For The Spouse

Working through the loss associated with an exit from ministry

When a pastor enters full-time Christian ministry, he takes his family along.  Because of the unusual hours, the interruptions to normal life, and the spiritual importance of the job, the joys and stressors of ministry life are shared by the entire family. Ministry wives come in all different ages, personalities, and involvement levels, and yet, to some degree, each one wrestles with the role of “pastor’s spouse” and the varied expectations that come with it.  These may include how children are raised, working outside the home, or what their spiritual gifting might be.  Each pastor’s spouse must decide how to respond to these expectations.

Ministry also affects the more intimate workings of the family. Many pastor’s wives consider the eternal significance of the work of the pastor, and weigh carefully the expectations they place on their husbands at home. Some pastors’ wives resent the hours their husbands spend in ministry and its demand on family time, pulling back as much as they can. Wherever a wife falls on this spectrum, it becomes clear to a wife that the health of her marriage and family hangs in a delicate balance with the health of her husband’s ministry, and she generally feels some loss of control in these areas.

when a pastor is in trouble, his spouse is intimately involved.

It comes as no surprise then, that when a pastor is in trouble, his spouse is intimately involved. Often she has watched her husband struggle in personal or ministry areas for some time and has felt helpless to make positive change. Sometimes their marriage is in trouble, hanging on by a thread with no safe outlet for help or counseling.  Sometimes it is the spouse herself who is burned out or unable to carry the weight of ministry any longer. And when something goes wrong in that ministry, it creates an isolation that may be surprising to her. When a ministry job ends, it may instantly dissolve her social network and that of her children, given the abruptness that often accompanies “exit” situations.

Even more difficult, if the church holds something against her husband or family, or if she or her husband have fallen into a failure of any kind, she grieves not only her relationships but her reputation. Frequently, she has nowhere to go to process these types of grief, and no outlet in which to communicate her own identity and frustration.  Church family is not safe, and sometimes sharing with other friends or family seems to risk their relationships or reputations in even greater ways.

Help Is Here

At PIR, we believe ministry risk is a risk for the entire family, and spouses must be deeply involved in the restoration process. If you or someone you know is a ministry spouse or family member who needs support, we have staff spouses that are willing to listen and pray.

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