A decorative photo of a pregnant white woman wearing a clergy shirt with collar, taken from the neck down.

What to Expect When Your Pastor is Expecting

Post Author: Pastor Preggie

This post contains discussion of pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage, and body image. 

Dear Young Clergywoman,

My pastor just announced to our congregation that she is pregnant. We are all very excited for her, but we also haven’t been in this situation before. What tips do you have for celebrating this news with her? What would be helpful? What should we avoid? 

Thank you!

-An Excited Congregant

A decorative photo of a pregnant white woman wearing a clergy shirt with collar, taken from the neck down.

Bumpin’ Under a Clergy Collar


Pregnancy is a mixed bag for many people, but for those of us in public positions such as pastors and other clergy, the mixed bag can often be full of well-intentioned but hurtful or inappropriate comments. I share this response as a conversation starter for you, a What To Do (and What NOT To DO) When Your Pastor is Expecting. 


  1. Celebrate! Whether this is the first pregnancy for your pastor or their fifth, celebrate. Not only have they chosen to share this news with you, but they are expanding their family. Your faith community is going to be enriched by this new experience of your pastor. Our Scriptures proclaim God as Father, yes, but also as Mother. (See Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 66:13, Matthew 23:37) God is our life-giver, and you get the chance to walk alongside someone as they bring another life into the world. Ask your pastor if a baby shower, reception, or some other social gathering where church members could gather to celebrate the pastor’s upcoming child is welcomed. They may have a registry that they’d like to share. If not, and if you come from a gift-giving tradition, consider either collecting books for the child or collecting a one-time financial gift for the family. Or, consider collecting new items for a local women’s shelter to donate to community members in need. 
  2. Ask How They’re Doing! Questions such as, “How have you been feeling?” or “How have you been doing?” allow your pastor the chance to express their physical or emotional experiences of pregnancy without fear of judgment. Genuinely listen as your pastor shares their experiences, and avoid offering your own experiences of pregnancy in that exact moment (see below). 
  3. Support Their Family! New baby is going to be a change for the pastor, their partner, and any existing siblings. Be ready to offer some practical help, like childcare for big siblings or meal trains for the family when baby arrives. Some families may need help finding an appropriate childcare placement for their newborn and would welcome suggestions. 
  4. Offer Parental Leave Benefits! Yes, the Church at large needs to offer and enforce parental leave policies. Ideally, the pastor’s parental leave package should match that of the U.S. government: up to twelve week’s paid (full salary) leave. Your pastor may choose to use some of the weeks as part-time leave, returning to ministry in a part-time capacity to offset the cost of childcare. The congregation needs to work with their larger denominational structure (if such exists) to establish a parental leave policy for your ministry setting and determine appropriate substitute pastoral coverage during the leave. Consider pulpit supply, contracting with another local pastor for home or emergency pastoral visits, and even lay leadership during this time. 


  1. Make Comments About Their Body! Yes, your pastor is growing a person within their own body. Their body will change. And you likely see them standing before you during worship and notice things like protruding stomachs, expanding breasts, and swollen ankles. I guarantee you, your pastor notices these things too. Please do not say things like, “You’re really blossoming!” or “Are you sure there’s only one in there?” as these comments can make the pastor feel further self-conscious of their changing bodies. 
  2. Predict Baby’s Sex! Some pastors want to know ahead of time the sex of their child, others like to wait, and still others choose to keep the sex of the baby to themselves. Whatever route your pastor chooses, don’t assume the baby’s sex. Your pastor doesn’t need to juggle that expectation of what their body is supposed to be like in order to have a child of one gender in addition to the other expectations placed upon them in ministry. (Example: “You’re carrying high, it must be a boy!”) 
  3. Assume Their Fertility Journey Has Been Easy! Approximately one in five women are not able to become pregnant after one year of trying. Nearly an additional one in five known pregnancies result in a miscarriage. Your pastor may share their fertility journey with you, but they may also be processing it individually, on their own. Please do not assume that this pregnancy was easy to achieve. Additionally, comments like, “Finally!” or “About time!” can further the feeling of shame around infertility. Avoid these and keep the focus on the excitement for this pregnancy. 
  4. Tell Your Pregnancy or Delivery Horror Stories! Each delivery is a tale worthy of telling, but check in with your pastor first before spilling yours (or your friend’s, or your sister’s, or your coworker’s…). They may not want to hear about how the local anesthesia didn’t work, how the baby was in danger, etc. They’re hoping and praying for a positive birthing experience! If you need to work through your own experiences with pregnancy, ask your pastor first if they’re willing to hear you during this time. If they’re not, they can help suggest another pastor who could explore the spiritual aspects of your experiences. 


You and your pastor will both make mistakes during this journey. Be willing to admit your foibles and ask for forgiveness; be open, too, to hearing your pastor’s experiences during this time. This is an exciting journey for all involved: you, your ministry setting, and your pastor at large. Be open to how the Holy Spirit may be working through this moment!

A pseudonym, the author of this article is a seasoned pastor currently experiencing her second pregnancy in a congregational setting. Ideas for this article are taken from her experience and from conversations with other clergy pastors. 

Image by: Pastor Preggie
Used with permission
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