How to do ministry as a couple
By Brian Dollar
“It is not good for man to be alone.”
God spoke these words in Genesis 2:18, and no truer words have been spoken. Marriage is a wonderful blessing and is the oldest institution established by God. But often our idea of what life is going to be like when we get married is fantasy. We think we will just sit and gaze into each other’s eyes all day, that we’ll never argue, that we’ll enjoy doing everything together. We don’t think about marriage as being work!
It’s the same with working together in ministry. It has many rewards: time spent together, celebrating with each other, getting to experience the fruit of your labor many years into ministry together—but there are also many challenges that come with serving together as a married couple.
Some of those challenges are:
· You never officially clock out. You live and work the ministry 24/7.
· You may have dreams and goals that are different from your spouse’s.
· You have to balance the give and take required of each of you.
So, in light of the challenges that come with serving together in ministry, here are a few suggestions based on my wife Cherith’s and my experience to help you make the most of this incredible opportunity to serve as a ministry team together.
1. Recognize and affirm your spouse’s calling. Realize that God called your spouse to minister just as much as he called you. If you are the one who works full-time at the church and your spouse does not, it’s especially easy to forget this fact. So, talk about “our ministry” not “my ministry.” You are a team. You complement each other. Recognize and affirm that calling both publicly and privately.
Affirm each other’s calling. You both have to manage the challenges of ministry together. It’s not one or the other. It’s both of you serving the same God, the same church, the same people.
2. Pray together and for each other. Pray and seek the Lord’s will together for your ministry. Also, pray for each other and your ministry roles as individuals. Your first ministry responsibility is your marriage; so may your spouse never say, "You pray with everyone else but me." The time and energy you expend in ministering to your spouse will bear fruit in your ministry to others.
3. Leave “church drama” at church. I know too many pastors and church leaders who come home speaking negatively, “dissing” the pastor and other leadership when there is a disagreement at church. They do this to their spouse and even in front of their kids. When you do this, your spouse and your kids see you hurting because of what church leaders or church members have done and said. This clouds their emotions, and it is difficult for them to let go of it.
Don’t bring your offense home to your family. They may end up carrying that bitterness long after you have already made up with the person who offended you. Most of the time you don’t go back and tell your kids about the restoration of that relationship. They are left feeling the effects of the bitterness you ended up seeding in them (however unwittingly).
Remember: you and your spouse are on the same team. Don't dump conflict, negative feelings or anger over difficult problems and difficult people on the teammate God gave you.
4. Prioritize healthy, consistent communication with each other. Cherith and I both naturally enjoy sharing with each other how our day has gone. We look forward to sharing with each other and hearing from each other. This natural ability, however, doesn't always include the feelings and thoughts behind the day’s happenings. Sharing those important feelings and thoughts will not happen by accident, so we realize that it needs to be a priority for us to remain open and honest with each other. Those feelings and thoughts may be a little uncomfortable to share, but it is most important to talk through them.
5. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry. I’ve heard a lot of people who take the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:37 as a license to be a workaholic: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” They take these words and use them as an excuse to pour their time and their physical and emotional energy into their ministry. They leave their spouse and children in the dust as they pursue ministry goals.
Jesus said you can’t love your family more than Him! He didn’t say, “Unless you love the church more than your family you’re not worthy of me.” You need to understand that your family is your first priority as a minister. Ministering to your spouse, not just with your spouse is key! Ministering to your children is key!
I love the way my pastor, Rod Loy, teaches it. “I will never sacrifice my family for my ministry, but my family does understand that being in ministry involves sacrifices.” There is a balance, here. The minister’s family serves together in order to minister to God’s church, but never at the expense of their own family.
As you work together with your spouse in ministry, I pray you will find deep fulfillment and joy as you put these five principles into practice. God has given you to each other as ministry partners. Now, go serve together!
As a ministry couple, you and your spouse are on the same team. Successful teamwork requires good communication. Cherith and I have learned, after 19 years of marriage, that you really can never over-communicate! If you and your spouse are too busy to communicate like you should, then slow down and learn to talk to each other.
Here are a few ways you can start:
· Keep each other as informed as possible regarding ministry and personal life.
· Copy each other on emails.
· Keep each other up to date on calendar schedules.
· Send each other calendar invites and cancellations.
Brian has been a kids pastor for 24 years and is the founder of High Voltage Kids, a real-life group of kids pastors in a local church who create, produce, and release their own videos, object lessons, graphics, illustrations, skits, and more. He loves God, his wife, kids, and banana pudding (in that order). facebook.com/brian.dollar, Briandollar.com/talknowandlater