Kay Warren on the Sacred Privilege of Being a Pastor’s Wife

Being a pastor’s wife has had its ups and downs, its highs and lows. I remember that first Sunday…

“They’re here! I can’t believe it—but they’re really here!”

It was a beautiful, sunny Easter Sunday morning in Southern California, and Saddleback Valley Community Church officially launched. For 12 weeks, we and a small band of believers had met together in our home to dream, plan and organize this launch day. We had hand-addressed and hand-stamped 15,000 letters to the community, introducing ourselves and our new church. We scoured yard sales and swap meets for used nursery equipment. We copied pages from coloring books for toddlers. We searched through lists of students from a local college to find childcare workers. I practiced the hymns (complete with updated lyrics to a few) on the piano to be certain my nervous fingers didn’t hit the wrong notes. We rented a portable sound system for the Laguna Hills High School Performing Arts Theater. Rick poured over the Bible for weeks, praying for God’s words to speak to the folks that might show up. We prayed. We fasted. We believed in faith. On April 6, 1980, we stood at the gates to Laguna Hills High School and waited nervously, hoping and praying that at least a few people would try our new church.

They came! First one car, then three, then a dozen, then more. People of all ages—families, singles, old, young and everything in between—began pouring out of the cars, quickly filling the parking lot. Rick and I enthusiastically greeted them all—hardly able to take in the truth that all our wild hopes were coming true. I remember smiling through tears at one point as I held out my hand in welcome to one of the 205 folks who read our mass mailing or heard about a new church for “those not interested in a traditional church” and decided to give it a shot. “God,” I whispered, “You are faithful. This is going to work!”

A church was born that day. Rick became a senior pastor, and I was given a sacred privilege: being a pastor’s wife.

In the nearly four decades since, we have had front-row seats to witness thousands upon thousands of men, women and children experience the grace of God to change their lives. This is their spiritual home, and we are family. These amazing people live sacrificially and give sacrificially so that others can know Jesus Christ as they do. These amazing people have taken the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every country in the world. These amazing people volunteer to wash windows, clean toilets, sort trash to buy Bibles, teach squirrelly toddlers and students, host small groups in their homes, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, teach English as a second language, tutor kids, walk the meanest streets to share God’s love with prostitutes and johns, courageously tell of how they’ve overcome their hurts habits and hang-ups through Celebrate Recovery, visit those behind bars, form care groups for people living with HIV and AIDS, adopt orphaned children locally and from around the world, embrace those living with mental illness, tear down the taboos of talking about suicide in church, offer grief support, take meals to families facing a crisis, use art to heal broken places in the soul, apply their gifts of technology, write music that honors God, help cranky and anxious drivers find parking spaces, and extend the love of Jesus into every corner of our community and beyond.

I have loved every second of being a pastor’s wife.

Well, almost every second. There were a few times…

  • I wished Rick had been anything but a pastor. A plumber…a pharmacist…a photographer…a principal—anything but a pastor.
  • I envied other families taking leisurely bike rides on a Saturday afternoon while my husband was feverishly finishing his message. I admit to being jealous of couples going on Friday night dates while my husband studied or being sad that other friends went out to lunch after church on Sunday while my husband came home and collapsed into bed after preaching as many as six services.
  • There have been times I resented the intrusion of the ministry into every Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • Times when family vacation had to be moved to accommodate a major event at church.
  • Times my heart was shredded when people we had invested in, loved dearly, grown so close with left the church. Some went quietly, lacking the courage to tell us directly. Some made a lot of noise, telling everyone they could how terrible Saddleback was. All I knew was it hurt. Badly.
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Source: Church Leaders