by | Jun 1, 2023 | Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor, Pastor's Spouse

In today’s post Jaime Hlavin zeroes in on the life of a pastor’s spouse . . . its joys, challenges, along with a bit of expert advice on how to navigate a role that has no clear “job description” in Scripture. Enjoy ~ John.

In early May, I had the privilege of leading a breakout session at a ministerial network’s annual conference. Approximately thirty spouses of pastors gathered to trade stories and encourage one another.

After I shared a bit of my story and lessons learned in the almost twenty-four years, I’ve been the “pastor’s spouse” half of a ministry couple, the group offered their life lessons as well.

If you are currently living the ministry spouse life—whether you walked into it with eyes wide open, or it got sprung on you several years after the “I Do’s,” there are many aspects, expectations, and blessings you probably didn’t know were part of the deal.

I met my husband Aaron when I was fifteen and he was seventeen. When we first started dating, he hadn’t told me that he felt called to ministry because he was in denial about it and would proceed to run from that call for quite a while.  Over the course of the next 6 years, we dated and broke up. And dated and broke up. And dated and broke up.

During our longest break up, Aaron stopped running from the call. Imagine my surprise as I realized during our time apart, the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was on the path to becoming a pastor. I was not prepared for that, to say the least. But I had committed myself completely to Jesus and He wanted me to commit my life to Aaron—whatever that ended up looking like.

I realize my vague “call to ministry” may seem horrifying to some. Later in ministry, my peers would ask me when I knew I was called—as most of their stories included an extremely specific moment at an altar or summer camp followed by a 4-year degree at a Bible college where they met their true love.

I never had a definitive answer to the “When did you become called into the ministry?” question—other than the moment I said “yes” to the 23-year-old kid down on one knee holding a diamond ring toward me. That drew some rather tight-lipped facial responses from other pastor’s wives. But I wasn’t called into ministry the way others had been. I was called to be his wife. And that meant wholeheartedly walking this calling out with him.

During the time in that breakout session last month, I met many others whose stories were even more “atypical” than mine! Both women and men (whose wives were the pastor or pastoral staff member). A beautiful mosaic was represented celebrating our unique stories; a network of friends willing to offer advice in areas that others lacked. Connecting frequently with this type of community can be beneficial in navigating the life of the “Pastor’s Spouse.”

One thing we all agreed on was that it is crucial to have a realistic outlook. Ministry is a roller coaster: Sometimes it’s exciting and thrilling; sometimes it scares you to death; sometimes it makes you throw up; sometimes it’s that super slow “tick, tick, tick” to the top of the hill.  You love it and you hate it—sometimes within the same half hour.

And when the roller coaster makes us feel like we’re going to throw up, we dig in our heels and exclaim, “This is not what I signed up for!” But we are in this “for better or for worse” life of ministry and it’s crucial to be in constant communication with your spouse about how you’re going to live out whatever the Lord has for you. Boundaries are vital.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from my own personal experience: 



Have a weekly (or regularly scheduled) calendar check in

Go over your calendars together. Evaluate the pace of life and ministry. If there is not enough blank space, push back and create some together. Discuss ways to keep from letting busy-ness dominate.

Find non-ministry related topics/activities to discuss/enjoy

Make sure you’re talking about other topics that don’t include ministry or how you’re ministering to others. Music, books, activities, the kids—make sure your conversation is well-rounded and you don’t lose your relationship in the constant drone of ministry chatter.

Let go of offenses

Being the non-staff member half of a ministry couple, I often heard about the bad stuff. A situation would blow up with someone and Aaron would come home and tell me all about it.  Of course, I’d become upset. A couple days later, he and the person would work through ordeal and be fine. Me—not so much. Because I wasn’t part of the reconciliation process, I found myself carrying his offense. I wasn’t there to see it rectified (or he’d forget to tell me), and I’d harbor negativity toward that person. I had to learn to guard my heart.

Laugh often

Proverbs 17:22 says that a “joyful heart is good medicine.” I am a huge proponent of humor in day-to-day life. Ministry can be daunting, but even so, not everything needs to be serious all the time. Keep a lighthearted attitude throughout the day—joke with one another, send one another funny memes, watch a comedy. Just don’t take yourselves too seriously all the time.

As I mentioned previously, my breakout session attendees had some excellent advice to offer as well. They each came from a unique circumstance and created a beautiful community of wisdom and advice. Here is some of their input: 

Set a boundary when people attempt to use you as a liaison

Often, the people you minister to will not want to go directly to your spouse with an issue or a grievance. Therefore, they will attempt to get a message to him or her through you. This is not healthy for you nor the person using you. Be firm, but kind, in stating that it would be best for that person to set up a time to speak with your spouse about said issue. Make it clear that this type of communication is not appropriate.

Be wise in your ministry-related conversations with your spouse

Sometimes your spouse isn’t necessarily looking for a solution. He or she just needs a soft place to land. When you aren’t sure what your spouse needs in that moment, clarify: “Do you want my opinion and solutions, or do you need to just vent and be encouraged?” Also, don’t bombard your spouse with ways they “could have handled a situation better.” Find ways to be careful about escalating a situation out of frustration or hurt.

Guard your family time

If you have children, be very cognizant of what you talk about in front of them regarding ministry. And make sure they know they are your priority. When it’s all said and done, if you have an amazing church or ministry, but children who resent it, it wasn’t worth it.

Listen to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God

This is the most important piece of wisdom. Remember who called you and listen to Him. Also, memorizing scriptures pertaining to whatever situation you are facing is a priceless tool.

Being the spouse of the pastor is a unique position in life. It’s filled with many aspects, expectations, and blessings. It is our prayer that you utilize the combined life experience of your mosaic community to tap into those blessings.

We’re rooting and praying for you!