When we get married, we promise not only to love and cherish our spouse but also to share our lives with them. Every part of our lives: personal, emotional, and even our work life. As we enter into ministry, many of us have the romantic idea that it will be easy to share our ministry with our spouse and be involved together in all that God has asked us to do.
However, the realities and pressures of life often change that dream. The need to escape the stresses of the ministry means we many times do not talk about work with our spouse. Budgetary constraints mean we travel alone and sometimes the biggest events in our professional lives are spent separated. And in some of the most difficult of situations, confidentiality requires us to remain silent.
How then, can we share our ministry lives with our spouse in the most appropriate and meaningful ways? It is possible but will take intentionality and time to foster this partnership between husband and wife.
- Ask for input. No matter what we are facing in our ministry life, we can talk to our spouse about it. We can ask for their opinion. We can ask, “What would you do?” Our spouse will have a perspective that may differ from our own that can help us discern the best way forward in any kind of ministry situation. While confidentiality requirements may prohibit us from discussing personal details, we can still speak in generalities that give our spouse enough information to voice an informed opinion, while still respecting the person whom we are counseling or advising. Involving our spouse in this way can make him/her feel valued and as if they are a vital part of the health of our ministry life.
- Bring them to key meetings. There are times when it is appropriate and allowed to bring your spouse to important meetings, either your ministry or any board of which you are a member. Hearing the discussion, presentations, and debate in these settings will help our spouse get a good taste of the issues with which we are dealing and allow for better and more informed discussion during private times. Spouses must set their expectations properly, in that they may be asked to step out of the meeting during votes or during discussions that are particularly sensitive. However, attending any part of these essential ministry meetings will go a long way in sharing these experiences together as a couple.
- Build common relationships. Since the people in our ministry lives often play a huge role in every part of our career and professional life, it is essential that we intentionally connect our spouse with those ministry leaders and their spouses. Getting to know one another in both social and professional gatherings will help to deepen the connection between colleagues, which can only enhance both the in-work and out-of-work relationships that are crucial to our own ability to thrive holistically. Sometimes ministry spouses enjoy getting together on their own to share with one another the joys and challenges that are unique to their own situation. They struggle in ways that non-ministry spouses don’t. They can find a real, genuine camaraderie that brings encouragement for the long haul. It will take effort and intentionality to grow these relationships, however. Give it the time and effort that it needs, and the benefits will definitely be worth it all.
- Share resources. In the course of our ministry lives, we are constantly bettering and growing ourselves through books, videos, articles, conferences, and other opportunities to enhance our own ability to serve. We must realize that our spouse will also benefit by having access to these resources. If you read a good book relevant to your ministry, offer it to your spouse to read as well. Bring your spouse with you to a conference. Watch a ministry video together. Email each other articles that made us think. Together we can grow stronger and more mature in our own lives, as well as in our ministry and professional lives. Doing it together will make it all the more meaningful and drawing us closer as a couple to the ultimate glory of God.