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10 Lessons Being a Pastor's Wife Has Taught Me



Nearly three years ago, I married a pastor and suddenly became a pastor's wife. Just for clarification, my husband is a Next-Gen Pastor. This means he oversees teams of leaders and directors and is the primary leader, visionary and communicator for children & teens from birth through high school graduation. (Special blessings from on high to you Lead/Senior Pastor's wives. Ya'll are superheroes). He has been in full-time ministry for 3 years and I jumped in when we got married 6 months into his journey. In our 3 years, I have learned a lot. Truthfully, it hasn't been a very easy journey for us so far. I never imagined my experience as a pastor's wife would look the way it does right now but I'm so thankful for the refining process of ministry. While I'm sure those of you who are more seasoned in this role and lifestyle may laugh at my young observations, I am eager to share a few of the things I've learned!


1. People Are Messy

 I know. I'm a counselor and if anyone should know this, it's me. I spent six years studying the messiness of people. Nevertheless, this one was an early lesson.  I never thought I would be the Christian, much less the wife of a pastor, who was surprised that people aren't neat and tidy. It shocked me when they weren't kind and when they didn't respect leadership. When their stories were messy because of the sins of others, I could handle it. But when their sins were evident and impacting me personally? Suddenly I was shocked! I've since gained perspective and learned not to only accept the messiness of people, but to lovingly expect it! We are all messy and so are our stories. I would never want to be part of a church where messy people weren't welcome or where you had to hide and cover up your mess. After all, it's our messiness that Jesus came for in the first place. As a pastor's wife, I want to be a safe person for messy people and I want my husbands ministry to be a safe place for them, too. 


2. So Am I

Yes, other people are messy but HELLO, so am I. They say marriage highlights your flaws and brokenness (which is so very true) but holy cow so does ministry.  This wasn't something that was terribly shocking, as I was already pretty aware of my junk. However, when dealing first hand with the messiness of people, my ugly and my mess were shining especially brightly. One of the biggest areas that this was evident was in my own personal tendency to isolate (See Lesson #3).





3. Security and Satisfaction Must Be Found in Christ


Never, in any area of my entire life, have I experienced as much criticism and as much encouragement in the same place at the same time as I have while in full-time ministry. Every insecurity I've had or currently have is ramped up in a setting like this and it can make things you thought you knew seem a bit fuzzy. Can I be real for a second? Watching my husband work, sacrifice and dream tirelessly on behalf of the church and the mission of the Gospel is an honor. But when he is needlessly criticized, unappreciated or openly disrespected, I struggle. When my clothes are criticized and the seat I should sit in and the service(s) I should attend are up for public debate each week? I can get especially ugly. These types of experiences with messy people led to anger and bitterness in me for a significant portion of our ministry so far. If I'm being completely honest, sometimes these things still pop up from time to time.
When I was in really deep, I would find myself avoiding interacting with others out of anger, but also out of insecurity. I felt unsure of myself and of who I was. I would take back staircases, I would sit in overflow areas, I would hide in my husband's office. These experiences highlighted that my security and complete satisfaction was not being found in Christ and in who He defines me to be. It was found in the opinions and approval of other people. When they loved me and complimented me? I felt great! When they criticized or gossiped? I was destroyed.
This is a journey I am still on. Being fully satisfied and secure in Christ alone isn't something I can claim right now. But it is something that I can confidently say I've learned and grown in each and every day as we've continued to move along this path. If I am constantly comparing myself, my life, or our ministry to others, I am going to find myself discontent and always striving. Rest and sabbath will evade me and I will never experience true joy. Don't long to be someone else-embrace being you! Don't know who you are? Don't look to others to define you and you unique call-Christ alone is able to do that.

4. Boundaries are Vital

Yes, hallelujah, AMEN.  Don't have any? Get some. I'll leave it at that or I'll get on my soapbox and you'll be here all day. Just ask my husband.

5. True Friends are Life Giving

I don't know who or where we would be without our friends. We've found the importance of having friends at our church and outside of our church. They each serve unique roles in our lives, making it richer and full of community. In our time in ministry we have met incredible people who have chosen to see me instead of my title. They've chosen to love my husband and I exactly for who we are instead of for what we can do for them. His position is an honor and a gift, but it is not our identity. Those who love us well simply for who we are as individuals bring us such joy.


6. Our Home is a Sacred Space

It was easy early on for us to allow church work to bleed into our home in unhealthy ways. Soon, there was little difference between the two. Because of this, we never had a Sabbath. We never were truly resting. Our conversation was about plans at church or about whatever obstacle had recently arisen. Once we began to apply concepts from lesson #4 (hey there, beloved boundaries!), I began to make conscious choices to make sure our home was a warm, clean, inviting space where we would be able to come, rest, connect and celebrate. We put our phones in other rooms, we set time aside to quickly pick up before bed and we fill the air with lovely scents. We choose our conversation topics wisely and are consistently working towards total acceptance of one another. It's certainly not perfect and we don't expect it to be. Part of the sacred space concept is that real life happens in our home. We are ugly and messy and sometimes mean. We cry and struggle but that's the whole point! We simply want to create a safe, inviting and relaxing space that inspires rest, vulnerability & creativity. Our home is our sanctuary.  (I now realize this is just a paragraph about boundaries in the home. I'm sorry about nothing).

7. Don't Take Yourself So Seriously

Laugh, learn & grow. We faced a lot of criticism for being "so young" and so I worked hard for a while to make sure we didn't seem so. This was exhausting and eventually began to breed a lot of pride. Jesus did his gracious thing and humbled us pretty quickly. I've learned to laugh at myself and give myself room to be a young professional or young wife, or young anything. Being willing and eager to always learn and adopting a posture of humility are essential to overall success. I am not the POTUS, nor am I the worlds most impressive 20-something. No matter our age or status, there is always something to learn. Besides, life is a lot more fun when you can laugh at yourself!

8. We All Have a Place

Even though lesson #7 was all about lightening up, we've each got an important role, place, or calling in the world and specifically in the church that only we can fill. It is important that we embrace it. When I married my husband, I began to adopt the mindset that I was also the pastor. I often overstepped in giving advice and sharing my opinion. I was pushy and disrespectful in the way I handled my role in his ministry. I am not the pastor. That is not my place. Right now, my role is wife. My role is small group leader for beautiful high school girls. My role is newbie photographer for the media team. Ultimately, my role right now is supporter and servant. I've discovered my interpersonal and creative gifts and I've begun to use them in and for the kingdom of God. Each of us has a unique and special role to fill. Trying to take someone else's or imitate the work of others will eventually render you ineffective. Discover your giftings, embrace your unique role, and celebrate the roles and giftings of others! We all have a place. There's room for everyone. 



9. We All Lead & We All Follow

This lesson piggybacks off of lesson #8.  Whether you are a parent, student, spouse, business professional or an entrepreneur, we are all leading someone. Someone is looking to and learning from you. You may not know it, but they are. Because of this, it's imperative that you choose wisely who you follow. Who you follow impacts how you lead. Embrace both roles and walk them out in wisdom, love, & humility. 

10. The Church is a Family

This one just about summarizes the whole kit and caboodle. All 9 of the previous lessons fit right in #10. The Church is a messy, learning, growing, serving, funny, sacred place. We each have our own role in the body of Christ and sometimes it's a little tricky figuring out how all of our roles fit together. But they do and it's beautiful. In spite of our challenges, I love the Church and I love our church family. 


BONUS! 11. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Seriously. Why do I forget this lesson week after week and find myself walking in the dirty church parking lot with my (beautiful) shoes in my hand after standing around chatting after church? Just save yourself the pain and wear comfortable shoes. This is true, deep wisdom from the trenches, people. 



So there it is! 11 Lessons Being A Pastor's Wife Has Taught Me. Thanks for gathering around to listen to a piece of my story. I would love to hear yours! What lessons has your job or unique roll taught you? Tell me in the comments below or, even better, submit your very own Sacred Story!

28 comments

  1. HAHA the shoes thing. I swear standing during worship while trying to work the keyboard pedal is going to give me knee problems--get ready for my story submission about that! (Jk.)

    I admire how you have been able to reflect so deeply about the position God has called you into as a pastor's wife. I can't imagine what it's like to have people so ready to criticize when they could be supporting (says me, a total Pharisee who needs to give up my critical ways. Oops.) I'm so so glad Isaac has you supporting him in his job and in life! You two are the cutest :)

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    1. Girl. Standing AND using a pedal is just too much for me to think about. Also, I can't wait for your story submission ;)

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  2. I always fine it funny how we always talk about our church family. Someone summed that up one day. Yes they are family some are immediate family, some are distinct cousins and some are black sheep. In the end we all watch out for each other.

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    1. Candace, I LOVE that! We do watch out for each other, even the distant cousins and black sheep ;)

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  3. Oh wow I don't know if I can do the standing part and do the pedal as well.

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    1. Right, Anna?!? Julie is practically an acrobat!

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  4. Great tips, especially home as a sacred space and boundaries. I was talking to someone yesterday about boundary setting and suggested before an automatic yes to ask, "Am I being called to do this". When we always say yes sometimes the good crowds out the best.

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    1. You are so right, Tamara! I love that: sometimes the good crowds out the best. All of the things asking for our attention are good, but they may not be best!

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  5. Thanks for being so candid, it's a blessing to others who may think that a pastor's wife is perfect. And the tip about comfortable shoes is priceless. :)

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    1. That's so nice of you to say, Barbara! That's certainly the goal: authenticity and grace!

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  6. I love these, Courtney! You're 100% right that our satisfaction can only be found in Christ! And people (including myself) are messy! It sounds like you really enjoy helping others through your role in the church and I imagine you bless a lot of people!

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    1. Christina, thank you so much! I really do love it, in spite of the mess ;)

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  7. Very positive and inspirational post, Courtney :)
    Thanks for sharing your light to the world

    Madelain | http://www.wheremyheartwanders.com

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    1. Thank you! Sharing can be hard but it is worth it!

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  8. You speak so much truth! I not a Pastor's Wife, but a Pastor's Daughter and I can relate to so many of these things.

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    1. Oh, I bet you can! I would LOVE to hear about what you learned as a Pastor's Daughter, Brittany!

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  9. You put that so perfectly well about people's messiness and honestly there is no saint out there. The church will have messiness and no matter what we have to accept it and turn it around for the better. Thank you for sharing this. Super valuable. -Jocelyne from resonatecreations.com

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    1. Yes! No one is perfect! You're so right, Jocelyne!

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  10. I loved reading this post. So transparent and beautifully written. I often think about my pastor's wife and wonder what it is like for her in the ministry. I always imagined it to be a challenging position. We apprciate the pastor's wives and all the selfless acts they perform for their community that no body knows about. Thank you. :)

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    1. Wow! Thank you for your words. They are so kind! Its certainly a challenging role to play but it's also a gift I am thankful for!

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  11. This was such a great post, I never thought that there were troubles in a union of a pastor and his wife. But God needs to come first and even more so in that situation.

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    1. Yes, you are so right, Krysten! He's gotta be #1 if we want things to grow and be healthy!

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  12. This is a beautiful introspection! I think it's gotta be challenging to be a pastor's wife.

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    1. Sometimes it can be, Rebecca! It's more challenging because it reveals my mess more than the role itself is hard ;)

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  13. In our church there are no paid pastors, clergy, ministers, etc. Everyone has a calling (or several) that is unpaid and they may have it for a few months, or several years! I can relate to many of these in our situation as well. I have callings too (as you do) but my husband has been in callings the past several years that have taken a lot of time and so I hear ya on the boundaries thing! Sometimes I would start to feel resentful with all the time the church was taking. It's hard for me to remember sometimes that the most important thing is that we're helping to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks for your thoughts on this! Especially about the shoes!! ;)

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    1. Justine, such an interesting and unique perspective! Thank you for sharing it! I love the point you made about keeping the mission in focus: it's so important if we are going to love and serve well!

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