The loneliness of the long-time pastor's wife

Austin Call/Unsplash

Pastors wives shout at their children too much, they feel they have few friends and they are plagued by money worries, according to a new study.

But on the bright side, their lives are filled with joy and purpose and they often share their husband's sense of vocation. 

'Despite their challenges, most pastors' spouses say they are happy', Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research told Baptist Standard.

LifeWay surveyed the wives of Baptist ministers as well as spouses of pastors from non-denominational, Methodist, Lutheran and Assemblies of God churches. In addition the study included Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Church of Christ and Church of God pastors and their wives.

Most of the pastors worked 35-hour weeks for the church and more than half had children at home. Half had been married for 20 years or more. Many of their spouses were on the staff of their husband's church.

Nine in ten of the wives said their husband's ministry had a positive effect on their family. But they also reported a lot of church conflict and a sense of loneliness, with most having few people they can confide in. Half agreed: 'If I were honest at church about my prayer needs, they would just become gossip.'

Money is one of their biggest worries but they have this in common with most Americans.

Many don't confide in people at church because they have been betrayed in the past and feel they live in a fishbowl, where they are constantly on show.

The study of 720 pastor spouses was sponsored by Houston's First Baptist Church, the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, and carried out by mail survey.