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.
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