I’ve served in full-time marriage ministry at a local church for over a decade. In my role, I have the privilege of helping to prepare couples for marriage, to help establish them as newlyweds and to enrich and help restore married couples.

No one grows up thinking they want to be a marriage pastor. Yet, most days I wake up believing I’’m living the dream.

However, let’’s be real. Like most jobs and ministry opportunities, some days the dream is more like a nightmare. I want to share three things about marriage ministry I learned the hard way, in hopes that you won’t have to learn these lessons in a similar fashion.

I Care Too Much About What People Think Of Me

When you work with couples, you quickly learn God’’s way is not always the popular way. I can choose to fear man and tell a couple they can live together or have sex before marriage. Or I can graciously share truth with them and challenge them to rethink their decisions and take some action.

Galatians 1:10 is a verse I have had to cling to over the years in marriage ministry: “

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”.

The easier choice is to let people do what they want to do and have them like me. But, it’’s become clear to me that pleasing man is not always compatible with pleasing God.

If You’’re Gonna Teach It, You Better Live It

 “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”. James 3:1

Sometimes I think I can be a great marriage pastor without being great at marriage. Yes, there are times when I will fail as a husband, dad, friend and pastor and none of us can be perfect.

But, if I am going to lead people with integrity in marriage ministry, then I better practice what I preach. This is often a whole lot easier said than done.

People’s’ Lives Are Messy

I sat down with a very close friend a few days ago as he confessed to one sin after another in his marriage. I had mentored this man. I’d watched him grow into a godly man. I officiated his wedding.

Yet, on this day, he sat on my couch and cried and confessed. I wasn’’t mad at him. I wasn’’t disappointed in him. I was just sad. I cried with him. The greatest blessing in marriage ministry is also the hardest thing about marriage ministry.

The number one thing I have learned the hard way in marriage ministry is how hard it is to watch people you love make destructive decisions.

In spite of the hard lessons, serving in marriage ministry has allowed me to better understand how to be a servant of Christ. It has also forced me to up my game at home as a husband and dad, and helped me to gain greater empathy for people.