. I used to feel guilty, like the kids were “cheating on” our parents, but really, there can never be too many grandmas!
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  4. Brenda May 21, 2013 at 10:34 am Reply

    Pam, thank you so much for posting this. I too believe that there are far more blessings to being a pastors wife than downfalls. I can’t imagine Tom having a secular job.

  5. Emily Cook May 21, 2013 at 10:58 am Reply

    Wonderful! Thank you Pam! Having the front seat- for all that growth- is amazing! What a great list- thanks for this encouragement today!

    In case you haven’t read mine… http://www.weakandloved.com/2013/04/reluctant-pastors-wife.html

  6. Essie May 21, 2013 at 11:34 am Reply

    Amen, Amen, Amen.

    But you forgot one IMPORTANT perk.

    Finding best friends in other pastor’s wives. I pink puffy heart you.
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  7. BethAnn May 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm Reply

    I really needed to read this…it has been hard! Thanks for the reminder. I am Jane Kuva’s neice by the way a PW in Northeast NE!

    • Dakotapam May 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm Reply

      BethAnn, it gets better. Being far from family and struggling, often like a married single mom, can make the days long. But trust me, God’s loving hand is there with you.
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  8. Katrina May 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm Reply

    Hi, I’m a first time reader (someone linked your blog via Facebook). I was wondering if you could elaborate what you mean by being a pastor’s wife is a vocation? My husband is currently completing the last few months of his vicarage and we’ll be heading back to the sem. after this so he can complete the last year of his education. When my husband and I decided to get married, it never occurred to me that I would someday be a pastor’s wife. I knew that he was in the seminary, I knew that he wanted to be a pastor, I just never connected the dots on how that would affect me as his wife. Consequently, I don’t feel called to be a “pastor’s wife”–I more feel like I’m muddling along trying to stay sane as we find a balance between his work and our marriage.

    • Dakotapam May 21, 2013 at 3:32 pm Reply

      Hi Katrina,

      Thanks for coming by! It is a calling, but it is connected with your husband’s! I think you will find a lot of reluctant PW’s. I was one. My childhood dream was never to be a PW. . .or to have six kids, or even to hold the job I now hold; but God places us where he does, and we bloom and grow and flourish.

      I think it is a vocation to be taken seriously. There is one camp that says, “I’m not the Pastor’s wife, I am Matt’s wife and he just so happens to be the pastor.” The problem is, when your husband comes home from church, he never stops being the pastor, and while he is serving in the role of pastor, he never stops being your husband. And, whether we like it or not, the actions of his wife and family, DO affect his ministry.

      Now, before we let that get us all bent out of shape . . . a lawyers wife and children reflect on him and his profession as well. A school principal would be frowned on if his child was expelled, etc.

      But no, it is not easy. The balance will come. Like my dear friend, Esther pointed out, the relationships you form with fellow PWs will be most valuable. Please, please, please do not let things descend into war stories though! While we do need to be honest about the hard things, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, not on the failures of this flesh.

      Blessings on the remainder of vicarage and seminary!
      Dakotapam recently posted..About DakotapamMy Profile
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      • Katrina May 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm Reply

        Thanks for the clarification–it makes perfect sense. I was originally inclined to be part of the camp that says, “So-and-so is my husband and he happens to be the pastor,” but this year has taught me that I can’t separate the two as much as I would like (and that was only by being the vicar’s wife!). Nothing horrendous happened, but there were some things that I had to do that I wouldn’t have done if my husband wasn’t working for the church. I suppose I should be happy that I learned that lesson without too many painful consequences. :)

        • Dakotapam May 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm Reply

          It gets easier to say no to things. However, sometimes that takes some “capital”. For the record I don’t play piano and organ:) I vaccum the church more than I do my house, but, in the end, it is so worth it.
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  9. Lisa May 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm Reply

    Pam, may God continue to bless you and Dakotapastor and all of your family – natural, extended, adopted, and other!

    Your words about living the life of a Pastor’s Wife as a vocation could be applicable to many other circumstances. We make a choice to support the goals and dreams of our spouses, no matter what they are…doctor, lawyer, pastor, musician, businessman, etc…. Seeing our lives as vocation choices is key to happiness, I think.

    Great post.
    Lisa recently posted..Just TiredMy Profile

    • Dakotapam May 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

      Thanks Lisa! I often gently remind my sisters in Christ, that doctor wives don’t see their husbands much and there are similar confidentiality issues. You are right. Our vocation is tightly intertwined with the vocation of our husband’s, whatever that vocation may be!
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  10. Gretchen Areosa May 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Once again you have brought tears to my eyes! You are an amazing daughter and I’m so very proud of you. You know just how to put things in writing much better than I could ever do. Keep up the good work, I love you so very much.

  11. L May 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm Reply
  12. Kay May 22, 2013 at 4:48 am Reply

    My son-in-law is a “pastor’s wife” this could have been written as a he/she blog, as most of these things also apply to men, for it is true without the Spouce’s help the Pastor wouldn’t be able to do as good a job.

  13. Jenny May 22, 2013 at 10:03 am Reply

    Thanks for this post; I’ve never read your blog before, but it was linked on Facebook. My husband and I are heading out on vicarage this summer, and I’m more nervous than I anticipated. I’m going to be a 5th generation pastor’s wife. NOT my initial life plan. I had a great experience as a PK, and I thought I knew what it would be like because of coming from a family of church workers. Ah the foolishness of the young. And yet I am in awe of God’s goodness as I’ve gained a new understanding of my mother, been able to watch my husband grow so much as a godly man the last two years at seminary, and am humbled by how much I have to learn. I appreciated your explanation of your husband’s identity as a pastor, whether at home or at church, and vise versa. It actually cleared up a lot of questions I had about how to deal with confidentiality but still be supportive, what my role is in the church, etc. Thanks again, it was good to hear some positive feedback; so often we’re warned about how to avoid this or that debacle; while at the end of the day, it’s God’s ministry. Seriously, what better boss could you work for??

    • Dakotapam May 22, 2013 at 10:18 am Reply

      It sounds like you have a great attitude going into vicarage! And wow! 5th generation PW! I’m guessing you could teach ME a thing or two! God’s Blessings on your adventures!
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  14. Karrie May 22, 2013 at 11:52 am Reply

    Great post, Pam. Being a PW I always joke about living in the proverbial fish bowl. This is even more true when your parsonage is at the edge of the church parking lot! I take comfort in the close friends I have made at church and in my fellow PWs although my favorite two both moved away in opposite directions. LOL. I completely agree with your top 10 list. Also, your statement that the vocation of a PW is not for the weak of heart is 100% accurate. As you know, I have a strong personality (which is probably stating it too nicely) and realized early on that not all the parishioners would care for me. My best advice is to be yourself and always support and defend your husband, and God will take care of the rest.

    • Dakotapam May 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm Reply

      Karrie, do you really have a strong personality? Love and miss you. My friendships with you and other PWs really helped form me into the helpmate that I am. MAtt still sometimes mentions that I should do some things more like you!
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  15. Alexis Marlons May 29, 2013 at 2:05 am Reply

    Despite the challenges it takes to be a pastor’s wife, you are still so blessed. And I know that God is with you and your family all the time.

  16. Rachel June 23, 2013 at 6:31 am Reply

    I just stumbled across this but what perfect timing. In just a few hours, I’m marrying a wonderful man who is halfway through Seminary and it can be very daunting thinking about my role in the future as pastor’s wife. Thanks for your insight.

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