What to Do When You Feel Unappreciated as a Pastor’s Wife
If you’ve been a pastor’s wife for very long, chances are you’ve experienced some degree of feeling unappreciated in your role.
Being a pastor’s wife is tricky because there are no actual specific qualifications for being a pastor’s wife in the Bible.
So the majority of what is expected of you is based solely on people’s own opinions – and anytime you mix unclear expectations with people’s opinions, you are going to end up with some hurt feelings.
When my husband and I were dating, he was a youth minister. I asked a senior pastor’s wife that we knew what I could do to prepare myself to be a good pastor’s wife.
She told me I needed to do two things.
1. Learn to play the piano.
2. Stop dressing so young.
I didn’t learn to play the piano, but I have stopped dressing so young now that I’m a 34-year-old mom of 4 and not an 18-year-old.
And that example makes it perfectly clear why you’ll never please everyone as a pastor’s wife.
People are going to have expectations of you that are based on everything from what the last pastor’s wife did to what they would do if they were a pastor’s wife.
If you spend your entire ministry trying to please people and seeking to be appreciated by people, you will be miserable.
So what can you do to stop feeling overlooked and unappreciated as a pastor’s wife?
Here are 3 tips to make the most of your ministry and keep those negative feelings out of your life.
1. Make friends
This is much easier said than done for many of us.
Many pastor’s wives are introverted, and that alone makes finding friends difficult. But when you add in the intricacies of ministry life, sometimes it feels impossible to make friends.
Despite the difficulties, you need to make friends.
If you don’t even know where to begin, check out our post Three Steps to Make Mom Friends.
If you know how to make friends, but you just haven’t because of past hurts, potential future hurts, busyness, or whatever, you’re really cheating yourself.
Having friends makes dealing with feeling unappreciated as a pastor’s wife so much easier.
It’s easy to feel like the worst pastor’s wife on the planet when Ethel and Lucy chew you out for buying store-bought cookies for the bake sale instead of making them homemade.
After all, nobody likes to be chided.
But those feelings get magnified and bleed over into everything else if there are no other voices in your life.
If you just smile and take the chastizing (no judgment here, that’s what I typically do), then you probably also take that chastisement home with you.
You replay the words over and over until you’ve let them beat you down.
You forget that you are doing a great job on that New Year’s Resolution to not yell on Sunday mornings even if it means you’re super late for Sunday School.
You forget that you’ve committed to making your family a priority.
But if you have friends to tell about the situation, they’ll have your back.
They’ll tell you how awesome you are and how you made your family a priority on Saturday night and played Uno with your kids instead of stressing in the kitchen making homemade cookies.
They’ll tell you that your store-bought cookies sold out first because they are so good.
They’ll remind you of your actual worth and how ridiculous Lucy and Ethel are.
Because they’re your friends.
They’re the people you can call and tell them that you did something crazy like threw away a child’s artwork because they wouldn’t stop punching you in the thigh during children’s church. If you’re lucky, you have a friend who will volunteer to come punch that toddler back for laying hands on you.
Because they love you fiercely and fully exactly like you are.
They don’t expect you to be some “perfect pastor’s wife.”
You aren’t just a pastor’s wife to them.
You are their friend who happens to be married to a pastor.
It’s good to make friends both outside the church and inside the church.
Outside-the-church friends are like a little vacation from your role as pastor’s wife.
They see you for you and usually don’t even remember your husband’s job when y’all are hanging out.
Inside-the-church friends are great because they see all the crazy and drama and good and love at the church, and they get it.
They know that Ethel and Lucy are busybodies who don’t have their own life together so they hyperfocus on other people.
They know that you are a great pastor’s wife and they jump in during the Why Didn’t You Make Homemade Cookies? lecture to announce they bought their brownies from Walmart that morning.
Having a squad or clique or group or gang or whatever you want to call it, is one of the best things you can do for you.
Those people are your people and they have your back.
Everyone in the church is not your people, but if you have your people, that’s okay.
Knowing that you have a group of people who see all the good you do will help you to not feel so unappreciated as a pastor’s wife.
And be sure to be open to having friends outside of your age group.
Some of my best church friends are senior citizens. They are wise women whose opinions I value greatly.
They’ve got so much wisdom I would be an absolute fool to not be friends with them.
2. Shift your focus
Your husband was called to shepherd.
I’m not saying that church members are ignorant sheep so please don’t misunderstand, but sheep are what shepherds herd.
So, if you can, shift your view from thinking of every person at church as a person of influence in your life and instead think of them as people who are attending your church to get guidance from your husband and others.
Obviously, you should have a select group that you do listen to (see point 1 above). But if you listen to and focus on the opinion of every person at church, you will be miserable.
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One Sunday, I wore pants to church.
It’s actually not a big deal. We have a very casual dress code at our church but I usually wear dresses because I think they’re more comfortable. But I hadn’t shaved my legs the night before, so I wore pants.
That morning I got 3 compliments on my outfit in Sunday school.
Two were from friends who legit loved my white pants, and one was from a visitor.
The visitor told me she was nervous about wearing pants to church but felt so relieved when she saw the pastor’s wife walk in wearing pants.
I felt like I was really winning at listening to God as I walked into the sanctuary that morning.
Then I had a sweet, dear, precious elderly sheep ask me if I’d overslept that morning.
Confused, I told her no.
She said she assumed I’d gotten up late because I usually look so nice on Sunday mornings, and today I was wearing pants.
I smiled and said, “I just felt like wearing pants today!” and continued to the front row with my kids.
There was a time in my life where that comment would have really bothered me.
I’d have let it eat at me during the worship service and into the sermon. It would have distracted me from everything that morning, and probably ruined my afternoon as well. I’d have told my husband about it the minute he walked in the door and fumed about it through lunch.
But on that day, I just said a quick prayer for my heart and her heart, asked God to help me move forward with my day.
And then I LET IT GO.
I did lots of arm waving and icicle throwing during the worship service.
I’m Southern Baptist.
I stood still and sang with my arms on the pew in front of me. 🙂
But seriously, if you can shift your focus and not let the opinions of the majority influence you, you will be much happier.
Shifting your focus makes it a lot less devastating when a church member assumes you’re a lazy slob for wearing pants instead of a dress at a church where half the congregation is wearing jeans.
It’s all about perspective.
3. Find your own area of service
As Christians, we are all called to serve.
If you aren’t serving in your church you’re missing out.
Related Post: 39 Ways to Serve With Your Kids
Now, this doesn’t mean that I think you should go hide in the children’s department.
I see you eyeing those sweet little babies and thinking how they’d never say anything rude.
And you’re totally right.
So go ahead and sign up for a spot on the quarterly rotation, and then go start a women’s ministry.
Find a place to serve that fits your personality and then dominate it.
Sure it’s service so maybe you’re not supposed to say “dominate it,” but I really don’t know why not.
If you are doing your own thing at the church and doing it to the best of your ability and seeing great results from it and reaching people for the kingdom on your own apart from your husband, it will not matter nearly as much that Lucy thinks you should wear dresses every Sunday or Ethel doesn’t like your potato salad.
(The same is true for your husband, too. When his ministry is flourishing the criticism will bounce off him.)
You are doing what God has called you to do and your security and self-worth rest in being who God has called you to be, not in who other people think you should be.
But if you are just spending your service supporting your husband you won’t have that sense on your own.
Every time someone compliments him on his tidy office (that you cleaned), his sharp outfit (that you laid out), his excellent handout (that you made), the fantastic slide show presentation (that you designed), it might make you feel resentful that no one sees all that you do.
So go do something else.
One caveat – if you are in a season of stress at home or work, please don’t think this means you’ve got to add another thing to your plate by volunteering to lead a ministry at church.
Life is filled with seasons and this might be a season of rest for you.
Your family might need you to really focus on the home front for this season, and that’s totally okay.
Or maybe this is a tough season in ministry for your husband and he really needs your help.
Related Post: 6 Ways to Help Your Husband Be a Better Pastor
I am not saying that you are wasting your time by helping your husband with his ministry.
But if you find yourself volunteering all your time to help your husband AND you are feeling unappreciated in all that you do, it might be time to do your own thing at church.
Related Post: How to Say No: 3 Steps to Make More of Your Yesses
Now, doing these three things will help you to not feel unappreciated as a pastor’s wife.
That’s not to say, you’ll never work really hard on something and then feel very unappreciated when no one says anything.
But by doing these three things, you’ll set up boundaries to help guard your own heart.
“Above all else, guard your heart for everything that you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
How do you handle feeling unappreciated as a pastor’s wife? Tell us in the comments!
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