Should Your Pastor’s Wife Be Paid?
As a child of maybe four years old, I remember watching the pastor’s wife stand at the big double doors to receive people leaving after the service. I thought, “No one ever asks her how she is… that must be lonely.” Funny how the Lord shapes and calls us in life. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would end up being a pastor’s wife!
Some years back, I sat chatting with a gal at a women’s ministry leaders gathering. Sitting around tables, with name tags and coffee, we shared our responsibilities and how we felt we were doing juggling them. I shared the varied tasks I tended, and she asked if I was on paid staff. No, I wasn’t. She said that it was plain wrong to expect so much from someone just because they were married to a minister. She said at her church, spouses were paid for their labors just like anyone else. While I appreciated her protective heart towards me, I’d just come from a paid staff position and I shared with her why I was happy with my unpaid position.
Four reasons I was happy with my unpaid position of church service:
1. Being on staff adds certain complications and expectations.
When you are a minister’s wife, there’s already so many expectations laid on your doorstep. It’s easy to feel as if the congregation thinks they own every moment of your and your husband’s time. (Thankfully, my husband and I serve a church family that does not feel this way about us, but we have experienced this dynamic. And it is very stressful!) Adding one more way the congregation perceives ownership over you can be just too much.
I’m not a person who is really skilled at boundaries and so learning to maintain them for the good of everyone has been hard for me. For a pastor’s wife who wants to give, but also wrestles with telling herself and others “no,” adding a paycheck to the picture can make that all the harder for everyone.
2. Not being on staff allows for a more clear chain of command.
If you’ve been around church politics, you know there can be a lot of push and pull involved in what gets done. A clear chain of command or a simplified sense of who you need to listen to the most can ease some of the pressure (And yes, the Lord is the first person you are supposed to heed, but sometimes figuring out how He is leading you can be less clear and more complex than I wish it was!)
I remember when my husband was a youth pastor and I was a children’s director, we had an all staff meeting. One thing was shared in the group meeting, then I was called aside and instructed to go against what was just instructed to my husband. I was dumbfounded and divided.
When I was a paid staff person, I had a senior pastor, church council, church secretary, church preschool teacher, team of volunteers, oh yes, and a worship leading-youth pastor husband who all had goals and needs that affected me. As an unpaid staff wife, I feel the push-me-pull-me a little less intensely. Perhaps I should have been able to juggle all those pressures and perspectives while on staff, but not being on staff just made the whole thing feel more clear-cut.
Some pastor’s wives might say having their husband as their boss is way too stressful on their marriage. It can also be a really sticky dynamic for a senior pastor to manage multiple couples on staff and for the ease of relationships, having one spouse on staff rather than both might make the working dynamics smoother. Regardless, when you are juggling the pressures of being a minister’s wife, finding ways to manage the perception of what stresses you out is a valuable thing.
3. There are realities to church service that involve your finances.
If both of you are on staff, and something goes horribly awry, it’s easier for your family if both of your paychecks are not affected.
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