A Pastor’s Wife’s Perspective: Managing Expectations

By Elizabeth Marshall

Ask almost any pastor’s wife what she was asked was when she and her husband went to a church in view of a call to pastor, the answer probably will be something along the lines of “Do you play the piano or organ?,” “When will you begin leading the weekly women’s Bible study?” or “What is your vision for the children’s ministry department?”

It is almost always assumed that when a pastor accepts the call to become the new pastor of a church, his wife will be active in some way within the ministry – a “two for one deal” of sorts. And that probably is true to some extent.

However, what that role looks like may not be what the members of the church are expecting.

When looking at the realities of replanting and revitalization, the truth is that these expectations probably are the same for a replant pastor’s wife, but the hard fact is the church has reached a place where there isn’t anyone left to fill those roles. The people who had been there in times past – to lead the women’s Bible studies or to be the program director for the children’s ministries – have all moved on to other places for one reason or another. It can be hard to know how much to take on right away and what can be placed in a “to be revisited later” file in the back of the congregation’s mind.

Three thoughts:

1. Be clear about your role from the beginning

When my husband was first approached by the church we currently serve, he made sure to clarify with the small congregation that, while our children and I would be coming alongside him to do the ministry work, they would be hiring him and him alone. This did not mean that I would not find the place God has called me to serve, it just means that whatever expectations the congregation may have may or may not be where God is truly leading me to serve. Laying out these expectations at the beginning of our time in the church helped to nip many of the possible hurts, confusion or resentments in the bud, long before they ever became an issue.

2. Be realistic about your current season of life

Along with being open, honest and upfront with where you feel God is calling you to serve is the need to be realistic about your time and capabilities. Remember that your family is your first ministry and their needs come first. This might mean that, in a replant ministry context where there are a million holes to be filled and programs that need to be led, you will have to find that one place you can serve without your family and home life being neglected. This might mean you volunteer to take on the Sunday morning children’s class but you will not be assisting with the women’s Bible study, the weekly prayer meeting or volunteering to serve in the kitchen. When the women in the church see you making your home and family a priority but also finding the small places you can devote to the church, they will step up and fill gaps in other areas – and if they don’t, perhaps that is a ministry program that doesn’t need to continue for a time.

3. Come to the table with grace and understanding

Managing expectations, on the best of days, is an arduous task. Everyone has a thought and a feeling about how something should be done, who should be doing it and in what time frame that should take place. Ministry is no exception, especially within a replanting/revitalization ministry where things have been done one particular way for an extended period and change is hard. However, when everyone is willing to come to the table and find a place of compromise, it is truly beautiful how God can work to re-establish a foothold in a community that is more than likely in desperate need of the church He has placed there.

This post originally appeared on Elizabeth’s blog.

Published September 30, 2022

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Elizabeth Marshall

Elizabeth Marshall is a wife, homeschooling mom of three and a replant pastor wife. She has a master of arts in Christian education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a focus on homemaking. Elizabeth loves spending time with her husband and family, reading, drinking tea, writing and almost anything arts-and-crafty. She is passionate about replanting and revitalizing churches and loves connecting with other replant pastors' wives.