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.
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