Is Ministry Killing Your Marriage?
In our discussion this month about marriage in ministry, this week's blog post is one I'm suggesting that you share with your husband and have a discussion, just the two of you. The article says, "Ministry couples need to confront the tension between church and family by negotiating the specific challenges in the ministry environment." How do you as husband/wife and family respond to this strain of ministry? It's worth having a conversation about this subject now...better yet, make it an ongoing conversation, kind of like a health check up for your marriage in ministry.
A pastor once told us, "I was at a board meeting where we were examining potential elders. One candidate was asked, 'Are you willing to make sacrifices with your family for the sake of the church?' And it was a weird moment because I asked myself, What's the right answer to that question?"
Over the past seven years, we've gathered pastors and their spouses into peer cohorts, which met repeatedly in multiday retreats called Pastors Summits where we facilitated heartfelt discussions about the challenges of vocational ministry. During one of our summits, a participant shared the following story:
A few years ago, I asked my wife what it felt like to be married to me, after 20 years of marriage and 18 years of ministry together. I was optimistic of her positive response. She said, "I know that I would never divorce you. And I certainly would never kill you. However, I can't help but think the boys and I would be better off if you were not alive."
My response? I was ready to leave the ministry in order to save my marriage I went to my elders and told them what my wife had said. After some quiet moments, one of the elders finally said, "Now is not the time for you to leave the ministry. Now is the time for you to learn what the ministry is all about." With their support, my wife and I began extended counseling together. This has resulted in some pretty dramatic changes in the way I live life and do ministry.
The effects of ministry on marriage—and marriage on ministry—are rarely discussed, yet intimately connected. From the summit discussion with ministry couples, we identified two primary challenges facing marriage and family for those in the ministry. We will explore these two stressors and describe the most helpful responses and actions identified by the summit couples.
Stressor one: ministry as a lifestyle
Pastors can only dream of a nine-to-five job in which the whistle blows and the work stays behind as they head for home. One pastor stated emphatically, "Ministry is not a job; it's a lifestyle. Even when I'm home, I'm subject to the telephone and my inability to turn some of the church emotions off. I feel like I'm faking it with the kids much of the time."
Pastors rarely feel like they can step away from their ministry responsibilities...read more
"Is Ministry Killing Your Marriage? Pastors reflect on building a harmonious relationship between their ministries and families, " by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie, Christianity Today: CT Pastors, April 2013.
The Help...Part 1
In Genesis 2, God says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” Were truer words ever spoken? Man desperately needs a helper, a woman who has the innate skills to create and manage their home, family and life. This is especially true in ministry.
I have a friend whose husband was in music ministry, serving with a pastor who was single. She told me once, rather wistfully, that while the pastor was a gifted communicator and leader, with a great heart, there was something missing – a wife! She noted how much a “helper” brought to a church family, how influential and enriching that role can be. One of my interests is researching the stories of women in church history, especially pastors wives. While there isn’t a plethora of information on these women, there is enough to get a true sense of their marriages, ministry and personal journeys. Catherine Boothe was the wife of William Boothe, founders of the Salvation Army. The Boothes were contemporaries of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, he being the famous pastor of the Metropolitan Tablernacle in London. Other colleagues during that time were Hudson Taylor, George Muller and David Livingstone – powerful voices reflecting the missions heart of English Christians in the 19th century. There is quite a contrast between how Susannah and Catherine lived out their “helper” roles.
Catherine and William were committed to social work and evangelism with the impoverished working class in London’s East End. Catherine’s powerful speaking and leadership skills energized hundreds of Christians to take the gospel to the poor, working to establish stable families and communities. The woman had unbelievable drive and stamina, and the Boothes left one of Christianity’s most enduring legacies. On the other side of town was Susannah Spurgeon. Susannah was a quiet woman, with literary interests and skills. She was bedridden most of her adult life from problems resulting from the birth of twins. She established the Book Fund to purchase Spurgeon’s commentaries for rural pastors who could barely afford food for their families, much less study materials. Her compassion for these pastors led to this quiet but vital ministry.
One ministry was very public, the other was “off the radar screen”, but both were of inestimable value. Their stories illustrate the synergy of a couple, fully committed to God’s call, whose ministries were empowered by each one finding their unique path. Their voices still impact all of Christendom! This leads me to the obvious question: as a “helper”, do I embrace my own strengths and even weaknesses, determined to see opportunities for service? Or, do I excuse myself due to less than perfect circumstances? As a “helper” to our husbands, we not only strengthen our ministry, marriage and families, but our own voice to the generations of believers that come after us. In part 2 of this post we will look at the mystery and power of” synergy”!
Susie Hawkins lives in Dallas, TX with her husband OS Hawkins. She is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another: Honest Conversations on Connections in Ministry. She has 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, keeping her life full of craziness and joy. This blog was posted on November 13, 2014 for NAMB Flourish.
Let's Keep It Spicy!
I have now been married more than half of my life. I was married very young - too young. In fact, we told both of our children that they could not get married as young as we did. Let me just say, our marriage has not been perfect, but, rest assured, it has been an adventure - sometimes more adventure than what I signed up for.
Jim and I decided a long time ago that we were going to have fun in this life of marriage and ministry. We were going to protect our marriage, be friends, keep it spicy and still love each after the kids had moved out of the house.
I like to be practical, so I want to give you some practical things that will protect your marriage, keep the fun in your marriage, but best of all keep the spice in your marriage. Spice? You know what I mean. Keep the fun and sex in your marriage!
So here are some tried and true practices to keep your relationship fiery fresh!
1. Love and Respect
Wives submit to/honor your husbands, as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:22, 25)
Men want and need respect.
Women want and need love.
Why is it in the Bible that men are commanded to love their wives but wives are never commanded to love their husbands
SanctuaryMinistryWives.com: "Let's Keep It Spicy" is ENTRY FOUR of our Marriage + Ministry series. To start at ENTRY ONE, click here.
Pam King is a lover of God, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her life's work in ministry. Alongside her husband, Jim, Pam has been in full-time ministry for more than 36 years, with 26 years spent in missionary evangelism to Ukraine and Israel. Pam's "no-nonsense" approach to life and ministry has made her a viable resource in teaching and speaking on a myriad of subjects, including a personal favorite of "Marriage and Family". The Kings are the founders of Awaking Hope and most recently added the task of lead pastors to their ministry plate as they currently pastor Victory in Austin, TX.
The Healthy Marriage Check Up
How's your marriage going? If you're like my husband and me, sometimes we get on a crazy cycle, a merry-go-round of good times, bad times, and just blah times...you get the picture, a very living organism. Being pastor and wife is a very unique dynamic in married life. It's almost like adding an extra dimension to being married and extending the atmosphere of that marriage into the church. All the more reason for us to take extra care in working to keep our ministry marriages healthy. For the next few weeks we're going to discuss marriage in ministry with the intent of encouraging you.
Here we go!
Marriage… what a wonderful, complicated thing. First, let me say I’m not a marriage expert but I’ve survived marriage and even thrived in marriage through seasons of amazing blessings and seasons of devastation. As wonderful as marriage is, it’s not always easy. I’ve learned some lessons the hard way and other lessons were just sweet love notes from heaven.
No matter where your marriage is today, it can flourish and be an example to others with God’s help. I didn’t say perfection. It may be as simple as changing your perspective! Growing up, I always admired couples that showed affection. Couples who held hands or men who opened car doors for their wives. This became my example of a healthy marriage. It was the romantic's view on marriage. I soon learned, after becoming an adult, that the people I deemed as healthy were some of the most unhealthy. Although holding hands was and is sweet, it doesn’t sustain you.
Ashley Simmons has been married to her wonderful husband, Tim, for 18 years. They have served in ministry together since the day they were married. Tim and Ashley have 2 beautiful children, Cole 14 and Kennedy 13. Tim serves as Executive Pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Olive Branch, MS and Ashley serves on staff at the Guest Services Director. Her hobbies include "having two teenagers! It is quite time consuming." Ashley loves to write, share her story and minister to women. Before coming to Life Fellowship, Tim and Ashley traveled and spoke on the restoration of marriages. The tour was called, For Love For Life. The enemy wants to destroy the family but they have seen God turn ashes in beauty! Read more from Ashley at www.ashleylsimmons.com. This post appeared on Bridgette Tomlin's Sanctuary Ministry Wives blog on 02/13/17.
Where do you go to learn about being a minister's wife?
It is our desire here at Refresh to see that each woman has a positive experience in partnership with their husband in ministry.
Bloom wants to provide guidance, support, connection, and encouragement to wives new to ministry through a connection with a seasoned and trained minister's wife using a Connect group created specifically for you. We'll use books to guide us in our conversations about the challenges, issues, benefits, and rewards of being a minister's wife.
We believe when women are strengthen, our families and churches are strengthened, and the ministry of the gospel is strengthened.
Interested in joining a Bloom Group?
Let us hear from you. Next group starting April 2018.