Pastors' Wives: How to Know Your Friends Are Real; Deal With Criticism

Kay Warren
Kay Warren (L), wife of Pastor Rick Warren, talks about common issues pastors' wives deal with during a March 30, 2017 Facebook Live session. |

How does a pastor's wife, who is often lonely, make genuine friends? Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren, recently provided some advice on developing friendships, including "testing" people to make sure they don't spread gossip.

During a Facebook Live session last week, Warren and three other ministry leaders' wives answered questions on burnout, loneliness and handling criticism, among other issues. When asked how pastors' wives can make friends and how they would know if they're genuine, Warren provided three tips.

First, "don't look for a brand new Christian." She explained that someone who is new to the Christian faith "typically is not going to be able to handle the fact that you've got stuff, that you're human."

Second, Warren conducts "little tests" with people.

"I might share something about myself and then I kind of wait to see if it makes its rounds, if other people know … of what I said and then I know that person isn't confidential," she said. "So you might test little bits of your story or yourself with another person and see if … they're able to contain the fact."

Third, "look for people who don't need you."

"I found as the pastor's wife that there were always plenty of people who wanted to be around me because of my role. … It made them feel good, it made them feel that somehow they were on the inside," said Warren, whose husband is pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life.

"I've always looked for people who don't need me," she said. "They love me, they care about me. … We could be at the same event and I don't even have to sit next to them because they don't need the spotlight. They just love me for me."

Warren, who is also a best-selling author and an advocate for those living with mental illness, HIV&AIDS, and the orphaned and vulnerable children, also addressed the issue of criticism that pastors and pastors' wives often deal with.

She admitted she took criticism "very personally," though her husband Rick brushed it off more easily.

Now after more than 30 years of being a pastor's wife, Warren said she has learned to treat criticism like the way you eat fish — eat the meat and throw away the bones.

"If somebody is critical of you or your husband or your ministry, you have to stop and look at it … is there any truth here? Even if I don't like the person who just told me about it … if there's any truth, you need to take it, learn from it, be gracious, if there's apologies that need to be made, if you need to make changes, and then you kind of toss out the rest," she explained.

However, there are times when criticism is totally wrong, "off base" or a "total misjudgment of a situation." At those times, Warren advised: "forgive."

"At the end of the day you have to forgive," she said. "You and I have to forgive because people are going to hurt you in ministry. Sometimes they're going to say the most horrendous things, … they're going to put pressure on you or your husband.

"What other choice do we have, really? At end of day I have to forgive for my own soul's sake."

You can watch the entire session here.

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