A Word To The People On The Pew

Pastors are very special to the president and me. He spent almost three decades in pastoral ministries in the local church, and for almost four decades we have been training ministry families. These words come from my heart to the congregations receiving the young people we train!

Counsel for the Congregation

The pastor’s wife may be made or broken by the people in her husband’s congregation. She will make mistakes, especially in the early years of ministry. However, in most cases, her decisions are based on what she feels the Lord would have her do—choosing what is best for her family and for the church. Her lack of experience may precipitate some clumsy efforts, and she should be allowed to fail and learn from her mistakes.

The congregation can help their minister and his family by allowing them privacy. Give the pastor at least one day off each week. If the pastor sets aside a day for his wife, honor it. If the pastor plans a weekly evening at home with his family, help him guard it. Limit your telephone calls to genuine emergencies. Learn to contact other staff members with emergencies when the pastor is taking a day away from the church field.

Treat the pastor as you would like to be treated. Place nonemergency calls to his office during office hours rather than waiting until evenings or weekends. Be sure the pastor’s workload allows him adequate time with his wife and family. Give him an extended weekend occasionally without counting those days as vacation and allow him to have a holiday with his extended family. Someone in the church needs to take the initiative to discuss with the pastor how he can honor his family commitments within the context of broader ministries.

Don’t expect too much of a minister’s wife. Let her give her primary energies to being a wife and mother and managing her household. Let her find her own place for service within the church. Honor her seasons of life. When she has toddlers and preschoolers, she’ll miss more services because of sick babies. When she has teens, she’ll have more supervision and chauffeuring to do. Honor her priorities. Don’t look at her as an appendage of her husband; recognize her gifts; express appreciation to her directly for her contributions; introduce her with pride as the First Lady of your congregation!

Affirm the children of the pastor. Recognize their strengths and accomplishments. Be patient with their failures; replace your criticism with gentle and loving correction when that is needed. Respect and honor their parents, and you will win their hearts.

The minister should receive an adequate salary. In many cases he has prepared himself with graduate and post-graduate education. All that education and maintaining a supportive library have costs, and these should be considered when setting the minister’s salary. Apart from salary, he should also have a budget allotments for the extra expenses he incurs in doing his job—a housing allowance, car expense, library purchases, travel costs, and hospitality. The minister is in the public eyes, which in itself has costs. Many churches do not offer their pastors salaries that are commensurate with the median income of their professional membership. Churches should consult with tax experts and perhaps denominational consultants in order to structure the pastor’s compensation so that they do the most for a pastor with the resources available.


Dorothy Kelley Patterson

First Lady, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Excerpt from A Handbook for Ministers’ Wives (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 230-231.

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