I Want to Be With Your Spouse

June 29, 2005 by

This sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think I have ever seen my pastor’s wife with him in any service I have attended. I’ve been going for nearly three years. I have seen her, and I know what she looks like (I think), but I never see them together, not to mention brought up to say hi, greet people every once in a while, or stand next to him during worship.

I understand shy spouses, protective pastors and schedule conflicts. (I know my pastor’s wife is the main church administrator so she is behind-the-scenes a lot.)

Regardless, your spouse should be seen—and recognized as being with you—if not regularly, occasionally. I don’t have any fancy research to back this opinion up, but I think it would go a long way in promoting and fostering community.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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25 Responses to “I Want to Be With Your Spouse”

  • Kevin
    June 29, 2005

    This is kind of funny–I’ve noticed a similar deal in my church. The spouse is usually there, but they’re definitely not joined at the hip. I just thought it was an Episcopalian thing, especially after coming out of the Baptist church where the pastor and wife (and from my experience those gender roles are pretty well defined) were absolutely joined at the hip.
    I always thought it was refreshing, seeing a pastor’s spouse who was more than the ideal mother/wife/homemaker. Though I can see how it can go to the other extreme Brad’s talking about.

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  • Mike
    June 29, 2005

    I think this is my favorite CMS entry yet. If only because of its truth and simplicity.

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  • Homer
    June 29, 2005

    Why? Why does it matter to you? I’m not asking idly. I just wonder how it helps to foster community. I’ve seen all ranges, from pastor-spouse always joined at hip to pastor’s spouse never at church. I can’t see a correlation to any other aspect of community life, frankly. Am interested in other thoughts…

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  • Bob
    June 29, 2005

    A few years ago our pastor came under fire from a group of people in the church. I started hearing blatant lies about him from friends. Since our pastor is British, he tends to come off as being a bit distant, but I knew that both he and his wife were a lot of fun if you got to know them. I decided to take some initiative and invited the pastor’s wife to come into our Sunday school class and talk about their family. She did just that and it revolutionized the image that the people in the class had about both of them. Although quite a few people left the church at that time, only one couple out of 30 from our class left, and I don’t think the pastor was the issue for them. We were probably the least affected class in the church.
    Our pastor’s wife doesn’t play a role in front of the church, but she does sit with him every Sunday in the front row before he preaches. It’s not a big deal, but if she didn’t sit with him, people would notice. I don’t even think it would be viewed negatively, it would just be noticed.

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  • charlie
    June 29, 2005

    Re: the spouse being there…I love the comment on another forum when a pastor was relating his experience “candidating” for a pastoral position. The committee asked something like, “What role will your wife play?” His response: “I hope she’ll decide to come to church here, but that’s her decision.”

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  • ksc
    June 29, 2005

    I like Bob’s approach. If you feel this way about your pastor and his wife, why not invite them to your house and build a relationship with them. That would do much more for “community” then the perception of whether the pastor’s wife is physically next to him.

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  • Brad Abare
    June 29, 2005

    I understand how this idea can be taken down many different paths (too much spousal presence, too little, who cares, etc.). I guess the motivation for writing this was more about the presence of a spouse more so than the proximity of a spouse. I don’t hear stories about my pastor’s wife, I don’t see any female ever sitting next to him, I don’t hear much about “them” at all. This matters to me because we live in a culture with high divorce, declining family values, and individualism that permeates. If the church should model community, I think a married pastor who demonstrates community in his own life (especially with his wife) is a good place to start. Is that asking too much?

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  • Karen of Scottsdale
    June 29, 2005

    My father is a pastor in San Diego. My mother runs the church nursery but she makes a point to be available to greet people before and after service. She often makes home visitations with my father to get to know new members of the church.
    In my experience, both as a pastor’s daughter and as a member of another church, too often it seems that churches expect “two for the price of one” when they hire a pastor. I agree it’s important for the pastor’s wife to be visible in the congregation but beyond that I don’t think anything else should be expected of her in regards to staff responsibilities.
    Since a pastor often counsels women who are “lonely” it is important for the wife to have a visible connection with the husband. Also it is necessary for the church to see that the husband and wife relationship is a healthy one.

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  • stu
    June 29, 2005

    as a pastor myself, i find the post a little naive.
    1) we are not display models for marriage : don’t put that pressure on us. we have difficulties and if you’re wanting to talk about community, the ugly despair is part of that community too. are you actually prepared to know the humanity of the relationship or do you just want to be inspired? i’m all for role models, but they need to have the lattitude afforded to them to be honest and sometimes that means letting a relationship simply be without your judgement.
    2) my wife is not ready to come to my church. this has been a painful process for me and the church but there has been a tremendous not-so-visible communal support for her which has been warmly received. there is depth there and i’m blown away by the people who make the effort.
    3) as with karen, churches don’t get two for the price of one. i’m not talking about remuneration, i’m talking about positional expectations. you employ a pastor, and it’s implicit that his wife is part of the mix. why should a wife have to do this? i applaud those pastor’s wives who determine their own level of involvement in the church. my mother (my dad was a pastor) threw herself into church life which is great and was her choice and she wasn’t pandering to people’s expectations. my wife is not and for really good reasons too : health being one of them.
    4) as for the divorce rate issue, healthy does not equal healthy. honest and committed equals healthy and i just don’t think you’re gonna see that in the sitting together thing. if you want to be inspired, get past the external. every marriage has its issues : yep even in the pastor’s home there are some big blow ups. how it’s dealt with after is what makes a relationship healthy and that is not reflected in the pew : anyone can (and usually does) play that game.
    the idea of ‘marketing’ is difficult in church contexts as it perilously straddles the beauty and advantage of aesthetic with pandering to a culture of the benign and shallow. apply it to the branding, the look and feel of the buildings, publicity, promotion whatever, but never ever ever apply it to people.

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  • Brad Abare
    June 29, 2005

    Pastor Stu – thanks for your comments – I think you (and nearly everyone else who has commented above) are reading too far into this. I’m not looking to be inspired nor am I looking for some picture of the perfect marriage. Perhaps “authenticity” is the word I am looking for. If a pastor’s spouse is absent when everyone is present, maybe she’s also absent when no one is present.
    As to applying marketing or branding to people… marketing and branding is all about people. It’s about the people who are doing the marketing/branding and it’s about the people who are being marketed/branded to.

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  • stu
    June 29, 2005

    thanks for your comments brad.
    authenticity is not tied in with the appearance though. maybe you should ask your pastor why this is so and just clear the air?
    i would prefer to amend your comment:
    marketing and branding is all about people
    marketing and branding is all about people’s perceptions.
    there’s a world of difference, one is external one is internal. Man looks at the outside and God looks at the heart. i would never want my church people to fit into how our church would like to be marketed, no, it needs to be the other way round. the marketing reflects the church and is subservient to it. if that’s what you mean by all about people then i kind of agree, but i think it’s a little misleading. branding is external and static, people connect internally and dynamically. branding is good for many things, but it is not good for nurturing relationship.
    i’m into the marketing and branding for sure, but the problem is that it easily becomes demographically restricted which i think is an affront to the unity of diversity.
    it could be argued that the pharisees had marketing and branding down pat… :-) i say it as a caution not a counter.
    thanks for your thoughts brad.

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  • Scott
    June 29, 2005

    You know, I saw that type of situation once before. I deemed this “odd” behavior myself, but in my case this was just one of MANY odd behaviors. The gentleman is now out of my sphere of influence, but I wonder if this was a tell tale sign of some sort. Hmmm… Good commentary.

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  • Michael
    June 29, 2005

    I’m grateful and consider it a blessing that our pastors wife is right by his side…not too much, but just enough. She even preached on Mother’s Day, which was unusually but very nice to hear from her.
    I think it’s a very positive thing, but do agree that a pastor’s wife does not have to automatically play the piano. :)

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  • Stu's a-Musings
    June 30, 2005

    an odd wee comment at “church marketing sucks”

    check out:
    church marketing sucks : pastor’s wife
    i don’t know if i’m over-reacting (probably knowing me), but it was a strange idea to equate ‘seeing the pastor and his wife together from time to time’ being important. dunno, not sure, and in the ‘th

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  • perry
    June 30, 2005

    I totally disagree with this post. (But I will not be rude in my comments!) :-)
    My wife is awesome…the most godly woman I have ever met in my life. She encourages and supports me in incredible ways. I married way over my head!
    However, she is MY wife–she does not belong to the church. And honestly, I feel as her husband and her pastor it is my responsibility to protect her from “freaky weird” people that may try to get to me through her.
    If you are a pastor–you know what I mean when I talk about the “freaky weird people.” And don’t hand me that garbage about having to love them–I DO love them…but that doesn’t mean I have to want to be around them a lot…or introduce them to my wife.
    I personally think this is up to the pastor and his wife…it is a personal decision. My wife does not like being the center of attention–she hates the spotlight. She is not the most social person in the world and she does not relate to strangers very well. One of the things she enjoys is the fact that a lot of people do not know who she is.
    And if that is her preference–then that is the way I will keep it–I am called to pastor the church–she is called to be my wife.
    That’s just my two cents…

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  • Greg
    July 5, 2005

    I’m with Perry. As a pastor, my family gets the raw end of a lot of deals: standing in the supermarket while i talk with 3 or 4 different people from our church we run into; sitting in the car waiting for me to finish a “counseling” call; having dinner interrupted by people who want to say hi when we go out to eat.
    Don’t get me wrong, we love that God has called us into ministry, and the privilege of pastoring an incredible church. However, my wife is not called to do everything i am. When we started the church i made an agreement with her: i wouldn’t ask her to do anything except grow in her relationship with the Lord and serve as she sees fit.
    My wife is great about going out between services and greeting people, staying late to talk or pray with hurting ladies, etc.
    To me it is important that my wife loves our church, and that she’s an active part, but that’s it. I do talk about my marriage often, letting people know how much i love my wife, what we do to keep our marriage growing and healthy, etc…
    I think so many pastors and their families burn out because of the unrealistic expectations their churches place on them.

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  • Tim
    July 8, 2005

    As a small town, rural pastor, I agree with both Perry and Greg. A lot is expected of me from my church, and my wife as well. I have to work very hard to “protect” her from all the “roles” the membership wants her to fill. She has been “asked” to lead children’s ministries, women’s ministries, and the other night, when the pianist failed to show up on time, the worship director looked at her and in front of the congregation asked her if she would play (she hasn’t played in church for 15 years…).
    Beyond that, we have a very active 20 month-old son who never stops running. Typically, if my wife is not by my side where some people think she belongs, it is because she is working in the nursery or in kid’s church because, to be blunt, most people in the church are too lazy to be an active part of the body.
    All this to say, most people probably do not understand everything that is going on with the pastor and his/her spouse. Like has been said in other posts, the physical presence may or may not correlate with a supporting spouse. I would much rather my wife be where I need her emotionally and relationally, than where the church thinks she needs to be in the pew next to me. Again, like others have posted, it comes down to personal needs and preferences, and each pastor & spouse will do things different.
    I would encourage you, if you do not see your pastor’s spouse sitting in the church pew “supporting” her husband, invite them to dinner. My wife and I have been at our church for about 6 months now. Although several people have their ideas about us and our roles, we have only had two families invite us over to their home to get to know us.

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  • Abigail
    August 7, 2006

    I just stumbled upon this post as I was looking for information on spouces of pastors. As a future pastor, I think it will be interesting to see how a “pastor’s husband” might stand up to some of the expectations/ ideas discussed here. Would the ideas mentioned about involvement be the same? Why or why not?
    I appreciate this post and discussion, and especially the comments of the male pastors- it is interesting to hear the stresses and blessings that you all walk through.

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  • sara
    September 1, 2006

    So interesting to read all the posts. As a young pastor’s wife, I catch all the flak firsthand – so I can relate to almost every side of these posts. But I do have some different opinions.
    I do believe that the minister’s family is called to seek to demonstrate God’s ideal family structure here on earth. That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, or that everyone gets a free pass to hold us up as the ultimate example, but it DOES mean we should place a priority on family life and healthy marriage. I believe it is vital for a minister’s family to embrace the fishbowl concept rather than always fighting it. Life gets so much simpler then. Instead of hating or resenting people who are watching you, just accept it. Say “Everybody’s watching, and I’m just going to do whatever I believe God is telling me to do.” Embracing that doesn’t have to change your decisions or warp your self-image.
    As for pastor’s wives… I believe the call to be a pastor’s wife is as sacred as the call to be a pastor. I’ve seen so many churches hurt and fractured over the feeling that their pastor’s wife didn’t give a hoot about them. And I’ve seen a lot of young men with calls to ministry have their pastoral careers ruined because of their wives’ lack of support or outright rejection of their call.
    As a pastor’s wife, it is my policy to stay away from all church positions for the first 6 months in any district and just get to know the people. After that, I’ll only accept positions that I am gifted in and enjoy doing. I won’t just play the piano because there’s nobody else, or work with tots when I’m better with teens. (Been there, done that…) But I do believe it is my privilege and honor to be involved in the church by my husband’s side.
    Really, how can he preach on active congregational involvement and getting the laity out working if his own wife won’t get up and do anything to help? That’s the best way I can think of to undermine a pastor’s credibility.
    There are so many ways that a wife can demonstrate her support of her husband and her unity with him in ministry. Every woman has gifts and talents of some sort, even the shy ones. Just use what God gave you and seek to genuinely love the people you’re serving.
    Besides, as a pastor’s wife, serving people is just part of the bargain. People expect it, and they have a right to expect it. You’re the pastor’s family, after all. You’re not perfect, but you are in a position of influence, and you’ll only be miserable if you try to reject the people who want to get to know you. besides making them miserable, too.
    I agree though, that people should criticize their pastors less, and get to know them more. We’ve been in our district almost a year, and no one has ever invited us over yet for a family dinner. There have been a few big church parties, and we’ve had many families over to our home, but no invitations in return. Pastors and their wives get lonely too, and it’d be a breath of fresh air for someone else to cook once in a while! :)
    Anyway, that’s my thoughts…

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  • Dave
    September 10, 2006

    All marriages are different some woman want to take a smaller roll in things, maybe they are having marriage problems, pastors are not immune to this. As long as they are doing a good job of running the church why does it matter for us to pry or try to guess why they are not together in church? When they get home things might be totally different, we don’t know and for this reason we cannot judge. I am involved in ministry that my wife wants nothing to do with, but thats ok as long as I honor God and she also walks with him.

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  • Fay
    September 13, 2006

    As someone who spent many years as an active parishioner, and who married a pastor four years ago, I have a rather unique perspective.
    The set expectations of the pastor’s wife seem to decrease as you move from ultra-conservative (fundamentalist) to mainline (more “liberal”) churches. In the most fundamental churches, it’s still a part of the culture that the pastor’s wife is assumed to fill certain rolls. It’s unhealthy, but it’s a reality that pastors and their spouses need to address up front.
    The church my husband serves is a mainline church. He was very clear from the beginning that I was not obligated to attend his church, but was very happy that I immediately became a member.
    I view my role at the church in two ways. Primarily, I am a member, called to use my gifts. After a couple of false starts, I seem to have found the areas of service which fit my gifts and the church’s needs. This is no different than when I was not married to a pastor.
    Secondly, just like many spouses who are not married to pastors I consider the impact of my actions and decisions on my husband’s career. For instance, our congregation includes many West Arican immigrants who, culturally, hold the pastor and his wife (“Ma Ma”) in special regard. It means a great deal to them when I greet them on Sunday mornings. Of course, they appreciate being greeted by everyone else, but there’s no doubt that my greeting especially important to them, so I make the effort to always do it—and to not let the Anglos feel left out.
    It seems a bit extreme to never see the pastor and spouse together, but if you’re concerned, you might minister to them by praying for them, rather than expecting them to fit you model. Alas, every single pastor and spouse are just as fallible as those who attend their churches. They’re just expected to hide it better. Wouldn’t it be great if a pastor and spouse could seek marital counseling without risking a loss of face, income or career?
    If your pastor’s wife is just shy, introverted, or whatever, give her a break and adjust your (unrealistic) expectations.

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  • Leslie Stacks
    January 3, 2007

    My spouse – husband – does not attend the church for which I am the pastor. He continues to be a member of the church we joined before I entered the pastorate. He is a deeply involved member of that congregation, and I would not dream of asking him to give that up. If he did join the church that I pastor, he could no longer be “merely” a member, but would have to take on an entirely different role. Fortunately, my congregation understands this and has never viewed his decision as one that reflects negatively upon me or upon them. Although I know they would enjoy having my husband among us – he is, after all, a terrific guy! – I appreciate their understanding of his need to have the same sort of church membership experience that they enjoy.

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  • Carmen
    January 10, 2007

    After reading Sara’s post, I could have written it. I would be a hypocrite to think I can sit back and be on the sidelines when I want others to get out and use their gifts. As a pastor and a pastor’s wife, she’s right, we are in a position of influence whether we’re comfortable with it or not.
    I am truly appalled to think that there are pastors (men or women) who’s spouses don’t even attend the same church. I would not ever want to attend a church where they would hire a pastor and think it would be okay to have the pastor’s family not attend as a family. If God moves you from one place to another, and you’ve heard from HIM, I don’t think He’d ask you to separate your family. Maybe on a short term basis while your house is sold, etc… but I don’t see a Biblical example of household divided like that.
    I grew up as a PK and married a pastor after college. I can’t tell you how many times we are saddened and frustrated that the board member’s children or wives miss church regularly. How can we ask our members to be faithful in their attendance and in their serving if we don’t expect that of our pastors or board members? Are we not to lead by example?
    I am an introverted person; however, as God has called me to be a pastor’s wife I have been stretched and have grown in areas. I can say that when my husband was having to fulfill roles as both youth and children’s pastor that I missed sitting next to him in Sunday morning service. I think it’s healthy to see a pastor and his wife together. That does not mean we have the perfect marriage, far from it. Our marriage is always strongest when we are able to worship together. When we are having to fill extra positions, just because the need is there, we suffer.
    I’m very fortunate to have a husband who wants me to serve with him but is defensive of others assuming I have to fit into a specific ideal they have created.

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  • Tina
    June 17, 2007

    This is a probably in my church my Pastor wife is very busy in the church and out front alot of the members think that she is a busy body in everything in the church,this is my Pastor second wife his first Wife died. This Wife is much younger she is in everyone area she is changing things all over the Church and it is bringing Divinsion in the Church and it is so funny that the pastor is letting her do this I have been a member in this Chuch for 12 years,it’s very funny how things will change his first Wife he was marry for 30 years,this wife only 8 months she is really a busy body.

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  • Rebecca
    November 16, 2007

    I sit next to my husband every week in church because he needs and loves my support, not because of anyone else’s expectations. I love him and try to encourage him by being there to cheer him on.Seeing me there is a comfort and a joy to him. It isn’t easy being brilliant and inspiring every week. I truly believe the primary ministry of the pastor’s wife is to minister to the minister.Anything she does beyond that should be born out of her own giftedness and natural desire to serve.(ie.teaching Sunday school because she loves being with children and is good at it)I do, however think the church needs to see a healthy pastoral couples.After our relationship with Christ, our marriage is our most important priority, followed by our kids,THEN the church.

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