By Aaron Earls
March is Pastor’s Spouse Appreciation Month. This provides churches with an opportunity to show how thankful they are to a person who may sacrifice more for the well-being of the church than any other.
Lifeway Research spoke with 720 pastors’ spouses about their experiences and found their lives are complicated, filled with particularly blessings and stresses.
In recognizing some of the more significant challenges facing pastors’ spouses, churches can help them feel more at home in their congregation and their calling with their spouse.
1. Support the pastor.
Almost 3 in 4 say their spouse has experienced resistance in the church and this creates stress and pressure on both the pastor and their family.
This doesn’t mean everyone in the congregation will always agree with the pastor and other leaders, but it does mean that when you disagree, you do so in the right manner at the right time.
And even when the inevitable disagreements arise, you can make sure the pastor and their family all know they are loved by the congregation, regardless of anything else.
2. Provide for their family.
Don’t set your church finances based on how little you can give your pastor, but think about how much you can support them.
Sixty-eight percent of pastors’ spouses worry about having enough money for retirement. About a third (36 percent) say they worry about even making ends meet each month.
A full 6 in 10 say the compensation paid by the church isn’t enough to support their family.
Maybe your budget won’t stretch any further, but you can look for ways to take expenses off their budget.
Do you have some members who could cook monthly meals for the family or provide nice hand-me-down clothes for the kids?
3. Give them space.
Pastors feel as if they are always on call and their spouses feel that stress as well. The spouse may have often be operating as quasi-single parent in some instances.
Around 6 in 10 (59 percent) say church commitments limit family time, according to the Lifeway Research study.
Don’t treat the pastor as if they don’t have responsibilities within their own home. Limit after-hours phone calls or visits to actual emergencies.
Look for ways you can address needs of the church or its members yourself without calling the pastor for every little issue.
4. Be a friend.
Almost 7 in 10 spouses of pastors (69 percent) say they have few people they can confide in.
Half say they don’t have enough relationships where they can be themselves (55 percent) or say if they were honest at church about their prayer needs, it would become gossip (49 percent).
While pastors often make connections and friendships with other church leaders, spouses may struggle more to make adult friendships outside of the home.
Find ways to involve the pastor’s spouse in outings with other people. If they have kids, offer to babysit so they can go on a date or meet up with friends.
At the most basic level, be a listening ear and a friend they can talk to without having to worry about you sharing their secrets in a “prayer meeting.”
What are some other ways to support pastors, their spouses, and their families?
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.