Aug 26, 2016

Welcoming Your New Pastor's Wife

By Katy Peperkorn

So You Want to Welcome the New Pastor’s Wife. . .

In my observations, most congregations are excited to welcome their new pastor and his family. Congregations have excellent ways of making the first few days after a pastor’s move more comfortable: Pantry showers, donations for groceries, meals delivered to the door, a welcome bag with details about the area, etc. This certainly makes the first week or so a little easier for a new family in town.

But what about after the moving truck rolls away and most of the boxes are unpacked? The new pastor will be busy meeting with elders and council members, looking over old bulletins, and trying to get a feel for his new congregation. However, his wife is often left on her own to find the new normal for herself and her family. That can be a lonely time for her—no friends nearby, her husband swamped with work, and a general sense of unsettledness after her life was packed into the back of a truck. If you are a layperson, you may wonder what congregation members can do to welcome the new pastor’s wife.

Be specific with your offers of hospitality and help.

“If there’s anything you need, let me know!”

“Come over anytime!”

“We should do dinner sometime!”

Offers like these are often given sincerely. Vague, general proposals to help, however, make it difficult for a pastor’s wife to know whom she can ask for assistance with specific tasks. Not everybody is able to help move furniture or babysit at a moment’s notice. Likewise, it gets tedious hearing the same ambiguous invitations to visit or have a meal together from half the congregation without any follow-through.

Instead, try to clearly state how you want to help and welcome the new pastor’s wife, be that babysitting, moving furniture, or inviting her over for coffee. When you offer to spend time with her, immediately follow up with a specific time. An example conversation might go like this:

Congregation Member (CM): My husband and I would love to have you and Pastor over for dinner sometime!

Pastor’s Wife (PW): That sounds great!

CM: Wonderful! What does your schedule look like next week? We’re available any evening except Tuesday.

Even a social engagement planned several weeks in advance can be a bright spot on a new pastor’s wife’s calendar.

Don’t assume the pastor’s wife knows everything about your church just because she’s married to the pastor.

Most people will agree that communication in any marriage is a tricky thing. A pastor’s marriage isn’t any different. Sometimes my husband simply forgets to tell me things about church events and activities (just like I sometimes forget to tell him about appointments and changes in the budget). If you would like to invite the pastor’s wife to a church activity, talk to her directly. Communication is much clearer that way.

Additionally, it also makes a wife feel more welcomed when members make an effort to reach out to her directly rather than through her husband. One of the most welcoming things a member did when my husband and I were preparing to move was get my email address from my husband. She then contacted me directly to answer my questions about the parsonage and the church. That action made me feel like that member saw me as a real person, not just a tag-along to the pastor.

Have no expectations about your pastor’s wife.

This is a very broad bit of advice that can save congregation members and pastors’ wives an abundance of heartache. A pastor’s wife doesn’t necessarily receive any special training in church work while her husband studies to be a pastor, so it’s unreasonable to expect a woman to do things like sing in the choir or teach Sunday School simply because she’s married to the pastor.

Instead, take the time to learn your pastor’s wife’s strengths and talents. To be sure, there are many wives who truly do have a gift for music, many who love teaching Sunday School and VBS, and some who can organize the LWML’s big fundraiser with impressive precision. But it always makes a pastor’s wife feel more welcomed when she’s asked to help with an activity or board because someone has notice she has shown a knack for it, not because of who she married.

Likewise, realize that sometimes her service to the church is keeping her household running smoothly so her husband can better focus on his pastoral duties. There are times a pastor’s wife has to prioritize her service to the church differently due to the fact that her husband’s job is part of the church.

A final word on having no expectations: Not all pastors’ wives have the same personality. Some want to jump into church life as soon as their husband is installed, while others prefer to observe the congregation before committing to any activity or group. Some are extroverted and can easily talk to anyone; others are introverted and only have the energy to socialize with one or two people at a time. Some are great multitaskers and can do almost anything while balancing a baby on her hip; others can only focus on one thing at a time—specifically that baby on her hip. Any personality has its strengths and weaknesses, so try to love your pastor’s wife for who she is and not what you think she should be or what the previous pastor’s wife was. The fewer expectations you have for your pastor’s wife, the easier it will be to welcome her as she is.

There is no “one size fits all” answer.

The ideas mentioned above are suggestions that I’ve learned from my own experiences and from listening to other pastors’ wives. However, every pastor’s wife and congregation are different, so what may work to welcome one pastor’s wife may not work for another. Remember that it may take a new pastor’s wife months, if not years, to start to feel settled in the congregation. But most of all, love your pastor’s wife for who she is. I promise that she is trying to do the same for you.

Do you have any suggestions to add about how to welcome a new pastor’s wife to a congregation?   


Katy has been a daughter and sister since the 80s, a wife since 2010, and a mother since 2014. In addition to spending time with her husband, daughter, and two cats, Katy enjoys reading, baking, and drinking coffee. She writes about life’s absurdities and draws laughably terrible illustrations at An Illustrated Parsonage Life.

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