What about the wife and children?


This week I received this question:

“How do you console the wife and children of the fallen minister?”

We all have to admit, when a pastor falls, that a death has occurred.  It’s a death of a man’s position, ministry, voice and possibly even his marriage.

Because of his visibility and his sin we often focus our thoughts and discussions on him, but what about the wife and children?

Who takes care of them?  As my questioner asked, “How do we console the wife and children..?”

Console is the perfect word!  For the wife it’s as if she has experienced a death.  It’s a death of her marriage, her trust in her husband and a death of his vocation. How will they pay the bills? What will they do now? Where will they live? How do we deal with the shame?

The church often treats the wife as a part of the problem and discards her as they do the pastor.  Out of sight, out of mind, thank you very much.

But the church’s job is to care for this “widow.”  She has lost her husband, her identity, her role as a pastor’s wife.  She has lost everything!

How do we console her?  We must care for her as we would someone who has lost a partner to death.  We must come alongside her, be with her, bring her meals, pray for her and love her well.

Love her as you would love and care for a widow.  Come alongside her kids, spend time with them, help them.  Encourage the wife.  Help her with her transition. She has lost everything, don’t abandon her!

How do we console her?  Just as we would someone who has lost a mate to death….because it is a death.  A death of everything she has known.  And, above all, love her well.

5 responses to “What about the wife and children?

  1. Why can’t she be a pastor? Sometimes the best ministers are the ones who make it through a difficult season – recovering alcoholics are better at ministering to alcoholics in denial than those who have never taken a drink. Likewise, she could best minister to women who are gong through what she’s made it through. Hire her on – and give her something to do.

    • Jamie, great question! I wasn’t addressing that issue specifically, but it’s a great topic to discuss. I agree, she has a lot to offer and I would think she could be a great blessing to her church, but don’t forget…she is wounded deeply! Get her well first and then consider her role in the church ahead. And, honestly, what I’ve seen is that the wife just wants to get away from the place where her husband shamed her as fast as she can. It would be great to see her as part of the solution, but her wounded heart may not be able to deal with it. Thanks for the question.

      • Why should she be ashamed? It’s not as if it was her fault, or she didn’t do enough to keep him. (Though far too many churches often blame her for not fulfilling his needs as the reason why he might go elsewhere, the truth is that any guy that’s the sort to cheat would have done so, no matter how much she had done to try to prevent it. It’s also a pretty high statistic that pastor’s marriages suffer because of their job. Instead of treating her as damaged goods and sending the message that she and other women going through the same thing has fallen from grace, she needs a community of friends to support her. That’s what it takes for her to heal, not waiting on the sidelines for the pain to eventually go away.

  2. Jamie, she shouldn’t feel ashamed, it’s just a normal reaction. Whether imposed or the shame of the situation, it happens. It’s not her fault, but it’s her husband. And I agree with your last few sentences, that’s what I said in the post, but shame (imposed or the feelings she struggle with) is part of the experience. We desperately need to help her and the kids. They have lost everything! I think of our pastor’s wife. She kept a stiff upper lip as they went through it, but immediately moved away to start over. I get that. It wasn’t her fault, but as the wife of the pastor, she was in the shadow of the whole thing…a fresh start was great for her. But, if the wife stays in the church we need to help her feel loved and part of the family. AND, we need to know the humiliation she feels because of what her husband did to the church, his vows and to her. Love and grace is much needed for us here, isn’t it?

  3. And, let me note your brilliant comment- “the truth is that any guy that’s the sort to cheat would have done so, no matter how much she had done to try to prevent it.” EXACTLY! This sin by a pastor is completely on his head! It’s not the fault of anyone else. And, it’s even more devastating because of his role and supposed lifestyle as a pastor. It always shocks us because this should not happen, but there are sinners and stupid people in every pulpit. Honestly, as I’ve written our experience, I’m more sensitive to my own weakness and sin. If we don’t plan to avoid this sin we can easily fall into it…and it is our sin to own. Thanks for your great comments.

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