Every year since Chad became a pastor, we have hosted a Christmas open house in our home. I love decorating for Christmas, and I like to deck out the house and have our friends over for a fun night of hanging out and eating delicious food. Tonight is the night, and I am so looking forward to throwing open the doors and welcoming our community in.
But, I have a scandalous pastor’s wife secret: I am not baking a single thing. I’m not making punch. I’m not diving into my trusty recipe box and planning a menu. I didn’t even clean my own floors. Instead, I’m writing. I’m listening to sermons. I’m composing a talk that I’m going to deliver to a women’s group in a neighboring town. I’m wrapping gifts in paper that coordinates with my Christmas trees. I’m sending my kids off on field trips at crazy hours of the morning. I’m attending the senior adult Christmas lunch (which I am not cooking). I’m plotting with the kindergarten teacher about Christmas fun next week at school.
And our church seems to be okay with all of this. When we first came here I didn’t offer any illusions that I am a great cook or a great housekeeper or the ultimate hostess. Our amazing church secretary can prepare a meal for 250 people without batting an eye, but I break out in hives at the thought. Yet, our church members continue to encourage me in the things that I do well, in the things that I enjoy and have giftings for.
I can’t tell you what a difference that makes.
Everyone has expectations of their pastor’s wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any. We should expect the pastor’s wife to be kind, spiritually-minded, and invested in her church family. But we also have to remember that every pastor’s wife has her own unique interests and talents, and she should have the freedom to minister in ways that line up with her strengths. Not all pastors’ wives are great communicators or great cooks or great decorators. Some prefer to quietly minister in the background, talking with people one on one, sending cards or texts, washing dishes in the kitchen, noticing needs that others may overlook. If your pastor’s wife is reserved and seems a little withdrawn, give her the benefit of the doubt. Assume that she is ministering in her own ways through personal contact that isn’t in the forefront. Assume that her prayers can move mountains. Assume the best of her, and pray for her to find her own ways to work alongside her husband in the mission of the church.
If your pastor’s wife is loud and boisterous and fun and tends to say things she will later regret, have grace for her. Assume that her outgoing personality draws people to her and to the church. Assume that her ability to talk to people helps her love them well. Assume that she is hearing stories in her conversations that need to be told, and that she is bringing outsiders into her circle with her extroverted ways.
And if your pastor’s wife doesn’t cook or doesn’t often have people over, if she is not interested in decorating or in fashion or in crafting or in whatever it is that you think a pastor’s wife should do, then give her the space to be herself. God calls pastors’ wives into ministry just like He calls pastors. And He uniquely gifts them to do the work He would have them do. Your pastor’s wife may not look or act or be exactly like you expected, but she will be much more likely to flourish in her role if you assume the best of her, if you pray for her instead of criticize.
Above all, please remember that your pastor’s wife is human. She will make terrible mistakes. She will say stupid things. She will have days when she is selfish and self-centered. She will go into spiritual slumps. I know because I do all of this and more. But, one thing that keeps bringing me back to a biblical focus is the grace and goodness of the church of Jesus Christ. This family loves me well and puts up with my quirks and my moods and my weaknesses. And they don’t even seem to care that I can’t cook to save my life. What a blessing. What a love. Be that church member that commits to supporting your pastor’s wife in her uniqueness. It will bless her more than you know.