By Thom Rainer

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

To be fair, this post could refer to any church staff person, male or female, so it could be called ministers’ spouses. For simplicity, and because I primarily hear from this group of people, I refer to them as pastors’ wives.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

  1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.
  2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.
  3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.
  4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.
  5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.
  6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.
  7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.
  9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.”She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.
  10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.



This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 4, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.


  • sharon

    Spot on with these expectations; somedays the pressure is overwhelming.

  • Major Ellis

    If you think these are something you should interview the wife of a Salvation Army officer . Yes, he is a minister / ????Pastor as well.

    I enjoyed this article. I have recently retired as a minister and you would be surprised at the comments that come about you even in retirement.
    God Bless!

  • Brian Scott

    Perhaps another demand is being doing and achieving the exact role responsibility and attitude of the most successful friendly and best spuse who has left the church community. The demands are never clear at the start of a ministry perhaps this is a question that should be asked. Whay is expected of Us? If the responsability is achievable then those whom answer for the church are the ones who should then explain to the community whay is expected and achievable. There seems to be a lot of church life run by a few when all are called to participate.

  • Emma

    As an Evangelist and Pastor’s wife of 39 years, one is expected to serve on the same level and with the same perfection and anointing as in earlier years. Otherwise, one’s worth & value is diminished in the eyes of the people, howbeit that God allows a time when His servant is being tried and tested. God’s faithful servant, Job, was allowed by God to be greatly attacked by the enemy, satin, and suffered devastating loss. Never the less, Job declared, “…but He knoweth the way that I take:when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10 KJV). God has spoken and, like Job, my latter will be greater!

  • Monica Anyango Akoro

    Our expectations of pastor’s wives are very high. We thought they should be our role model

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