If you know my testimony, you know I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. My dad turned to Christ at age 71, but I never lived in a home with a model Christian marriage. Thus, I still watch other marriages to learn how they love each other for God’s glory. Here are some of the ways I’ve seen others work to strengthen their marriage even while serving in ministry.
- Drop your preconceived ideas of a “pastor’s spouse.” If we expect our spouses to fit somebody else’s mold (even ours . . .), we risk making them a ministry appendage rather than spouses. Our spouses will find more joy in ministry if we let them be themselves.
- Pray together each day, preferably to begin and end the day. Even if you have only a few minutes to do so, make an intentional effort to join hands and give the day to God. Praying over the day’s activities invites your spouse into your life before the day begins – and thanking Him at the end of the day provides an opportunity to review the day together.
- At least weekly, share what you’re learning in your quiet time. Some spouses do their devotions together, but not all do. If you don’t, still find time to talk together about what the Lord is teaching you. If you know how I do my devotions, you know my wife daily knows what I'm reading.
- Involve your spouse in your scheduling. When your spouse has a voice in your calendar, you’re less likely to overload your schedule. Plus, calendar discussions give you another opportunity to invite your spouse into your everyday world.
- Give your spouse veto power over any administrative assistant hirings. Too many church leaders have fallen into improper relationships with co-workers. My experience is that our spouses can sometimes pick up on warning signals we miss if they’re involved in the up-front hiring process.
- Agree on issues of confidentiality. I’ve met equally strong couples who differ on this issue. Some pastors share everything with their spouse, but others limit those discussions to what they consider the most essential ones. My point is simply that both spouses must agree on the approach – or trust can quickly erode.
- As often as possible, do ministry together. That’s not always possible due to job or home responsibilities, but don’t miss the opportunities that are available. Start by asking your spouse to assist you when we you need to minister to a family, visit a prospect, etc. Just the fact that you asked can mean a lot to your spouse.
- Deal with conflict and forgive quickly. You can rest assured that Satan and his forces will want to disrupt your marriage. Avoid his winning behind the scenes by quickly resolving any conflict with your spouse.
- Take your vacations. Some of the strongest ministry couples I know never fail to get away when scheduled. When unavoidable interruptions happen, these couples re-schedule quickly. Protecting their personal time matters.
- Review your marriage annually. Two of my spiritual heroes, Tom and Jeannie Elliff, evaluated their God-centered marriage by asking the same set of questions each year. Even if that approach is not best for you, find one that does work.
What would you add to this list?