“It’s surprising that a person in the spotlight can be invisible.” But that’s what life was like for Alyssa, a PCA pastor’s wife. It feels like you’re under constant scrutiny, she said, and yet no one really knows you.
After serving alongside her husband for nearly 20 years, she hit a brick wall in 2020. She just couldn’t cope with the stress and disappointments anymore, at least not on her own.
Unlike other women, a pastor’s wife not only serves as a constant partner to the pastor, she also ministers to the women of the congregation.
In a survey conducted by PCA Retirement & Benefits (RBI) in 2018, nine out of 10 pastors’ wives felt as though they were perceived differently than other women in their church. The isolation and stress that stemmed from this view led RBI to develop Cherish, an initiative that provides free and discounted Christian counseling to the wives of PCA pastors, via partnerships with the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation and Global Counseling Network.
According to RBI leadership, counseling can provide a much-needed outlet for pastors’ wives to talk about their struggles — whether they’re related to ministry, marriage, or general mental health — while getting confidential help from a professional Christian counselor.
Unlike other women, a pastor’s wife not only serves as a constant partner to the pastor, she also ministers to the women of the congregation. Because a pastor’s wife rarely holds an official title, her impact often goes unnoticed.
While Cherish has been available to PCA pastors’ wives since 2019, RBI began promoting the program more intentionally in 2020 after noticing the added stress experienced by pastors’ families during the pandemic. Chris Zurbach, director of philanthropy and marketing for RBI, says that in 2020, 135 pastors’ wives received more than a total of 1,000 hours of counseling through the fund, and 85 pastors enrolled in Servant Care, a comparable service that provides counseling for teaching elders and ministry workers in the denomination.
Currently, the fund pays the entire cost for the first three sessions and then subsidizes the next four.
“My husband is my best friend and my pastor,” says Alyssa. “I am deeply thankful for him. But I needed a sister in Christ. Cherish provided me with a counselor who helped me see that Jesus is caring for me in the midst of my storm.”
In partnership with the 2018 Women’s Ministry Love Gift, RBI’s Ministerial Relief fund contributed $90,000 to launch Cherish, but those funds have largely been depleted, Zurbach says. To continue providing subsidized counseling, RBI is working to replenish needed funds.
To learn more, visit www.pcarbi.org/cherish.