By Aaron Earls
How can pastors and their congregations best encourage and support pastors’ spouses?
After asking questions of pastors’ spouses related to daily happiness and more long-term thriving, Lifeway Research developed a well-being score to determine how pastors’ spouses were faring in their current situation.
These eight factors contributed the most potential benefits to the well-being of a pastor’s spouse, according to the Lifeway Research study.
1. Sense a personal call to ministry
Eight in 10 pastors’ spouses say they “sense a personal call to ministry” along with their spouse, with 25% saying they share the same calling as their spouse and 56% saying they feel called to serve in different ways.
Work with pastors’ spouses to encourage and develop the ministry calling they may feel.
Help them discover areas of service within the church both related to and independent of their spouse.
2. Able to count on friends within the church
Only 10% of pastors’ spouses say they can count on friends in their church “a great deal” when they are under stress.
Around 1 in 5 (21%) say they can count on church friends “very much.” More say they can do so “a moderate amount” (28%) or “slightly” (27%).
More than 1 in 10 (13%) say they can’t count on friends in their church at all.
Congregants should work to be a friend, not to gain influence or inside information, but as a way to love the pastor’s spouse.
Pastors should encourage their spouse to find friends within the church and afford them the opportunity to build those relationships.
3. See their spouse as a good fit for their church
More than 9 in 10 pastors’ spouses (93%) say their spouse is a good fit for their current church, including 54% who strongly agree.
Church members should strive to make the pastor and their family feel welcome and loved, even during times of disagreement.
4. Feel their spouse is satisfied in the marriage
The vast majority of pastors’ spouses (95%) say their spouse is satisfied as a spouse, with 39% saying extremely satisfied, 41% saying very satisfied, and 14% saying somewhat satisfied.
The perception of their spouse’s satisfaction in their marriage contributed to the overall well-being of a pastor’s spouse, even more so than their own personal satisfaction.
Churches should think about the marital health of the pastor and their spouse when developing responsibilities and ministerial duties. Allow them time to be together and grow their relationship.
Pastors should prioritize a healthy marriage and take steps to ensure their spouse feels good about the relationship.
5. Give enough time to their children
Among the pastors’ spouses with kids, 67% say they are satisfied with the amount of time they are able to give their children.
Those who are satisfied in this area are more likely to indicate positive overall well-being.
As churches ask their pastor’s spouse to be involved in church activities, if they are a parent, make sure time is left for them to devote adequate time to their kids.
Pastors should work to protect family time both for themselves and their spouse.
6. Believe the ministry has had a positive impact on their family
Nine in 10 pastors’ spouses believe that their spouse being in the ministry has positively affected their family, with 22% strongly agreeing.
Pastors and churches can work together to ensure both the pastor’s spouse and their children have positive experiences with ministerial work.
7. Spend personal time with God
More than 9 in 10 pastors’ spouses (93%) say they have at least had one moment of personal time alone with the Lord involving Bible study and prayer outside of any lesson preparation in the past week, including 23% who say they’ve had seven or more.
Those that say they’ve spent that time with God are more likely to have higher well-being scores.
Pastors should encourage their spouses, as they should with everyone else in their church, to have personal devotion time.
Church members should remember that pastors and pastors’ spouses need time and space for their own personal spiritual growth.
8. Recognize expectations on their family
Around 4 in 5 pastors’ spouses (79%) say the congregation expects their family to be a model family.
Whether this is entirely fair or not, those pastors’ spouses who agree with this sentiment are more likely to report higher well-being scores.
Pastors should encourage their spouses to recognize how the ministerial calling impacts their entire family and help them not be surprised by the expectations that exist.
Church members can help encourage their pastor’s family to be a positive reflection of biblical teaching, but not hold them to unrealistic expectations of perfection.
Aaron is the senior writer/editor at LifewayResearch.com.