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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.

How Ministry Will Test Your Marriage

How Ministry Will Test Your Marriage

I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. – 2 Corinthians 11:27-28

Picture Perfect

I wish someone would have helped me prepare my marriage for the daily difficulties of pastoral ministry.

While in seminary, I remember thinking that my future ministry and marriage would look like a Norman Rockwell painting; quaint, warm, full of beautiful colors, and fulfilling. At the center of that metaphorical painting would be a small home representing a peaceful, Jesus-following family.

After years of ministry, I can confidently say that I don’t believe Norman Rockwell ever painted Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 11. Such a painting would not be quaint and warm. It would be cold, harsh, and heavy because Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11 describe ministry with words like labor, toil, hunger, thirst, cold, naked, and pressure.

Pastoral ministry can be a constant kick in the teeth and that’s just describing the pastor’s plight. Somewhere behind the pastor, in the background and carrying their own burden, is the pastor’s spouse.

The Challenges of a Pastor’s Spouse

If a pastor feels the heaviness of pastoral ministry, so does the spouse.

If a pastor is sad and burdened for a church member, the pastor’s spouse sees that heartache and grieves in their own way.

If a pastor is trashed and humiliated by disgruntled church members, the words and snide remarks not only hurt the pastor, they deeply cut the pastor’s spouse.

If a pastor feels overwhelmed by the burdens of their church to the point of burnout, the pastor’s spouse must wrestle with what it means to have a spouse who comes home every night without the emotional energy to engage.

Hear me if you are a young minister considering marriage—pastoral ministry is not a Norman Rockwell painting. Pastoral ministry will test the very bonds of your covenant marriage many times.

When you as a pastor feel burdened, know that your spouse is feeling the same burden, sometimes in heavier ways. When you are emotionally exhausted at the end of the day and have nothing left to give to your spouse, know that they are often left feeling lonely.

When you as a pastor “face daily the pressure of (your) concern for all the churches,” know that you will often be tempted to not care for the one person for whom you should care the most—your beautiful, strong, loving, caring, and sacrificial spouse.

Start Your Ministry at Home

So, if you are a pastor entering marriage and ministry, know that Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians are just as meaningful and weighty to your spouse as they are to you. Do whatever is necessary to start your pastoral ministry at home.

If you feel as if you have been neglecting your spouse, move heaven and earth to re-establish a healthy Biblical rhythm of life that allows you to put your marriage first.After all, pastoral marriage and ministry may not produce a Norman Rockwell painting, but a healthy marriage could possibly be the most powerful testimony of a successful ministry.

3 Ways to Put Your Marriage First

1. Connect for 15 Minutes Daily

Find time every day to connect for 15 uninterrupted minutes. The goal of this time is to simply engage each other in conversation about whatever it is that you need to discuss. While doing so, listen to each other with your ears and your eyes. And, turn off whatever electronic devices that might distract you.

2. Date at Least Every Other Week

Guard this time ferociously. Do something that will help you connect with each other emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. (No movies, unless you are going to talk a lot before or after the movie.) And again, turn off the electronic devices.

3. A Weekend Away at Least Twice A Year

All couples need extended times away where there is ample space to reconnect and rekindle emotional and physical intimacy. A church led marriage retreat, a camping trip, or a trip to your favorite theme park could help you refocus on one another in a non-hurried way.

Remember what it was like when you first had fun together and work to recreate that laughter and joy. May your marriage as a minister be the most powerful sermon you preach every week.

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

Why Church Leaders Need to Date Their Spouse, Too

Why Church Leaders Need to Date Their Spouse, Too

When was the last time you and your spouse went on a date? How often did you go on dates before you got married? Do you view dating as something that is extra or essential in your marriage?

1. It helps us keep them a priority

Next to Jesus, my spouse is my top priority. The Apostle Paul reminds us that husbands are to love their wives just as Jesus loved us. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

Even in the very beginning, we see a relational priority shift that happens when we get married. In Genesis we are told, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The word “leave” here means to loosen or relinquish. We see one relationship being left to unite with or join another relationship. There is a decision that has to be made when it comes to our priorities and our spouse.

There is not enough time to get it all done. Somebody or something is going to feel left out or neglected. We have to make sure that is never our spouse! It is essential to a healthy marriage that your time together is a priority.

For our marriages to thrive, our schedules must reflect the priority of our relationship.

For those with kids, let me just say that our kids do need us and should be a priority, but the most important thing we could ever do for or give them is a Godly marriage that reflects Jesus.

Ann Landers says, “Neglect the rest of the world if you have to, but never neglect each other.”

Ask yourself, is my spouse a priority? To who or what do you need to say no, so you can say yes to your spouse?

2. It helps us to continue pursuing them

In the Genesis account we also see a pursuing take place within this relationship called marriage. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The word united here means, to cling or adhere; to catch by pursuit, be joined (together), pursue hard. Why do we often stop pursuing our spouse after we get married?

One reason is there is often a familiarity that creeps in. There is excitement about your relationship when you’re dating or engaged. After we are married, the newness or shininess wears off and, as a result, the dating/courting is over.

Another reason is there’s an inevitable exhaustion that sets in. Life’s responsibilities, our careers, and kids demand a lot of time & energy. It takes energy to relate creatively, to date meaningfully, and to resolve conflict.

Many of us have given so much of ourselves to so many other things that we have nothing left over for our spouse.

Has your marriage lost some of that romance, passion, or fire? In order to get what you once had, you must do what you once did. Do you want your marriage to be better than it ever has? Remember, to get what you never had, you must do what you have never done.

Pursuing our spouse is one of the most Christ-like things we can do. We must remember that the love of Jesus never stops pursuing us! May we follow his example of love and never stop pursuing our spouse.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4

Ask yourself, am I pursuing my spouse?

Who knew a simple date could accomplish so much?

Helping Married Couples Get Back to the Basics

Helping Married Couples Get Back to the Basics

Do you ever feel like the pace of life keeps ramping up? Like life just moves by faster and faster and you’re wondering how you’ll ever get to all the things on your to-do list?

When I feel this pressure of all those lists I create in my head (play Uno with my daughter, have a spiritual talk with my son, take care of the yard, spend time with my wife other than watching Netflix, etc.), I find myself trying to find hacks to get stuff done quicker.

  • Can I play a speed round of Uno and let my daughter feel like she has my full attention?
  • Can I Snapchat my son a PowerPoint of the deep spiritual truths he needs to know?
  • Should I buy a bigger chainsaw for the yard?
  • How do I watch Netflix at 2x speed? Oh wait, we’re not supposed to be watching Netflix.

The Problem With Shortcuts

Here’s the problem: every time I try to find shortcut answers for relationship issues, I end up with shortcut solutions that don’t stick. Or ones that make the situation even worse.

People aren’t problems that need to be solved. They’re people who need to be loved. And people deserve time. They deserve attention. They deserve more than being flippant.

I’ve learned that slowing down and getting back to the basics is always the best bet—especially when it comes to loving the important people in my life well.

The basics sound easy to act upon, but often they’re not. One thing that has helped me, however, is simply focusing on these three things:

  • Listen well.
  • Don’t be selfish.
  • Love like Jesus.

Starting Simply

Most of us have heard stories of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, who was famous for making his players get back to basics. He reinforced the simple things such as putting socks on correctly and tying shoes tightly.

Focusing on the basics was the foundations that helped his UCLA teams win a consecutive 10 national championships. For his accomplishments, Wooden is known as one of collegiate sports’ greatest coaches ever.

We probably all have an intuitive sense of what these basics are in our marriage and family relationships. The basics are simple, but they’re rarely easy.

What is Holding Us Back?

All too often, we experience pain in our own life that keeps us from being readily able (or willing) to do the basics well in our closest relationships.

Maybe you thought for a long time you’d been practicing the basics well in your marriage, but your spouse thought otherwise.  His or her comments back to you about your shortcomings in this area probably hurt.

When we experience hurt long enough, it makes us want to protect ourselves. In protecting ourselves, we often stop doing those loving basics that worked so well for us at one point.

How Counseling Helps

I’m a believer in counseling, therapy, coaching, mentoring, spiritual direction, and all the various forms of help that get us outside ourselves. These things allow us to take a more unbiased look at what’s going on in our life and relationships.

In doing so, these forms of help are always at their best when they bring us back to the basics—not when they come up with the next new wave of whatever seems hip. Keep that in mind if you’re counseling a couple, or seeking advice for your own marriage.

What I’ve found in counseling others and experiencing quality counseling myself is that it’s best to take a deep dive into understanding what’s blocking a relationship with a spouse, others and especially God.

A Program That Can Help

That’s one reason why we’re introducing a five-night personal growth intensive at WinShape Retreat called Prodigal Love. It’s led by experienced mental health professionals who have fine-tuned a process that’s proven to help people take their relationships to the next level.

The experience is grounded in an experiential group therapy process. It fosters change through action and helping individuals learn more about themselves. I’ve experienced the programming myself and it changed how I get back to the basics in my own life.

It’s always good to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What are the basics we are doing well in our marriage?” If we’re not doing them well, then it might be time to figure out why.

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.

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