How to Stay Married and Stay in Ministry

How to Stay Married and Stay in Ministry

It seems on an almost weekly basis there is another story about a pastor who gets into hot water over infidelity, to or another ministry couple who splits up for any number of reasons. Every one is simply heartbreaking to read.

To be sure, being married with any job is hard. Being in ministry isn’t necessarily harder than being married to an accountant, but it makes it different. Being a pastor’s spouse has its own unique challenges.

Katie and I have celebrated 12 anniversaries as a couple. And there are eight things we’ve learned about being married in ministry and how to survive. These are applicable to all couples, they are especially important for a married pastor

1. Deal with your baggage quickly

Everybody has hurt and baggage from their past. What many people don’t realize is how much that hurt, when not dealt with, how it affects your present and future.

You quickly see yourself through the lens of your baggage. You hear what people say through the lens of that baggage. Most fights in marriage come from someone hearing a parent or sibling or teacher in the voice of their spouse.

Because of the emotional stress that can come in ministry and church planting, past baggage has a way of popping its head into many situations.

2. Grow together spiritually

Most pastors do not have a plan for how they will grow spiritually or how they will lead their wife spiritually. They spend all their time counseling others, leading bible studies, preaching, teaching and yet, when you ask, “How will you grow spiritually? How will you as a couple grow spiritually?”

Sadly, many pastors give you a blank stare. An easy way for you to help your wife grow spiritually is to help her find good books to read. On a regular basis Katie and I will talk through areas she’d like to grow in and I’ll be on the lookout for books in that area.

3. Spend time together

Most ministry couples think that because they are spending time together working on the church or their church plant they are spending time together. You aren’t. You are together, just not actually building into your relationship. You’re working.

You need to carve out time just for you as a couple and then as a family if you have kids. No church talk, no church work, no church thinking. Yes, it’s your calling, I know. It is also your job. Turn it off.

4. Understand the season you’re in

Many church planters have young kids and so they find themselves in stressful seasons that seem to come one after another. Ministry seasons run long and it is easy if you aren’t careful to pile them on top of each other.

Sit down and figure out when you will be the busiest in the year and when it is the slowest. For me, the slowest month is June because school is out—so I take my summer break then. If you are in a busy season, name it, talk about it as a couple. Make sure you plan to rest before it and after it.

5. Take a break

Along with identifying the season you are in, you should be taking a weekly day off, a weekend off from preaching, a retreat day each month. I know, church is so busy and you are needed by everyone so you can’t take time off and no one preaches as good as you do. All of that is also a sin because you didn’t die on a cross for anyone and you aren’t building your church, Jesus is. So, take a break.

Protect your schedule because no one in your church will, it isn’t their job. You are in charge of your schedule. On top of that, most church planters are workaholics when they don’t have to be. No one knows what you do all day and yet most planters easily put in 60-70 hours a week.

Delegate, take your day off, play with your kids. A lot changes when a leader decides to use his schedule wisely instead of letting it use him.

6. Spiritual warfare

While every Christian experiences spiritual warfare, there is a heightened level of it for a leader in a church—whether that leader is paid or unpaid. You are moving towards the front lines of the battle and your target is bigger.

For a leader, this typically is anything that keeps peace from being in the home. Poor sleep for kids, night terrors, sickness, petty battles from friends and family.

7. Get some friends and hobbies

I’ve written before about how pastors can make the worst friends, but pastors typically don’t have any hobbies outside of ministry or reading leadership or theology books. Those aren’t hobbies, that’s your job.

When we planted Revolution church, I started mountain biking and it not only helped me get healthy, it kept me grounded in my stress level. It might be birding, coaching your kids team, hunting, working on a car, or knitting.

You need a hobby and some friends who won’t talk about church to do it with. You need a place where you aren’t the pastor or the pastor’s wife, just a person.

8. Have a vision for your family

Every good pastor has a vision for their church. They can tell you what the preferred future is, where things will be in 12 months or 18 months. If you ask that same pastor where his family will be in one year, what the goals for his family or vision for his family is, you will get a blank stare.

At any given moment, you should be able to say the goals your family has for the next 2 – 6 months. What are you trying to accomplish? This vision helps you decide what kind of vacations you take, what activities your kids do, what gets your time. Here’s a post to help you put yours together.

While it seems like every week another pastor falls out of ministry, his marriage going up in smoke, or another pastors kid makes the headlines for hating Jesus. Staying married and loving it while in ministry is possible.

Joshua Reich is the Lead Pastor of Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ. He’s the area lead for Acts 29 in Arizona, speaks at a variety of conferences on church planting, leadership and marriage. His first book, Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More, came out in October, 2015.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

“When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, His answer was to love God with all you are and to love others as well as you love yourself. Loving God in your individual life greatly impacts your married life.” – Married People: How your Church Can Build Marriages that Last

I’m married and I love Jesus. I also love this truth from the book from Ted Lowe and Doug Fields. It’s not something I’ve always understood, and it’s not something I’ve done perfectly in 16 years of marriage. It is, however, something I’ve come to see as completely and fully true.

For me to sincerely love my wife with the best kind of love, I’ve got to totally love my heavenly Father first.

Here are some of the ways I think you too could take steps to Love God First:

1. Understand What God Thinks of You

To truly understand God, it’s important that we can correctly answer the question, “What does God think of me?” If your answer is “disappointed, angry, or ashamed” then think again. This wrong thinking will bleed over into your other relationships, most directly your marriage relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a perfect example of how our Father God responds to our own sin and mistakes. We actually don’t get what we deserve, and instead receive a love from God that surpasses anything we could earn. Love God First, means understanding how much God Loves You.

2. Reflect a Deepening Relationship With God in Your Schedule

My family knows that when I head out to the porch with my journal, Bible, and a cup of coffee that I’m doing more than drinking coffee on the porch. If you want a relationship with Christ that is a priority, then you’ve got to actually put Him first.

If you’re a morning person, then when you seek God will probably be in the morning. Maybe you have a clearer head at night; then the evening becomes the time you learn and grow by reading God’s Word.

The time of day isn’t as significant as making time for the study. If I want my wife and family to know where my priorities lie, then they need to see that it’s actually a priority with my time.

3. Talk Openly About What God is Doing in Your Life

My relationship with Jesus, and my love for Him naturally leads into a deeper relationship with my wife. It happens because this relationship with God, always gives me things to talk with my wife about.

I get to speak of the story God is weaving in my times with Him. I get to tell of the work God is doing in my life. And I get to tell of the areas God is changing in my life.

If you ever struggle to talk to the one you’ve chosen to love the rest of your life, then just share what God is showing you. It’s the private conversations your spouse will appreciate the most.

What are some ways that you love God first?

Jonathan Cliff is a huge advocate for the family and church working together to see everyone experience Christ in rich and new ways. He and his family life in Athens, Georgia. He regularly blogs at www.jonathancliff.com and is found on twitter at @jonathancliff.

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

This is an encouragement to those who are limping in leadership. I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences.

Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss where we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially when God called me into ministry.

I entered ministry limping.

The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.

They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.

If this is your story if you have a limp and you’re in leadership, I have a few suggestions. Here are five ways to lead well when you have a limp:

1. Don’t hide your limp

There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’ve lost their way or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward.

You don’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t true, either. Your story is your story.

2. It may be God’’s way of keeping you humble

Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past. I can’t change it or hide it, at least for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.

3. Don’’t be a martyr

No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’t wallow in your misery forever.

It’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up. Recognize it’s true and deal with it. It’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.

4. Allow it to strengthen you

You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again—and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it.

There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things.” But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.

5. Be empathetic

There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.

Keep limping across the finish line. Don’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.

Ron Edmondson is a husband, dad, pastor, church planter and church growth/organizational leadership consultant in Lexington, KY. Check out Ron’s blog for great leadership advice.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

Spending time with God is the most significant contributor to the intimacy we share in our marriage.

1. Time with God Gives Me a Wider Perspective

When I don’’t see the forest, the trees definitely get in the way. What are some of the trees you ask? I’’ve been guilty of coveting my neighbor’s house for one. I remember a time when moving to a bigger house was all I thought about.

Sadly, the house I was living in was the answer to the previous obsession I had to get out of renting! When I don’t take time to talk to the Lord, my perceived “have-nots” really bother me. This attitude, no matter how I try to disguise it, eventually gets around to my husband’’s attention.

When I allow God, to speak to me, I have greater love for my husband, John, less anxiety about our future and I’’m easier to live with!

2. When I Make Space For God, I’’m Less Needy On My Husband

It’’s not hard for me to find “legitimate” reasons to complain, feel afraid, be insecure, hopeless etc. My “needy mode” is unattractive and makes me unfairly demanding to John. He isn’t perfect, but he is wonderful!

In contrast, when I cry out to God during hard times of worry and or depression, it’s less threatening for me to take them to John. I can be more transparent and honest with him because I’’ve prayed first and understand that he isn’t my only source for solution. It also brings our worlds together.

I tell John and remind myself, “he is the most perfect imperfect man I know!” I give him room to be fallible and affirm to him that I love him anyway.

3. Time With The Lord Gives Us “Better” Conversations

It’’s so rewarding when we use the times together to discuss things we’’ve been learning from the Lord. Our “quiet time” styles are very different, but the results are usually stimulating and provide energetic dialogue.

We end up talking about things that matter to us, often expanding our viewpoints beyond the current circumstances. It makes praying together easy and very natural. Most of the time we feel so drawn to each other that all we want to do is connect!

Debbie Woodall met her husband, John Woodall, at Bible college. They married in 1975 and now have four married children and 12 grand children. Debbie works as a freelance artist and enjoys encouraging couples in their marriages and individual walks with God.

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Yep. We go to counseling—marriage counseling.

I spent 10 years in the dating world searching for and imagining my perfect husband. My husband spent three years married to someone else before he married me. We are both pushing nearly a decade in occupational ministry, are new parents with baby two on the way, and are navigating life’s changing seasons almost daily.

Needless to say, we each bring our own history, weak spots, and relational dynamics to our marriage.

I used to be surprised by people’s reaction when I told them my husband and I go to counseling. We’ve been leaders in our church and community for many years. Perhaps “counseling” doesn’t fit people’s mold for us.

“Really? Why? What’s wrong?”  they’d say, with concerned intonations.

The truth is, nothing. Nothing is wrong.

We Don’t Go To Counseling Because We Have A Weak Marriage

We go to counseling to build a strong marriage.

So there we are in a counseling session. We sit awkwardly holding hands on faded floral couches with our McDonald’s drive-through coffees. The vertical blinds in the room are tilted just enough to let the daylight in, but not enough to expose our identity. Like counseling is something to be secret or shameful.

Counseling should not be shameful. It should be celebrated and cheered for.

When someone is engaged in counseling, it means they’re engaged in their life. It means they want to make progress toward wise, meaningful life-decisions and health.

Why are we embarrassed to need counsel or coaching? Are we ashamed to be seeking support? Ashamed that we want healthier relationships?

What does that look like?  We sit down and talk with someone much wiser than us when it comes to marriage relationships about how to have a strong, healthy relationship.

Through Counseling We Get To:

  • understand how our past impacts our present
  • learn the other’s needs in ways we don’t normally have tools to talk about
  • get an outside perspective to help us see beyond ourselves
  • dream about our future and what we hope our marriage and family will look like years down the road
  • explore what emotional intelligence looks like in our relationship—it’s worth more than money, let me assure you

Do you know what the best part of counseling has been? Someone leading us through how to have those important, meaningful conversations on our own, day-to-day.

What we have learned in counseling hasn’t stayed there. It’s given us tangible tools to build a strong marriage.

Counseling is Not One-Size Fits All

I’ll be the first to admit not all counsellors are the same. They’re not one-size-fits-all. Each one brings a unique approach, education, and skill set to the table. There are even life coaches that support you in achieving future goals and ambitions.

One counsellor might not be very helpful… but that doesn’t mean allcounsellors are not helpful.  The next one could lead to a major breakthrough.

I have also been to a counsellor when everything was not ok.  And there’s no shame in that either.

Because there are just times when we need more help and guidance than coffee with a good friend can offer.

We All Need Counseling

Frankly, life’s too short to live in pain when help is out there. And good counseling still costs less than stress-leave, sick-leave, or divorce.

In North America, why does it seem more acceptable to pay for physical health with a gym membership but not for mental and emotional health with a counseling session? Either way, the responsibility is still on you and I.

Showing up at the gym without exercising doesn’t make us any healthier than buying an apple and watching it rot. And it’s the same with counseling, we have to show up and engage.

At the end of the day, I think we all need counseling. Because we’re all human. We’ve all been hurt or broken or confused by someone or something. And there is hope. I just wish it was more socially acceptable.

So, let’s let go of the shame of counseling and celebrate the pursuit of healthy, meaningful relationships and lives.

What about you? What do you think about counseling?

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