What has being a pastor’s wife cost you?
Compared to Christ, there’s no match. —Nicole Catala
This is a tough question. I feel that on one hand, it’s such a relief to see this question posed, and I want to dive right in. On the other hand, I’m somewhat afraid to indulge the part of me that wants to lay it all out. I suppose one of the costliest things has been that of personal friendship. A pastor’s wife must maintain a certain brevity and reserve. You must be soft and vulnerable and allow women to find comfort and friendship in you, but it would never be fair for them to bear your loneliness or frustrations, and so there is forever a feeling of distance that can be hard on a woman’s heart. Perhaps these friendships can be forged in the timeline of long term attendance and maturity, but I would imagine that takes years to develop. —Anonymous
It has cost me. But it has also repaid all the withdrawals 1000 fold. I will say the distance from my family has been overwhelming at times. I am missing seeing my only nieces and nephew grow up. They are young enough to forget our closeness, so, each time we meet again it’s a re-acquaintance, and that can be heart wrenching. —Sophie Foley
It has cost me my entire life. However, it is like Jesus said, the pearl of great price! Selling all I had and have, which really isn’t that much—(paltry), for something so exquisite and precious. I’m getting such a deal! But I guess to be candid here, to me what has been difficult is to pour my life into people through the years, relationships built, working toward specific direction, seeing your people grow and go through hard stuff together…then abruptly leaving them when we have been asked to leave and pastor elsewhere. And having to sort of cut off that relationship so they can develop a relationship with the new pastor. —They are like your children! Precious! —Janet Foley
Are you ever lonely? If so, why, and how do you counter it?
Yes, I find that I can be lonely. I had asked God for a friend who could look at me as an imperfect pastor’s wife and appreciate me for who I am. I remember 10 years ago praying for a friend, beyond an acquaintance, and it was during that time that I learned how to rely on God for that relationship first. That has made my friendships even better since. —Mindy (Pastor Chad’s Wife)
Yes many times, many, many times I have left the church in tears, feeling out of the loop and out of my comfort zone. I love to connect with people, but I do tire of being that person who must initiate all the time. I am grateful for other pastor’s wives who I can text or MarcoPolo after an awful bout with depression, or loneliness, or anger and they crack me up with their perspectives, jokes, or kind encouragement. —Anonymous
At times, yes. My husband does an incredible job at including me and making sure my needs are met even when he is spread thin with his ministry. He often engages me in discussion over the Bible and seeks to gain my opinions and insights. Of course, there are times when he really needs to focus on a sermon or project that can mean long nights for him. Those are the times I seek comfort and companionship in my Savior. —Angelica Obermeyer
I am very often, very lonely. When we first pastored in California, I was a young 21 yr old mother, pregnant with her third child and very accustomed to the support of a strong church body. I was wholly unprepared for the ache of loneliness that would come with pastoring. Now, as a 32 year old mom of four, and with the perspective of our previous venture, I was more prepared for it. I have found that I have to enjoy the friendship of the women in my church, let them in a little more than feels safe, allow them access to my heart even while I worry I’m revealing too much or risking the pain of them leaving and breaking my heart. I have also found that it is necessary to forge friendships with women outside of church, within reason of course. But I have had wonderful conversations with my neighbor and conversations with women at work who have their own churches that I can be frank with because they are not holding me to the expectation of their pastor’s wife, and so my differing opinion on something like politics, or parenting, will not affect them in the same way as my own congregation. —Sophie Foley
What kind of challenges do you face raising preacher’s kids?
My kids were normal kids, and being a kid is a challenge—no matter who your parents are. But I do feel the devil targets pastors’ kids in an unusual way, because they hold a lot of influence. So, from within and without, and personally, they are under a lot of pressure to be perfect. It’s also a challenge to find family time. —Anonymous
People expect perfection and have no idea the price that they [PK’s] pay, sharing their parents, their homes, their lives, with the people of the church. They feel they must follow in their parents’ footsteps and find it hard to be individuals. To be unique. To think independently. People expect them to be clones and to mimic the “party line!” Ha! Oh I could tell you stories . . . —Janet Foley
One of the things we always asked God is that He would protect our kids; from other kids and situations, and from the ministries we served in so many different ways. We told Him we would always serve Him and raise our kids connected to His love for them and others, but asked Him to protect them and their hearts. We have experienced our kids knowing the Lord not because of rules and laws, but with all their hearts.
We were strict parents—maybe. but we did not raise our children according to the church’s expectations, but rather, tried to demonstrate the love of God to them in truth. We raised them to live an authentic life in Jesus Christ—in a loving relationship with Him. We raised them in the love and service of others inside and out of the church. We did not submit them to the church’s rules and expectations, but we did have rules for them based on an understanding of who Jesus is and what He wants for our lives. —Mindy (Pastor Chad’s Wife)
My children wear many hats at church, and I absolutely hold them to a very high standard. We have a church full of broken families, and we are their example of what a Godly life should look like. This of course places a huge burden of responsibility on my children. I am so lucky, though. My kids have maneuvered this with such grace and have welcomed the task. As we move toward teenage years, I have seen the weariness creep in to my eldest daughter’s eyes, and I have to check myself and make sure to give her a chance to talk to me about her burdens, and to allow her the grace to not get it right every time. That is perhaps my biggest challenge, wanting perfection, because I don’t feel I have the capacity to deal with their own disobedience, along with the issues of the church we are pastoring. And that isn’t fair…they must be allowed to not get it right every time, and not be rebuked so sharply each time. To also be afforded the grace I show the other kids. —Anonymous
What is the hardest thing about being a pastor’s wife?
Sharing my husband’s time with others. —Nicole Catala
Probably being me. I am an intense girl. I am a perfectionist, opinionated, and a needy, hopeless romantic. —Anonymous
Living in a fishbowl. Having people place impossible expectations on you, and try to impose impossible standards on your personality. —Anonymous
I will respond here to say that I think it would be trying to be supportive while not always knowing exactly how or feeling like doing it, plus always being on display for the sake of your husband. —Pastor Kevin Obermeyer
I think, for me, it’s having to share my husband’s time with so many people. It can be difficult at times to find the right balance. Also, people are often looking for ways to discredit you and you and your family can suffer from the abuse you endure from those people. —Angelica Obermeyer
Sharing your husband with his calling. We are territorial beings, and easily threatened. I come to realize that when I fully release my husband, there is an ease and a flow to our lives that seems counter intuitive. In fact, when I allow him to follow his convictions and obligations, he is more available to me. When I fight for his time and schedule, he obliges but is often looking at his phone trying to respond to that congregant who needed to talk, or is distracted. When I allow him to schedule his day in a way that works best for the ministry, we are able to freely enjoy our time and he is able to turn off pastor mode and just be present. (Disclaimer * This only works because I have a wonderful husband who does not struggle to make time for me. He gladly and often helps with the kids’ school pick ups/drop offs, makes dinner etc. We are a team, and he sees me.) —Sophie Foley
What are some things your church could do to lighten your load or refresh you and your family so you can better serve God and them?
It would be this: my husband doesn’t need a lot of encouragement but he could use a nice word from time to time, like ‘ I loved that sermon’ or a secret Starbucks gift card slipped under the door… —Anonymous
Ask how we are. And wait for the answer. Take on the load of nursery, and cleaning, and follow up; share it with us. And say thank you. Tell Pastor when his sermon has ministered to you—he often wonders if anyone was helped. —Sophie Foley
We have been blessed often by people who offered to babysit or give us a night off, and sometimes people have encouraged us to go away for a night or two and they covered it. We have been blessed with secret gifts of money or a corporately organized thank you party with a cake and a gift. —The random Thank you card is always welcome. —Anonymous
If people would use their gifts to bless the church instead of expecting the pastor or me to figure it all out somehow, I would be in seventh heaven. If they could understand how much we hate to ask people to do things or put them out, but how much we need them to step up. If everyone worked together, the burden wouldn’t fall on the few and we could accomplish greater things together! —Anonymous
What is your favorite thing about being a pastor’s wife?
Experiencing the unknown. Having this great expectation of what God is going to do. Both of us agree. It’s about the risk. —Nicole Catala
Because my husband has been studying the Bible far longer than I, we often have good, deep discussions. I come to him to gain better understanding of a particular event or verse. I rather enjoy hearing what insights he has. Also, it’s such a blessing and joy to see the fruits of our labor when we see how we have touched lives, helped to change hearts, and see people come to know Christ. —Angelica Obermeyer
I have incredible friends and opportunities; I’ve been all over the world. It’s a privilege and an honor—it’s a great life. —Anonymous
The effect this has on our family is profound. We are so much closer. We are each other’s biggest support. To experience this incredible thing with our children is the biggest joy. Also, just the wild adventure of it all. Never in a million years did I imagine I would be living in New England, with four kids. The thrill of it is never lost on me. The places God has taken us far exceed what I could have done without Him. —Sophie Foley
Being married to my husband. —Janet Foley
(Pastor Kevin and Janet Foley—Married 40 years)
What is the funniest or craziest situation you’ve experienced during your ministry that you are free to share?
We had a faithful sister come to our house, drop to her knees, and confess that she had a crush on my husband. She got it right and continued for God. Not to mention she was in her 60’s. —Anonymous
When pioneering in California, we started nursery after worship so that I could sing with my husband. I didn’t really have a clear check in process; all the kids would just follow me back afterward. I had just given birth to my third daughter, and so usually during nursery I would try and keep the kids quiet and nurse my own child at the same time. One day, a new couple brought their cousin, a grown woman, to church, and she followed me into the nursery and just plopped down beside the babies. I was stunned. “Excuse me ma’am? The age is five and under”.
“I know!” She shouted so loudly I actually jumped. “I am 26 and I have a disability!” She yelled just as loud. This dear family had checked their 26 year old, 6 ft, 250 pound disabled cousin, into my nursery. I sat trying to nurse my newborn and wrap my mind around this situation while tending to a young boy with severe autism who was also in nursery. Well, this woman had brought a bag of Cheetos with her and the boy with autism loved Cheetos. Naturally he attempted to snag her bag…they sat there fighting with each other while I tried in absolute horror to separate them while supporting my still nursing child. I truly felt I had left this earth and entered the twilight zone. Finally I was able to separate this young boy from this woman, and got them to their respective corners while I sat and cried my eyes out and then began to laugh hysterically. Still one of the moments that makes me laugh out loud. Ah, that pioneer life. 😉 —Sophie Foley
What is your favorite memory of pastoring?
My first experience as a Pastor’s wife was driving a couple of hours away so my husband could lead a revival in a small church we had never attended. To say that I was terrified is an understatement. I had no idea what my role would even be or how I would be received. They knew they were getting a seasoned pastor, but had no idea they were also getting me—a newly converted Christian with absolutely no experience in the church. We left that small town a couple of days later and I was changed. Those lovely people welcomed us as though they had known us all along. We prayed, worshiped and praised alongside our brothers and sisters. They needed the hope they found in our time there, but I had no idea just how much I needed them, too. I believe God worked great miracles that weekend. The greatest one was in me. I will forever have a deep affection for that church in that tiny town. —Angelica Obermeyer
I loved pioneering. Starting from scratch and seeing God put together an amazing people who are a family, a community, a church. The miracle of it all. —Janet Foley
Perhaps it’s more an ongoing favorite memory that replaces itself often with different faces, but I am forever impacted in the moments of worship when we halt the instruments and sing in unison, a cappella and all I can hear is the earnest, loud, unreserved praise of our church. In California, in Oregon, here in New England…those moments when the spirit of God is tangible, and this chorus of voices rushes to me on stage, and I can see them with their hands held high, faces crumpled in emotion, singing without poise or tune really, just earnestly exclaiming their praise, is one of the most emotionally wrecking things I experience. It humbles me so much every time. These newly saved, grateful converts, show me what real praise is. They aren’t concerned with performance, or key, or timing—they just are singing from the depths of a newly forgiven soul. And it’s breathtaking. —Sophie Foley
*This is the 3rd article in my 2018 series of interviews with pastors and Pastor’s wives. I will be posting articles throughout October in honor of Pastor Appreciation Month. #heroesamongus
You can read part 1 of my 2018 series of interviews with pastors & pastor’s wives, If My People, HERE
It would bless these pastors and pastor’s wives, myself, and others, if you would please share these articles. Thank you for joining me on my journey.
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