Compensation and Holidays for the Pastor’s Wife

Is the pastor’s wife allowed to have any down-time? What about a holiday? How about a personal, uninterrupted week with her husband? How about a sleep in and breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day? What about a trip to the beach or a B&B for the Easter long weekend?

All of those have something in common. Can you tell what it is? It’s a bit hard to do most of these without her husband who is expected to be working at all these times. Even if the pastor could take the time off, how should she finance all of this?

Mark Driscoll continues his thoughts on Loving the Pastor’s Wife:

Many churches do not factor into the pastor’s compensation the thousands of dollars his family pours back into the ministry. If you want the pastor to live near the church, have a home big enough to entertain, have an extra room for guests, have lots of people over for meetings and meals, and tithe generously to the church, all of that costs money.

On top of that, consider how many birthday, wedding, baby, anniversary, and Christmas presents the pastor’s family has to buy each year. When our church was very young, we spent literally thousands of dollars a year on these expenses, even though the church was not paying us. We had a few thousand people in our home every year and interns living with us, plus a home office. We did so gladly, because we love the church. But we did go into some debt since we had no reserves, and if a car with over two hundred thousand miles broke down, the credit card was our only option. [AG – I’ve done this myself – I’d love to hear what you think about how a Church can serve their pastor in this situation? ]

If your pastor does not work hard and does not give generously, fire him. If he does work hard and does give generously, then compensate him decently and free his family up to be more generous and productive.

One of the worst examples I have seen comes from a small church. The pastor was not paid a full salary because their giving was low. His wife worked a job to make ends meet, and the two of them gave all of their life to the service of that church. One of their elders who ran their books asked me to offer consult to the church, as they had not grown in many years. The first thing I asked for was the giving record of the elders. Only two of the six elders had given any money of any decent amount over the entire year—the lead pastor and the bookkeeper. The other four men on the board—all with decent, steady jobs—gave nothing or next to it. But year after year they were fine with letting the pastor’s wife work a taxing job to make ends meet and open up her home week after week to feed and serve people. She was one of the top givers in the church. It was criminal. It is common.

To be sure, most churches do not have a lot of money. Still, even an effort to take care of the pastor and his family means a lot. [AG – as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat – it doesn’t always have to be cash to be loving, thoughtful and an encouragement to the pastor, his wife and family.]

Days off, vacations, and holidays

In the Bible, God commands all of his people to take a day off, called a Sabbath. Certainly, people can and do get legalistic and religious about this issue, but the simple fact is if we do not take a voluntary Sabbath, we will eventually take an involuntary Sabbath, as we break down and end up sick and/or hospitalized. For a pastor, Sunday is a workday. This is doubly true if he has evening services on Saturday or Sunday night. He has to set aside another time as his Sabbath.

So, when it’s his day off or his vacation time with his family (which is so vital), someone else needs to be on call to answer his phone, deal with emergencies, and tend to the flock. A handful of high-drama, demanding church people can ruin an entire pastoral family by constantly calling, dropping by, and otherwise interrupting without due cause during dinner time, days off, and vacations. Such people are selfish and do not understand that when a shepherd has a little flock of family and a big flock of church, he cannot [AG – AND SHOULD NOT!] give all his time to one sheep who is just lonely. Such sheep need to hang with the other sheep and give the shepherd a break.

My “day off” is consistently the busiest day, other than Sunday, for phone calls, messages and emails. If I allow it, it can creates considerable strain, physically and maritally. If a pastor insists on protecting this time, he is often viewed as selfish, inconsiderate and unresponsive to the needs of his flock. He MUST be available 24×7. Unfortunately that isn’t possible indefinitely and, as many forget, that means the pastor’s wife and family are also 24×7 – WITHOUT the token stipend.

Driscoll continues:

Holidays are also tough times for the pastor’s wife. Unlike most of the women in the church, she cannot enjoy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and other such holidays by having her family all together and going to church. Why? Because her husband has to work on those days every single year. So, pray for her, thank her, and be sympathetic to the continual sacrifice she makes for the good of the whole church.

Related Article:

The Pastor’s Wife on Sunday’s