Ray: Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund. And I am Ray Ortlund and I am stealing the podcast today. Jani is here but I’m hijacking it today to talk about her new book, Help! I’m Married To My Pastor, Encouragement For Ministry Wives and Those Who Love Them, which is coming out on January 19, and can be preordered at Amazon today. So Jani, thank you for letting me steal your show.
Jani: It means so much to me that you would be here, Ray, thank you for helping me get the word out about this book.
Ray: You’re so welcome.
5 Practical Ways to Support Your Pastor’s Wife
Now, last time, we talked about some of the challenges that the wife of a pastor can face. There are many privileges. There are many blessings. There are many opportunities. You have access to the intimate realities of people’s lives, their families, and so forth. And you can really serve people at a deep level, but there are also hardships. There are sufferings. And a ministry wife in her marriage can face challenges as well. Being married to a pastor is not easy. So what would you say, darling, about ways that our listeners might be able to support the wife of their pastor in their local church?
Jani: Oh, that’s a good question, Ray. Well, I can share some of the ways that I’ve been supported by our dear friends and church members.
Idea #1: Help her get to church
Do you remember when we lived in Scotland—of course you remember—we had four four little kids and you would walk early into the village to serve because you were helping to pastor, and Ian Payton was our pastor.
Ray: What a dear man.
Jani: Oh, we love the Paytons.
Ray: Ian and Marjorie.
Jani: And his wife, Marjorie, would come by and help me with the children. She would bring her car (we didn’t have a car).
Ray: Honey, I did not know that.
Jani: She would drive us to church some days. Now when we had our fourth child we were too larger family for her car and she couldn’t do it anymore. But it was so meaningful to me that when we just had the three kids, she would come by. I was pregnant and she knew it was hard for me to walk the mile in and out of the village with the three little ones, and she would help get me to church.
Ray: Wow. So thoughtful.
Jani: And I say that because there are some pastor wives, even today, who arrive at church with all their kids—maybe three, four or five children—their husband is already there. He’s gone early to prepare. And the pastor’s wife is having to get the kids into church on her own. Why not ask her if you could help her? Why not see how you could help in that way with their children?
Ray: Sunday morning is a real challenge for a pastor’s wife.
Jani: Yes, it is.
Ray: Especially with little kids.
Jani: Yes and she longs so to be a support to her husband. She wants to help him. She’s so proud of him and so happy to hear him preach. But sometimes she gets distracted.
Idea #2: Speak or Write Encouraging Words
Another way you can really encourage your pastor’s wife is just through your words. Encouraging words about her husband or your children. Speaking to her about how her husband has blessed you, and helped your family, or maybe something you saw one of her children do that could encourage her. A pastor and his wife receive sometimes criticism. And so if you can help balance that with encouragement, that’s a wonderful way you can help your pastor’s wife.
Ray: We shouldn’t assume that the people around us feel encouraged. We should assume they do not. Everyone is bearing a hidden burden. And it is so wonderfully life-giving to take the initiative, move toward the wife of your pastor and speak words that breathe life into her.
Jani: Yes. Yes. Don’t assume that she has a lot of people doing that just because she’s the pastor’s wife. A pastor’s wife can feel rather lonely. Everybody knows her husband and they assume she knows everybody at church. But that’s not always the case.
Ray: She’s visible but might be lonely.
Idea #3: Include & Invite Her
So another way you could encourage her is by including her at times. Maybe asking her out to your monthly luncheon with your friends or ask her to help put on a baby shower with you or go on a walk together, go out to lunch or a cup of tea. Include her, let her know that she’s seen and you want to know her.
TIP: Avoid “Using” Her to Get to the Pastor (call the office instead!)
Another way to encourage and help your pastor’s wife is to refuse to use her as a way to get to the pastor. Don’t make her the bridge you walk over to get a message to your pastor.
Ray: Tell us what you really think, Jani!
Jani: Well, I think they heard it. It’s very easy to think, “Oh, my pastor is so busy and I know Jani. She could just tell him this message, and then I won’t have to set up an appointment.” But what happens if five or six people do that each Sunday morning, the pastor’s wife feels very burdened, she has to judge which items she should bring before her husband. If you have something you want to speak to your pastor about, call the office and either talk to his assistant or make an appointment.
Ray: You know, may I just say, sweetheart, and this is a hard thing to say. And it’s a hard reality to face but there are church situations that become political. That is to say church politics kick in and a wife, the wife of the pastor, people might want to leverage her to influence the pastor. This has happened at times. And if you’re a church member, and you see that happening, you shouldn’t just take that. You should go to that church member who is taking advantage of the pastor’s wife and say, “You know, I couldn’t help but notice that this was happening. Did I understand you correctly?” Then you can say just gently but respectfully, “You know, here at our church, we don’t do that. We want everyone in this church to be completely safe, especially the pastor’s wife.”
Jani: Oh, that’s so good. Thank you, Ray. Yes.
Ray: Yeah, we want to be a church where literally, no one has anything to fear. Because no one is going to be used.
Jani: Yeah. Yeah, that’s good.
Well, let me just mention a few other ways that our listeners might be able to help.
Ray: By the way, I’m sorry to interrupt.
Jani: No, go ahead.
Ray: Was what I just said too strong?
Jani: Not at all. No, that was good.
Jani: Go for it. You can hijack, steal my podcast whenever you want. You are a wise man.
But let me pull it back here to those who want a few ideas, a few ways of how they can minister to their pastor’s wife.
Idea #4: Pray for Her (and let her know!)
I would say pray for her. Text her, email her, drop her a note and say, I’d like to pray for you every Wednesday morning or every Thursday evening, once a week. How can I pray for you? And then do and check up on her and ask for more requests. Maybe you’d like to pray for her children. Maybe you’d like to pray for her husband. But what special needs does she have? She will appreciate that.
Idea #5: Offer Physical or Administrative Help
And then finally, I know there are other ways but I don’t want to drag this out too long: a way that someone has helped me even just recently was with physical help. A friend came over. We had quite a few Christmas cards last month to stuff and stamp and seal and she said, “Jani with COVID I can’t come to your house but if if you give me the cards and the envelopes and stamps, I’ll stuff them and seal them and and mail them for you.”
Ray: How thoughtful.
Jani: It was so thoughtful. It cheered me up and helped me get my work done.
I’m sure there are a million other ways you can think of them but maybe this will spur some thoughts about how you can encourage that woman who’s married to your pastor.
A question for Ray: “What does a pastor deeply appreciate about his wife and need from her?”
Now, Ray, I know you’ve stolen this podcast, but I have a question for you if it’s okay. “From your perspective, darling, what would be helpful for every ministry wife to know about her man’s life in ministry?”
Ray: Okay, yeah. What does her husband need from her?
#1: Confidence (About Him and His Ministry)
Ray: What does a pastor deeply appreciate about his wife? Two things come immediately to mind honey. One is every pastor needs his wife to be confident and optimistic about his ministry. A pastor who is sincere in heart and really wants to serve the Lord will naturally and rightly be very sensitive to his shortcomings and his failings and those will grieve him. And his temptation will be to feel, honestly, “I’m a loser. I’m lousy at this.”
Jani: I have heard that a few times.
Ray: I know you have, honey. And you have insisted—you have sweetly insisted through the years—on communicating confidence in me, confidence in my calling, confidence in the message I preach, confidence that I’m growing. And that has really empowered me. I have needed somebody not to be my critic but to be my head cheerleader. And you’ve been that. It’s made all the difference for me, honey.
#2: Patience (Give Him Room to Grow)
And the other thing that comes immediately to mind how a wife can really help her pastor husband, is to give him room to grow. And you know, darling (and maybe I overemphasize this, I don’t know), but I look back on my early years in ministry in my 20s and 30s and I’m, it’s embarrassing! I mean, I just, I was so immature. There were categories of consideration, categories of understanding, categories of wisdom, and ministry I just didn’t have yet.
We don’t enter into ministry with a full package of the insights and strengths and so forth that we’re going to need. A lot of things it takes years to understand. You gave me room to grow. You did not expect me to understand everything from the get go. You gave me space and time to grow as a man, to grow as a minister, and to grow as a saint. And we’ve grown together. You didn’t put my sanctification on a timetable. You were patient.
So confidence and patience are hugely empowering attitudes and sort of postures to take toward your pastor husband. And a ministry wife who perceives her husband with confidence and allows for growth along the way, that ministry couple will end their years together feeling enriched, feeling grateful, a sense of that we as you and I share, honey, this sense of wonder at what the Lord has done.
Jani: Yes, as we look back.
Ray: Yes and we just feel so enriched and privileged and grateful. So those are my two recommendations.
Jani: You know, Ray, those are helpful, not just for pastor wives but for every wife, don’t you think?
Ray: I suppose so.
Jani: It’s really true but particularly for pastor wives.
You know, sweetheart, you ended the last podcast with a wonderful quote—was it from Jonathan Edwards?
Jani: That really restored my soul. And I wonder can you pull it up again and read it to us?
Ray: I’ve got it here. But before I share this, once again, darling, I just want to thank you for writing this book. This book Help! I’m Married To My Pastor, Encouragement For Ministry Wives and Those Who Love Them. This book is going to make the difference between bailing and pressing through for hundreds and thousands of marriages and ministries.
Jani: May it be.
Ray: Yeah, I’m so grateful you wrote this book. I hope this book just gets out there and surges forward and gets into the hands of many thousands of pastors’ wives, and those who love them. So, yeah, it comes out on January 19 and it’s available at Amazon.
But Jonathan Edwards, who was a pastor, and he was a faithful pastor, and he suffered as a pastor, and he and his wife, Sarah, had an amazing marriage. They really loved each other. But this applies both to a pastor and to his wife. Edwards wrote,
“Those ministers who faithfully preach the gospel of Christ, are accepted by God and are a sweet savor to him, whether they are successful or not.”Jonathan Edwards
So there are all over the world today, pastors and wives, serving the Lord, shoulder to shoulder, by faith, with courage and sacrifice, pressing forward, and they are beautiful to God. They are a sweet savor to God. And I think, honey, that we’re doing this podcast today, you’ve written this wonderful book because God wants them to know how dear they are to his heart.
A Prayer for Ministry Wives As We Close
Jani: Oh, yes. Let me pray for them as we close this podcast.
“Heavenly Father, I want to lift up every ministry wife who’s listening today. I pray that you would encourage her heart, Lord. I pray that you would lift her eyes up from the muddle that she’s in, whatever it is, up to you, and that you would convince her lovingly of your care, of your love for her, of your plan for her. And Lord, instill in her, as Ray has spoken today, that purpose, that motivation that comes from on high. Help her to show her husband the confidence that he needs, the acceptance. Fill their marriage with joy. Lord, I pray that you would allow them the privilege of serving you all their lifelong together. In Jesus name, amen.”