I was a single young adult when I started leading in ministry, but these days I have the privilege of leading in ministry on staff at my church alongside my husband. We even share an office space. And while there are many joys and blessings that come with leading in ministry with your spouse, you may also experience some extra challenges and potential pitfalls if you are not diligent to keep your marriage a priority.
Here are 4 ways that my husband and I have personally made sure to prioritize marriage in the midst of ministry leadership together:
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1. Make a Commitment to Honor the Sabbath Together
You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. (Exodus 20:9-10)
In Exodus 20, God commanded the Israelites to devote one full day each week to resting because He knew that if we don’t regularly take time to rest, we will burn out. Setting aside a full day of rest is a concept that easily gets tossed aside in today's busy culture, but it is still just as important as it was in the Old Testament.
Honoring the Sabbath in your life can often take on many different meanings, but in the context of spouses leading in ministry together, I’m referring to both spouses intentionally taking time out of their week to rest.
While God was very specific about which day was the Sabbath to the Israelites, a Sabbath in your life may look a little different depending on your schedule.
More often than not, when you lead in ministry, Sunday is a work day. And while it can be incredibly rewarding to serve people and lead them closer to Jesus, it can also be exhausting (especially if you have an introverted personality).
Multiple Sunday responsibilities make it difficult to observe a Sabbath on that day, but that just means you will need to find a day that works for you and your family.
My husband and I have Fridays off and our kids don’t have school that day either, so we’ve deemed Fridays as “Family Days.” Our goal is to take a complete break from work and instead, just rest and play.
While we try to be as consistent as we can with this, there are times when we may have something scheduled on a Friday and we can’t take the whole day off to rest.
Regardless, we always try to find 24 hours at some point that we can devote to resting. It might end up being Friday at dinnertime through Saturday afternoon, or even broken up into Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, as long as it is intentional time.
We are not perfect at this, and sometimes life gets the best of us (and our rest time). We typically notice that too much time has gone by without a Sabbath when we realize we’re feeling extremely overwhelmed and tired. When those times come, we try to be intentional about scheduling some rest time as soon as we can.
If you need some time to yourself in order to fully rest, then work that time into your Sabbath. But make sure you spend time together outside of ministry as well.
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2. Spend Time with Friends that Fill You Up
Friends love through all kinds of weather,and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (Proverbs 17:17)
When you lead in ministry, you are by nature constantly pouring out to others. This is good as it’s what God has called you to do, but it’s important to balance that time with friends who fill you up as well.
Close friends are the ones that fill you up just by being around them and the ones you can be real and honest with.
While my husband and I have multiple friends like this in our lives, there is one particular couple that we are the closest with. While not physically related, we consider this couple to be family. We’ve even jokingly combined our last names together to create a family nickname for ourselves.
We do life together with this couple. We lead in ministry together, our kids are best friends, we work out together, we vacation together, we help each other with various needs, and we share our lives with each other.
We don’t feel any pressure to “put on our best face” with this couple. They’ve seen us grumpy and mean, they’ve talked us away from ledges, they’ve walked with us and prayed with us through painful circumstances, they’ve rejoiced with us as a result of wonderful blessings, and vice versa.
I don’t even mind my house being messy when they come over because I know they live a real life with messy kids too. It’s a huge blessing to be able to be completely honest with friends like this without fear of what they may think about us.
Ministry can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. These friends of ours are an answer to a prayer from many years ago.
If you don’t currently have friends like this, I encourage you to pray for God to bring them into your life (and bring you into theirs). He is faithful to connect you with the friends you need.
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3. Be Your Spouse’s Biggest Advocate
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Leading in ministry often puts you more in the public eye, especially if you regularly communicate through teaching, preaching, writing, etc.
Sharing your weak moments and struggles when communicating is an effective way to connect with and relate to your audience, but you will want to be very cautious about sharing any of these types of things about your spouse.
Their shortcomings and struggles are only theirs to share, unless they give you explicit permission.
It can be easy to innocently mention a mistake or misstep that your spouse has made in order to illustrate a point. But this can be very damaging to your spouse if they are caught off guard, as it can feel very exposing.
It’s important to protect your spouse in all your actions by always keeping their confidence and esteeming them publicly (i.e., it’s not wise to share details of an argument you had that morning in the midst of heightened emotions).
This is true for any spouse of someone who leads in ministry, but especially if your spouse leads in ministry as well: you could easily undermine their influence and authority (as well as your own) with what you say.
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4. Recognize that Your Family Is Your Main Ministry
For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:5)
You are the only dad, husband, mom, or wife that your spouse and kids will ever have. God put you in their lives because He knew you were the best person to invest in them, so it’s important to make sure you don’t shortchange them by focusing on people outside your family more.
It can be appealing to focus your efforts on helping people besides your family because they can seem more appreciative, and you don’t have to live with them 24/7.
It can be easier to put on a brave face for the people you see once a week or meet with on a regular basis, but it takes real character to be a loving servant to the people in your house who may steal your favorite snack or poop on your floor (hopefully this would be your kids, not your spouse).
“If you’re winning at work but losing at home, you’re losing.” Carey Nieuwhof
Sometimes ministry work is easier to “win” at than home life.
When our son started having behavioral challenges at home that were caused by neurological issues, our home life was so unpredictable. He could be sweet as can be one minute, then throwing things, kicking, screaming, and uncontrollable the next. We had no idea what to do, how to help him, or how to mentally handle the situation.
During that time, we both desperately worked to “win” at our jobs because we felt like it was the one area where we could succeed and actually have some control.
While there is nothing wrong with having goals and focuses outside your family, for us it became a problem when we were trying to escape from our family by constantly focusing on work issues at home. Our family life was hard, and ignoring it to focus on work felt like a good fix; but it wasn’t.
Once we realized what was happening, we had to backtrack on some bad habits we had created and some unrealistic workloads and responsibilities we had put on ourselves, and get back to our family being our top priority.
When you make your spouse and kids your highest priority (besides your relationship with God) it makes you a better leader and better example for others to follow.
Leading in ministry together with your spouse is a fun and rewarding journey. I’m so thankful for the many couples I’ve witnessed and served with that have set a strong example for my husband and I to follow and have helped us keep our both our marriage and ministry strong.
Marriage and ministry are huge blessings as well as responsibilities, but thankfully, when God calls us to both of them, He also gives us the the ability to do both well and honor Him in them.
Cortni Marrazzo is the Communication Director at ONE* Church in Spokane, WA. She and her husband Jason have two sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. You can contact her atCortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CortniMarrazzo)
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Originally published Tuesday, 30 April 2019.