Second Hardest Job in the World

As far as pastors’ wives go, I have a good one. I always thank God for her.

A month ago when this column was published in the local newspaper I heard from several pastors thanking me for the content. Consistent with their stories was something like this, “My wife saw this in the paper and clipped it out for me.”

I could not help but notice is that it was a wife looking out for her husband. Which then impelled me to put down in writing some thoughts about pastors’ wives which I have found consistent over the years.

Here is the link to the article. But since the link will not remain active, I am posting the content below.

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A friend who speaks at conferences in all kinds of churches used to tell me that pastoring the local church was the hardest job in the world. I don’t know. Those trying to contain the gulf oil spill might put up a good counter-argument, as might many others.

Recently he told me that he had changed his mind and elevated single motherhood to the top spot. We note with honor such women this Mother’s Day weekend. This is a wise adjustment.

Married male pastors, however, know they can’t lay claim to second place. That ‘honor’ belongs to the often thankless role assumed by their wives.

The ‘job’ of pastor’s wife comes with no job description, no pay, and plenty of unwritten expectations from church and husband. She is to lead, teach, and be outgoing. She is to do anything and be at everything. And she is to have perfect children.

Some avoid these expectations, but there is a weight she carries that cannot be avoided.

When pastors struggle with pastoral issues, it is the wife who watches, often helplessly. When he comes home enveloped in the dark cloud of concern for the flock, she sees. Concern for confidentiality prevents his letting her in. She can do nothing.

When others aim criticism at her husband, the arrows strike her heart, too. Other wives might find comfort in the body of the church, a balm often denied the pastor’s wife, who cannot share with other women her concern for her husband.

When someone leaves a church, the pastor is often the focus of that decision. Though those leaving may maintain relationships with others in the church, the pastor is often cut off. The wife becomes collateral damage and can grow fearful of pouring her heart into the next relationship for fear of it being crushed all over again. Many minister out of a broken heart.

Her role is not all heartache. There is much joy. Even those capping oil wells get to go for a swim in exotic waters. Most pastor’s wives would not change ‘jobs’ for another. So don’t cry for her. Pray for her.

Love her. Encourage her.

This may not be the hardest job in the world, or even the second. But if there is a list of unseen and under-appreciated jobs, “pastor’s wife” will certainly lurk about the top.

2 thoughts on “Second Hardest Job in the World

  1. Certainly, being a pastor's wife cannot be an easy job. I don't even know just how hard it must be because I've never been one. As the daughter of a ruling elder's wife, I know that that position can also be a thankless job that is not paid or appreciated. I know that I have fallen short of expressing my appreciation to the wives of both pastors and elders in the churches in which I've been a member. I'm going to try to be better about that. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I hope everyone understands the irony in the title. I don't REALLY believe that one can quantify job difficulty or loneliness or isolation or emotional drain or whatever. Staci's right – a ruling elder's family has its own, sometimes similar stress. Another wrote me on FB pointing out the particular loneliness of HR directors. Bottom line: the smiling faces we see on the street or in church may mask sorrow that we may not know.

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