I think few people give thought to the reality that pastor’s wives are pew widows each Sunday. What everyone else in church takes for granted, sitting with your spouse and family, is something that the pastor and his family cannot do. There is a certain comfort and benefit of sitting with your family. Not only do you have the company of your spouse or loved one, but you can have the benefit of having your spouse assist you with the children. Training a young child to sit quietly in church can be a real challenge. As a seminary professor, I now know first hand that standing in the pulpit is often a lot easier, in some respects, than sitting next to a fidgeting four-year-old. My wife and I often trade off or go to a man-to-man defense with our children. I take the oldest and my wife takes the younger child. We will then switch for the evening service. That way, if one of us misses part of the service because we had to escort one of the children out to discipline them, we have a good chance of catching the whole service in the evening. The same can’t be said for the pastor’s wife who often has to sit alone or parent solo in the pew.
Sitting alone in the church, though in the midst of a group of people, can be a lonely experience. And parenting solo in the pew can be a very frustrating experience. There was a stretch in my wife’s life where she was hardly able to listen to a complete sermon because she was working with our oldest, either feeding him, disciplining, or changing him. After a while, missing worship even though you’re in the building, can be discouraging.
If you notice that your pastor’s wife is sitting alone, offer to sit with her. If you notice that your pastor’s wife is parenting alone in the pew, offer to help out. Offer to feed or care for the child. As odd as it sounds, sometimes a child will be better behaved for someone else than for the parent.
A pastor’s family has to sacrifice a lot so that he can serve the church. One concrete thing you can do is assist the pew widow in whatever way you can.