Mother’s Day is a special time when we get to reflect on the women who have poured into us as moms and spiritual mothers. They help shape and lay the foundations of who we are and cheer us on in the journey of faith. These women are moms, grandmothers, teachers and neighbors who share their wisdom, care, laughter and strength with us.

When I think of all the ways women bring life and reflect God in beautiful and unique ways, I’m also reminded of the women who serve faithfully, often behind the scenes and with little recognition, as pastors’ wives. I remember as a little girl watching my pastor’s wife as she sat next to a new person each Sunday and was a welcoming smile and faithful presence to new and old members. Now, having had the privilege of serving as a pastor’s wife for nearly two decades and walking alongside other pastors’ wives, I value more than ever the steadfastness, strength and winsomeness in her love for Christ’s bride.

As we celebrate and honor the women God has used to help grow our love and obedience to Him, here are a few ways churches can honor their pastors’ wives this Mother’s Day.

Celebrate her

Fill a room of pastors and ministers’ wives and you will see the diversity and creativity of God on full display. From teachers to nurses, to business CEOs and PTO presidents. From introverts to extroverts, to up-front personalities and faithful behind-the-scenes managers, they each uniquely display the different gifts, strengths, talents and passions for Christ’s bride.

Remember she is an individual and your sister in Christ, as well as the woman married to your pastor. One of the most encouraging things I have experienced as a pastor’s wife is when a brother or sister comes alongside me and shares how they see God working and using me in the Kingdom of God. People often see us through the lens of our husbands and their positions. Get to know her and what is going on in her life Monday-Saturday, and then celebrate how you see God using her.

Here are a few simple ways to celebrate her:

  • Tell her specifically how you saw God use her in a situation.
  • Limit your expectations of her and ask where she finds joy in serving.
  • Notice the little things she does and point them out.
  • Remind her that all she does, both seen and unseen, makes a huge Kingdom impact that will last far beyond her day-to-day moments.

Empathize and encourage

It is no secret that the role of a pastor’s wife is complex, layered and a unique privilege. She shoulders the weight of unmet expectations, criticism and heavy workloads as well as having a front-row seat to how God is working both individually in people’s lives and corporately as a church family. She sees the good and the ugly of church. And simply put, unless you have been in the position, you don’t know fully what it is like to be in her shoes.

Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” She isn’t a puzzle you need to figure out, but she is someone who is living some unique paradigms and realities that result in unique needs. And she often feels lonely and overwhelmed.

She questions who she can trust and longs to be accepted and seen as a friend. You will never know the particular struggles she holds or how to come alongside her until you are intentional in finding ways to see her hardships and encourage her in the midst of them.

Here are a few simple ways to empathize with and encourage her:

  • Take her out to coffee with no pretense or motive other than just getting to know her and encouraging her.
  • Invite her to the group gathering or girl’s night out and offer space and understanding if she can’t make it.
  • Write her a card of encouragement with Scripture that has ministered to you or reminds you of her.
  • Leave a basket of goodies on her porch with some of her favorite items.

Share in her sacrifice

One of the things I had to get used to as a young pastor’s wife was not getting to do some of the “normal” family things on a Sunday—like all of us loading up in the car together and getting donuts before church or getting to attend a small group alongside my husband. It seems trivial now and even more so in light of some of the bigger sacrifices like late-night hospital calls and the sting of lost relationships due to conflict or misunderstandings in the church.

These losses can sting, and oftentimes, if not dealt with, they can be the root of bitterness and discouragement. But she holds these losses loosely as she surrenders, leans in, and wrestles with God through the ups and downs of ministry.

Here are a few simple ways you can help share in her sacrifices:

  • If she has little kids, help her get them checked in and to the car each week.
  • If you hear gossip about her, her husband or the church, shut it down.
  • Volunteer, serve and use your gifts to help alleviate the holes (Pastor’s wives often feel the pressure to fill the gaps when no one else will).
  • Include them during the holidays if they don’t live near family.

Love her family well

The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that speaks to the heartbeat of a church family. As a faith family, our kids have big brothers and sisters who throw the ball with them in the yard before Wednesday night church, grandpas who ask about their driving lessons and what they are learning at school, and “the cool aunt” who greets them with a smile and fist bump as they walk through the doors on Sunday morning.

One of the most healthy and loving things we can do for our pastor and his wife is to give intentional time, support and care to their family. Spiritually healthy moms and dads not only lead their families better, but they also lead their churches better. And when a couple is struggling or failing at home, they are failing in their first ministry.

Here are a few simple ways you can love her family well:

  • Pray for her kids by name.
  • Give them space and grace to mess up (the pressure of perfectionism and performance is heavy).
  • Give them a gift card for a special date night and watch their kids, or give their family an experience together, like tickets to a ball game or ice cream for a summer treat together.
  • Tell them you love and appreciate them often.

Much like we see in Miriam’s song of blessing and praise to rally the hearts of Israel around their big and powerful God (Exodus 15) and Priscilla’s intentional care and instruction alongside Apollos to show him the full hope and message of the gospel (Acts 18), we can see the tremendous influence a woman can have in the scope of a faith family.