The Plight of Mrs. Pastor

Tuesday Re-mix –

My older daughter married a pastor.

In raising daughters, there are the years when you have lots of say about who they see and who they do not see…and then those years come to an end and you learn to just keep quiet (mostly) and pray a lot.  For my own girls, I have prayed their entire lives that, if other men must come into their lives–and, alas, they apparently must–that those men would know God and walk with Him and be shaped by Him to love my girls well.

But in my most vulnerable moments, ones when my worldly anxieties crept in and I allowed myself to have an opinion on the matter, when I was completely honest with God I probably periodically threw in an extra prayer such as, “…and God, please don’t let them marry a minister.”  I had my reasons.

I myself am a pastor’s son.  I’ve been around the church my whole life.  I have made a career of working with conflicted churches and counseling pastors and church leaders alike through those difficult seasons.  I have seen “up close and personal” the results of church fights in tens of thousands of lives.  And of all the casualties of mean-spirited Christians and of all the lives and careers I have seen destroyed, the most helpless and defenseless (and typically the most innocent) of all is…the minister’s spouse.

If ministers have had any decent training at all, chances are pretty good that somebody along the way (maybe a seminary professor, maybe a wise friend) has warned them that they have chosen a difficult path, one wrought with mean people and disappointment.  So when trouble comes and I am counseling them and I say to them, “Welcome to ministry”, they usually know exactly what I mean.  They are neither shocked nor surprised.  But the chances are just as good that nobody warned their spouse of that.  When she married a man of the cloth, it  only reinforced her dreams of a white picket fence, a beautiful family, lots of good friends and a life filled with Spiritual rewards.

Then, when that young minister hits his first bump in the road, he comes home and shares it with his wife, who may or may not handle it well.  The minister then concludes that maybe he should not share all his difficulties with his spouse, that maybe he should “protect her” from that ugliness.  So she becomes excluded from it from that point on.   Or maybe he doesn’t exclude her at all.  Maybe he brings her through all the pain with him.  Either way, whether she’s in the loop or not, the loop ends there.  If she is in the loop, she cannot talk with anyone else about the difficulties and is left to watch her husband be ravaged by church people.  If she is not in the loop, she is left to her own imagination  to consider what kind of people (at her own church) must be causing her husband to lose his faith in the church.  In either case, she is all alone and is powerless to help.  It is an unbelievably vulnerable place, utterly defenseless.

If you think I am making this up or am otherwise not a good source for this story, then spend some time at Mrs. Pastor’s blog, which paints the picture better than I ever could…I don’t know “Mrs. Pastor”, don’t know where she lives or what church she calls home. I don’t know many details at all about her plight, but because of my ministry, I have heard her story a thousand times.

In my denomination alone, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of pastors’ wives struggling with  depression and even various addictions and other dysfunctions born out of their search for a place to turn for escape.  It may be the biggest problem which nobody knows about.  The happy life she signed on for when she married a man of God is suddenly a life of depression, betrayal, and unspeakable secrets.  Because that is an ugly reality of the church…it is filled…FILLED with flawed, broken people who behave badly and who desperately need the Spirit of God and each other.  Those people hurt ministers.  That is a fact of ministry.

So, here is what I am calling on you to do this weekend.  First, give your pastor a long, appreciative hug and tell him that you love him.  Second, give his wife a long, appreciative hug and apologize to her for all the pain your church surely causes her husband.  She will probably cordially deny that, but you know it is true.  Third, pray for them, that God will find a way to comfort them even in the midst of their difficult calling.

Oh, and one final post-script: my older daughter and my new son-in-law are thriving and happy in ministry.  I thank God every day for that and will always be here for them, loving and supporting them.  But if they ever change their minds about their career choices, I’m sure I’ll find a way to be o.k. with that too.  🙂

© Blake Coffee
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5 responses to “The Plight of Mrs. Pastor”

  1. hmmm, my wife married a pastor. After experiencing what you talked about, I developed anxiety and depression and had to resign. She had to go to work to support our family, now she is being treated for depression. It’s a hard road. Thanks for being honest about what goes on for us….

  2. Don’t forget about the men who are married to pastor’s as well. Their need to protect their wives from harm, while still letting her lead a church is a plight that many know nothing about. And it’s not an easy one … ask my husband.

  3. It IS a tough life…but I still love His church….

  4. K Leong (Australia) Avatar
    K Leong (Australia)

    Very true, but could ave been minimised if mr pastor and mrs pastor had the same vision and calling, instead of her having a dream “of white picket fences”. No one should be surprised here of the hardship, thanklessness and ironies found in ministry, but I am surprised by the naiveness of mrs pastor (apologies to all pastors wives out there). Clearly mrs pastor didnt have her own ministry but some reason, married into one? Could not share secrets – what sort of a husband-wife team is this? The author raises the hardship of ministry and he didnt seem to mention that mr and mrs pastor could also enjoy a meaningful life together with shared passion and purpose, seeing lives changed and thier church grow and other wonderful blessings of finding thier place in the body of Christ. Yes, its a pretty horrible place to be in when she signed up for a “life full of spiritual rewards” instead of finding her own vision and calling. And pretty mean of mr pastor for not preparing her either. It does not need to turn out like that. I have a daughter too, and last night, I happened to be praying that she will find her own ministry and husband to match. Funny this article would come to my attention now. Sorry for the hard words and my genuine symptahy to those who did not sign up for this. But please lets have a more victorious attitude than this.

  5. […] original article is titled “The Plight of Mrs. Pastor”, as it comes from a Protestant lawyer/church conflict mediator, but it all is pretty much the same […]

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