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5 Things Every Pastor’s Wife Wants You to Know After Her Husband Resigns


There’s been a big wave of pastoral resignations lately, both with friends of mine in real life, and among the many pastoral families that I have contact with in my online communities. While a resignation may be, in its simplest form, a date on the calendar that marks the end of one season and the beginning of another, the ripple effect of that decision goes so much deeper. I think it is helpful for church members to understand exactly what the period after resignation is like for pastors’ wives. So 5 things…

 1. There’s a joke among the ministry community that there are basically three responses to a pastoral resignation: Sad, Mad, and Glad.

These responses cause a myriad of emotions within the heart of the pastor’s wife. She will spend the weeks between resignation and moving day feeling conflicted. Interestingly, her feelings will quite closely mirror those of her church family- sad, mad, and glad.

The Sad are generally those who dearly love the pastor’s family and are usually his best supporters. They respond with tears, hugs, and offers to help pack or to babysit the PKs in the coming busy weeks. They make the pastor’s resignation about him and his family, not about themselves. They are sad to lose a leader they love, yet happy to see Him following the next step of God’s plan for his life. The Sad are a balm to the heart of a pastor’s wife.

The Mad are those who feel personally insulted that a pastor would walk away from them. I mean, how could he possibly think that he shouldn’t be there anymore? Especially in small communities, the Mad worry that a church without a pastor presents a bad image to the community.  It’s really all about them. Occasionally, the Mad include a portion of the Sad who are so sad to lose their pastor that they become angry. They often respond with either the silent treatment or a deluge of hurtful words.  In this case, it’s still all about them. The Mad are a confusion to the pastor’s wife.

The Glad are those who possibly voted ‘no’ on the ballot when the pastor was instated. They didn’t like the last pastor. They never liked the one who just resigned, and they never will. They won’t like the next pastor either, but they don’t know it yet. They think he will be the one they’ve been waiting all their life for. They are happy to see the present pastor go, and they erroneously think it will solve all of their church woes. The Glad are just that- glad. The Glad are a source of pain for the pastor’s wife.

Based on these descriptions, can you tell where you fit in? Or maybe you, too, are experiencing a mix of all three, depending on the circumstances surrounding the resignation. If your pastor has recently stepped down, it will go a long way to be sensitive to the many emotions he and his wife are experiencing.  And no matter where you are on the Sad-Mad-Glad scale, you can be loving and supportive of them simply as a brother and sister in Christ.

2. The weeks/months after resignation can be one of the hardest periods of time to walk through in ministry.

Even if a resignation is handled well and transitioned smoothly, it is a tough time for the pastor’s family, and often for the church family as a whole. For both, everything is changing. Walking back into the church after a resignation is difficult.  As a pastor’s wife, I always dreaded that first Sunday after my husband’s resignation. The big question: “What is this day going to be like? How will people respond?” Some people move on as though nothing is going on, and others act like the pastor and his wife are invisible, taking on duties and planning the calendar as if he is already gone. In one of our ministries, when we walked in the night after my husband had resigned in the morning service, it was like watching a movie going on around us. Very few people spoke to us, yet many were bustling around getting the future in order. All ministries except preaching and music had been taken away from my husband, and new announcements were made for activities that had been suddenly planned that afternoon, yet were still months in advance.  There seemed to be no point of staying around- a simple resignation letter caused the cue that they no longer needed or wanted us.

I don’t know how to describe this feeling other than that it is extremely weird to feel like you suddenly no longer belong at the place where you gave your heart and soul to the people you dearly love. If your pastor has recently resigned, please continue to let him lead as long as he has agreed to. Don’t take away his ministries! You will grieve his heart. Let him lead you and love you and serve you and his other people as long as he will and is able to.

3. Silence hurts as much as words do.

Ann Voskamp said, “When you’re most wounded by words, run to the only Word that always brings healing.” Truly, pastors’ wives are among the most wounded by words. But recently when I posted that quote in one of my support groups, a pastor’s wife raised an equally important thought: “Sometimes silence hurts just as much.” 

After my husband’s resignation from our first church, things got eerily silent. I had a three year old and a one year old, and a five bedroom parsonage to pack. I packed it alone, in two weeks time. I think it’s one of my great accomplishments in life considering that my one year old came behind me and unpacked every box as soon as I got it packed. So, perhaps I actually packed that house twice in two weeks! 🙂 But it was a very lonely time because no one was there.

Our second ministry ended very differently. After my husband resigned, people poured in. The nine weeks between his letter and the moving truck were very loud. And we loved every minute of it. We moved at Christmastime because we’re crazy like that. But we still talk about it as one of the sweetest Christmases ever. There were boxes everywhere….but there were people everywhere too. People came to just sit and visit while I packed. They came to eat supper with us because we needed help to eat all the food in the freezer. People came “for an hour or two” and ended up staying until after midnight. It was chaotic in all the rooms of the house. Sometimes we sat on the floor or had to dig into boxes to find what we needed. But it was a slice of heaven on earth because we were being loved by our people. And we were being allowed to love them to the last day. For me, it was the essence of true hospitality for both the giver and the receiver. Oh, it was precious!

If your pastor has recently resigned, be there. Be present in his life. Be present in your pastor’s wife’s life. Show up with a meal, help pack and clean, offer to babysit their kids, pray for peace in their hearts. Even if your tongue is silent because you don’t know the perfect words to speak, your actions of being present will speak a loving shout into their hearts for many years to come. I promise.

4. Resignation and transition are often difficult for PKs.

A question that I hear often from pastors’ wives is this: “How do I tell my children that we are about to move? How do I help them adjust? We’ve been here since they were born.”

Resignations are hard on PKs. It may surprise you to know that they often experience the same gamut of Sad, Mad, and Glad that their parents do, even when they are young. As much as try to shield children from certain parts of ministry, they are very perceptive. There’s nothing like having to answer a question like “Dad, why did So-and-So not want you to be there anymore?” Not to mention that they are losing friends and facing uncertainties about their life being in upheaval. I grossly underestimated how much our move and sabbatical would affect our children in the early months. Our youngest handled it the hardest, retreating into her closet to cry every time she got a letter from a friend or her favorite older lady at our former church.

PKs may seem like they are just along for the ride {and in some ways they are} in ministry life, but it’s important to remember that God has a specific plan for their lives too, no matter how young they are.

If your pastor has recently resigned, consider how you can reach out to your PKs. Sometimes the promise of a pen pal or a Facetime/Skype call does wonders to ease their worries. Putting together a fun basket of moving day activities for the car is a great idea, too. Most of all, pray for your PKs- that God will give them peace and protect them from bitterness and anger. Pray that they will see God’s hand in their little lives, and know His grace in all of the changes.

5. Once the move is made, the pastor’s wife feels a mix of grief and relief for an extended period of time.

Maybe your pastor’s wife promised to keep in touch, and now that she’s gone, you haven’t heard from her. In most cases, it is actually healthy for a resigned pastor to distance himself somewhat from his former church. This is so that they can transition and move forward into what God has for them, and so the church can do the same. Additionally, sometimes the separation has more to do with the ocean of emotions that they are feeling. I use the word ‘ocean’ because those emotions really do come and go in waves. One day a pastor’s wife might have a wave of relief- because the situation she just came out of was highly stressful or toxic and she’s so happy to be moving on. On the next day she might have a wave of grief- pain from the tearing away of herself from the people she and her husband loved so much. Leaving a church is much like ripping a body part off. It’s not a very pretty scene inside the heart. Leaving activates a grieving process that is natural and healthy as God prepares a pastor and his wife for a new body of believers to love. But it’s still a painful process that follows the natural stages of grief in the same pattern as after a death.

If your pastor has recently resigned and he and his wife seem distant, give them time. They may circle back into your life. He may even come back and preach.  It is not reality that they will maintain a strong bond with everyone in the church, and that is okay. When we moved and began our sabbatical, I went through a period where I needed to not be in communication with anyone from the previous ministry. Thankfully, I have some pretty great friends there who know me well, and they waited and loved me through that. When I was ready to resume regular communication, they were waiting for me. It can be difficult for a pastor and wife to hear what is going on at a former ministry, so the respect of time and space is a wonderful gift! Also, gently find out if they are even interested in hearing the news from their former home. If not, avoid passing along the information about who died, who is getting married, who left or joined the church, or what new ministries have begun within the church. If and when they want to know, they will ask when they are ready.


Nearly every resignation carries with it a significant measure of pain for the pastor and his wife and children.  Some transitions are joyfully anticipated and embraced. Others are forced or brought on by sin. No matter what has caused your pastor’s resignation, your church should respond with grace and with tangible acts of love and kindness.

How does the church as a whole accomplish this? It takes one person at a time- each individual- making the choice to do their part in making as smooth a transition as possible.

It starts…and ends… with you.


A Kindred Spirit

3 thoughts on “5 Things Every Pastor’s Wife Wants You to Know After Her Husband Resigns

  1. Great article Leah! I am not a pastor’s wife, but I can see application in many areas. I especially like, “Ann Voskamp said, “When you’re most wounded by words, run to the only Word that always brings healing.”” Too often, we sit and allow our wounds to become much more than they ever should. We give them power they should never own. Thankfully, God can shut that down.

  2. Everything about this article completely describes what I have been feeling for the past 5 months after my husband resigned from a church we were at for a year. It was at Christmastime and it was so quiet as we were packing everything up. I think the best memory of this move was that we ate Christmas dinner on our air-mattress on the floor. When I became a Pastor’s Wife I was really excited and optimistic. I did not realize how hard it would be sometimes. This resignation was probably the hardest thing I had been through. Through all of the sad and mad times that I myself have felt these past few months, there have been other glad time where I thank God for giving us the strength to leave when we did.

  3. When my husband decided it was time to resign I felt the biggest relief in our 34 years of ministry and your article is everything I am feeling right now (except the part about wanting help packing, I would rather do that myself), sad, mad, and glad, mostly glad 🙁 It has been a rough four+ years and every part of my heart hurts for what we have been through. As I pack each box I shed a tear for each hurt and trial we have experienced, but I also rejoice for the people that brought joy as we ministered here. God’s Word is a balm to my soul and the only reason I can go to a new ministry with my pastor husband and start new is because of God’s promises. I also remind myself that not every church is like this one, we have had two other churches that were not even close to being like this one, and that God can take our hurts and turn them into joy. Thank you Leah for an article that I needed today!!!

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