How to avoid becoming the plastic pastor’s wife

By Annie Garman

I had only been married and in ministry for four weeks when our senior pastor told us we were going to our first ministry conference. I remember feeling like I was faking it or something; I had barely started this new role. Was I really in need of a conference to “revive my weary spirit?”

The conference ended up being a great way for us to know the senior pastor and his wife and (preemptively) fill up on encouragement. Most of the conference teemed with timeless wisdom we desperately needed.

One session, though, I will never forget. It was a “women’s only” break-out session. The speaker had silver hair that spoke of her seasoned perspective and experience. This particular pastor’s wife warned us not to get too close to women in our congregations. She said such behavior could be detrimental. After all, we were the pastor’s wives. We needed to protect our husbands’ reputations.

I was stunned.

If keeping a safe, healthy distance from people was what was expected from me in my new job, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I had always been very open with people and transparent about my struggles. I am vulnerable to a fault. Luckily, there were other women in the room who challenged this woman’s advice during a “Q & A” time at the end. I listened to their critiques—the back and forth dialogue—and stored it all away in my heart, wondering if the issue would come up in the future.

It didn’t take long.

At almost every turn on this journey, I have had to make a choice. Will I find some trusted people to confide in when I’m struggling, or will I care more about keeping up appearances and struggle alone?

The times I’ve believed I can’t show weakness have been the loneliest and darkest times. The times I’ve shared with select people how I’m really doing have resulted in life-giving conversations that have ministered deeply to both parties.

Of course, there were times I felt nobody on earth could understand. Perhaps I was right. Maybe there were some things that were unique to my experience and my marriage. But I also came to realize the truth that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity” (I Corinthians 10:13 HCSB).

The Message version sums it up well, too. “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Just because we’re pastors’ wives doesn’t mean we are super-human.

We experience many of the same emotions, dips and challenges that women in our churches face. Pretending that we’re above those things puts us on a pedestal too far from the hearts of those we seek to reach. Besides, I’m sure it could get lonely up there.

Here are three questions to ask while finding balance in this area:

1. Should I share everything with everyone?

I think we can be real with everyone about our weaknesses and allow that transparency to pave the way for honest dialogue about sin and Jesus. Additionally, because of the nature of ministry, I think pastor’s wives should have a few friends whom she can share deeply personal things without fear. These friends can be in the church or from a different church.

2. What if my struggle involves my husband?

Again, having a trusted friend or two in your life with whom you can share anything (aka: “I just want to stick a fork in his eye!!”) without being judged, and who will point you back to Jesus, is vital to a pastor’s wife. Even if that woman is in your church.

3. Won’t sharing about my struggle hurt the ministry?

If it does, your ministry is superficial. People need to see that the pastor and his wife are real people—not plastic. They need to see that everyone struggles with sin, that occasionally we all fall and—for that very reason—Jesus is to be treasured more and more.

Published June 26, 2017

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Annie Garman

Annie and her husband Colby live in Northern Virginia where Colby serves as the teaching pastor of Pillar Church. Before their church ministry days, they served for two years as IMB missionaries in Iceland. Annie spends her days taking care of her four daughters, writing and ministering at her local church. She shares about motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life from a place of transparency at