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.
We can get ourselves into a terrible shape if we don't watch it. It took a supportive husband, small steps of buying, encouragement from friends, and asking the Lord for help.
Liz Sarno recently wrote a blog post on this subject for Leading It and Loving It. She said, "I’ve gone on quite a few shopping expeditions, where instead of buying anything for myself I’ve spent my money on gifts for my family. I realized that I would pick out some things I liked, then systematically put them all back and replace them with things for my husband and kids. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but after a few trips where I went home with nothing for myself I realized something. For a few months I had decided that I didn’t need anything and it was more important to be a blessing to my family, so I talked myself out of doing something for me. It is better to give than to receive, this is true, but it’s also ok to take care of ourselves. While being a blessing to my family is actually a good thing, I had to remember that it’s important to treat myself every once in awhile, too...It’s a common trap for women in general to put everyone and everything above ourselves, especially for us mommas, let alone women in ministry who have the added pressure we put on ourselves to take care of everyone in our lives first."
Let me assure you, there is a way. And the way starts with you, is managed by you and is maintained by you.
The “way” begins with you making the decision to say, “I will no longer run myself to exhaustion. I will learn to block out time on my calendar exclusively for family. I will put a schedule in place each week that enables me to both lead and love it.” But you have to make this choice. I can attest to you that no one will do this for you....read more
Linda Seidler is a writer, speaker, leader and pastor and has a strong passion for building the local church. She and her husband, Tim, co-founded The Experience Church in Bridgeport, Ohio, where they lead and pastor together. Linda’s drive is to energize the church to reach its full potential and to develop and strengthen leadership. In her spare time, Linda loves to peruse the local thrift and salvage stores and has an affinity for repurposing existing furniture and items for her home. This blog post was written for Leading and Loving It.
The Healthy Marriage Check-Up
By Ashley Simmons
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... continue reading
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
Adjust My Daily Life, Lord
Last week we were asked, "Where are you going in 2017?" In keeping with this new year's theme, we have asked Jerry Harris to help us find our way. Rev. Harris, a big proponent of setting goals, gives us sound reasons why we should set goals, and practical, reasonable action steps to get those goals accomplished. It's with pleasure we welcome Rev. Harris to Refresh.
guest post by Jerry Harris
“He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.”
(Proverbs 12:11) NIV
This scripture tells us to “work our land.” What is our land? The writer was referring to the plowing and sowing of their land so they would have plenty to eat. They didn’t have a local grocery store to stop by and pick up some milk on the way home. They had to plant and plan so they would have food to live on. This was vital to their well-being and existence. If you didn’t plan ahead, you would be begging in harvest time.
“A sluggard does not plow in season; so, at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”
(Proverbs 20:4) NIV
If we want to get ahead and stay ahead of the game of life, we must develop a “working our land” attitude. Since we are not farmers, what is “our land?” Remember that the land was vital to the farmer’s well-being and existence. What is vital to our well-being and existence?
If these things are vital to me then how do I prepare or “work” my land? There must be an intentional attempt to make my land better. Just hoping for it to take place won’t accomplish anything but desperation. Just praying for it to take place won’t accomplish anything but frustration...God won’t answer my prayer! He doesn’t care about me!
“Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12) KJV
The “number” means to weigh out, to allot, and to prepare. How do we do this? By examining each area of our life and setting goals for the future.
1. Why must we have goals?
Because it is just as difficult to reach a destination you do not have, as it is to come back from a place to which you have never been. In other words, you can’t hit a target you don’t have. A person without a goal is a ship without a rudder. He will drift and float. He will likely end up on the beach of despair, discouragement, frustration and defeat.
A goal is a faith statement! I can’t see it but I believe it!
2. Why don’t more people have goals?
a. Most people have never been convinced they are important.
b. They don’t know how to establish them.
c. They fear they won’t reach their goals and consequently, are embarrassed.
d. They don’t take time to set them.
I would rather attempt to do something great and fall short, than attempt to do nothing and succeed.
3. What are the characteristics of a good goal?
a. Will I be able to know when I’ve reached my goal?
b. With God’s help and a lot of effort on my part, is it within reach and within the time period I’ve set?
c. When I achieve this goal what will be the benefit to me or to others?
Our problem is not the lack of time, but the lack of direction (focus). Our problem is not the lack of time, but our failure to effectively use the time we have.
We must not confuse activity with accomplishment, and we must stop counting our hours and start making our hours count. Consider how Jesus lived His life.
He knew what he had to do and he did it!
“My food (well-being and existence) said Jesus,
is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work.”
(John 4:34) NIV
He knew He only had so much time to do it, so he did it!
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.
Night is coming, when no one can work.”
(John 9:4) NIV
You’ve got to start sometime to give direction to your life.
Use the Adjust My Daily Life, Lord worksheet. Now is the time!
Rev. Jerry Harris is Director of Church Planting for the AG Southern MO District Council, and President of Inner City Ministries of St. Louis and Reach Missouri Network. He and his wife, Lisa, have 35 years of pastoral experience, leading churches in rural, metropolitan and city environments.
Where are you going in 2017?
Yes, it’s already mid-January, but how exciting to think that God has some amazing possibilities lined up for each of us - yes, even for you. Do you believe that? You should, because God says so in His Word. Consider the words of Paul:
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)
Could it be that part of ‘working out your salvation’ includes setting goals to accomplish what the Spirit may already be speaking to your heart?
I've not always been good at writing down my goals. I've had to learn why I should set goals, how to set them, and how to reach them. More importantly, I've had to learn how to reset goals I may not have met and how to not let discouragement keep me from reaching the purpose God has designed for my life. Yes, that has happened more times than I would like to admit!
There's a lot of information to be found in books and online about goal-setting. Here is what I've found helpful in setting goals:
Yes, January is nearly over, but it’s never too late to seek God’s purposes for your life. Whether we are wives, mothers, teachers, bus drivers, or youth pastors, God has given to us purpose: unique, special, life-changing purpose. As you determine your purpose, consider your gifts and strengths. Ask yourself these questions:
What will accomplish good for the kingdom?
What areas do I need to adjust in my life - spiritually, relationally, physically, and socially?
I encourage you to give it a try. You might be surprised to see what happens!
I had noticed her looking at him, laughing a little too loud, practically swooning over the brilliance of his sermons and cleverness of his insights. But she was my good friend, and I didn’t consider it flirting, especially since my husband paid no attention to her whatsoever. She was just vivacious and outgoing. My Bible study leader in our church (I’ll call her Ruth), was a trusted mentor and friend to me. She was the age of my own mom and had unusual spiritual maturity and discernment. So, I wasn’t surprised when she spoke very directly to me one day about my friend’s behavior. She had noticed and picked up on it instantly. I remember sitting at Ruth’s kitchen table with her eyes staring into mine, saying “Susie, you have to help your husband. You are his “safeguard” – your very presence can diffuse situations like this. Your relationship with him is God’s provision of protecting him from temptation. Don’t be foolish and ignore this, you need to bring it to his attention, talk with him about it and decide how you will handle it.” I thought about Ruth’s comments all day and have replayed that conversation in my mind hundreds of times since then. How wise and discerning she was and I am forever grateful for her directness and exhortation to a young and sometimes naïve pastor’s wife.
The word “safeguard” is defined as something that serves as a protection, defense or that ensures safety (www.dictionary.com). Ruth was right on target, as usual. Husbands and wives are each other’s “safeguards” against the temptations of the enemy. Make no mistake about it – Satan is the prowling lion seeking to destroy testimonies and lives, especially of those in ministry. Paul supports this concept in 1 Cor. 7: 1-6. Our bodies exclusively belong to one another, and our physical relationship is designed to bring us fulfillment within the boundaries of marriage. Guarding that is our charge, so that Satan will not have an opportunity to tempt us (vs. 7). I took Ruth’s warning as a wakeup call to be more intentional in being my husbands “safeguard”.
That evening my husband came home from the office, with a large box of homemade cookies, delivered by my friend to the church office that morning. (He had mentioned in his sermon on Sunday how much he loved chocolate chip cookies). Well, something happened to me when I saw that box. I was suddenly livid! I ripped the top off and said, “You want cookies? I’ll give you cookies!!” I proceeded to smash every cookie in that box with my fist until the entire box was tiny crumbs. My husband was staring at me and when I finally stopped, we burst into hysterical laughter. I’m not sure if what I saw in his eyes was relief or fear! But it quickly led to a very honest talk about this situation and how we would handle these things in the future. I was ready to send her a note saying,
Hey, my kids and I loved the cookies! Oh and by the way, YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH TO TAKE MY MAN!
But I calmed down - and learned an invaluable lesson that day. I must be intentional in guarding and investing in my marriage. I am my husband’s safeguard against the schemes of the enemy, he is mine, and we will do everything within our power and God’s to protect our relationship and our testimony. I did learn one other thing – maybe I need to bake chocolate cookies a little more often?...read more
Susie 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 and writes for Flouish.me. She has 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.
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.