Christian marriage is so important, especially among leaders. The Bible even compares Christ’s love for the church to a bridegroom’s love for his bride (read Eph. 5:25-27). But let’s face it; marriage is not a breeze or a walk in the park every day, especially when you factor in raising kids, volunteering in your local church, and your 40-plus hour work week. Marriage takes work! It actually takes more than work – it takes the grace of God and work!
Josh and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage as well as 18 years of vocational ministry. We were offered a position at our local church the week after our honeymoon, and we took it with joy. We didn’t realize then how hard ministry would be on marriage. I don’t think they teach that in bible school….maybe they should though (wink face). Good marriages take work. Ah-Maze-Ing marriages take even more work. I am not claiming to be an expert in marriage or ministry, but I have learned a few things along the way and I want to share these tips with you.
In honor of my 18-year anniversary, I want to share 18 tips to help you navigate marriage in ministry. This blog is a little longer than my normal blogs, but it is worth the read. I believe it will be beneficial to you and your marriage.
- Marriage is a Ministry.
Let’s get it straight, marriage is a ministry. My church is not my husband’s mistress…he doesn’t need a mistress; I am enough for him to keep up with (smile). Josh and I both look at our marriage as a ministry. We are called to serve one another and pour into each other. He is my priority. I am his priority. Our marriage is a reflection of Jesus’ love for His body. Therefore we need to let His light shine through our marriage.
- Raising children takes Teamwork.
Honestly, Josh and I were both petrified of having children, more so than getting married. We both experienced some grief in our families of origin and we were frightened we were going pass it down to our children. Because of our experiences, we made a commitment to God, to each other, and to our children to model repentance in our family. When we make mistakes we sincerely apologize, even to our kids. We teach our children that since there are no perfect people (other than Christ) there are no perfect parents. Our hope is that each of our kids will experience God’s love, grace, and forgiveness and then learn to give it to others. We realize this starts at home.
- Forgive each other – period!
As church leaders, we teach people to follow the example of Jesus by forgiving people who offend you. But are we practicing what we preach at with our other half? Learning to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most important components of a successful marriage. If you want a healthy and thriving marriage then choose to forgive quickly and often.
- Dating is a Ministry.
Early on in our marriage, we had mentors who told us to “never stop dating”. This was some of the best advice we ever received about ministry. It is so easy to get caught up in the demands of life, ministry, and child rearing that you no longer make time for your spouse. We made a commitment that no matter what life throws at us we will continue to make time for dates. Our date nights are the highlight of my month.
- Marriage can’t fill your every need!
Marriage is beautiful and fulfilling, but it is unrealistic to expect your partner to meet your every emotional need. Instead of expecting your spouse to fulfill all your wishes, requests, and desires rely on Jesus to complete you! After all, He is the only one who knows your every thought, dream, and desire. You will do well if you remember Jesus is still your first love, even if you are married.
- Intimacy is important for a godly marriage.
Intimacy is one of the factors in a flourishing and godly marriage. Intimacy includes sex, but it goes way beyond that physical and emotional act. Intimacy means being able to see into the deep places of one another’s lives. It means confiding in each other without fear of judgment, and knowing that which is spoken in confidence, will stay between the two of you. Other than God, no one should know your spouse better than you. Make time to create intimacy in your marriage. If you do you will stay healthy, whole and be able to minister to others in a greater way.
- Marriage magnifies your weakness.
Everyone says they want that “iron that sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) kind of relationship. They don’t realize that when you are sharpened, it means someone is rubbing right up against you. I mean they are in your space and your face! They know your strengths, your weaknesses and they know how to push those buttons. The good thing is if you change your perspective and realize your spouse is in your life to help you become holy and more like Jesus, you won’t get so crazy when he or she points out your flaws. Marriage oftentimes is God’s way of bringing your weaknesses to the surface so you can surrender them to HIM.
- Serve each other.
One of the quickest ways to grow bitter toward your better half is if you think they are serving everyone else but neglecting you. Try to find small ways to daily serve each other. A few examples are making the morning coffee for your spouse, warming up his/her car on a cold winter day, or doing a household chore you know your spouse despises. Whatever you decide to do to serve your spouse do it without expecting something in return, the same way you would for someone in your church.
- Communication is vital to marriage in Ministry.
Life is busy and ministry sometimes just adds to the busyness. If you don’t make time to communicate with your spouse then you will find yourself more easily irritated and frustrated with one another. Josh and I share a Google calendar and we also try to sit down once a week to talk about our schedules for the upcoming week. When we share our schedules with one another we help ease each other’s burdens and we show interest, care and concern for each other. Not to mention it will save you from a lot of arguments!
- Boundaries in marriage are healthy.
From the very beginning, my husband and I agreed upon certain boundaries in our marriage. You may call us “old school”, but we tend to stick to the “Billy Graham Rule”. The Billy Graham Rule means we do not meet alone with the opposite sex. We even limit our social media interactions and text conversations with people of the opposite sex. We do not do this because we are insecure or afraid one of us will cheat on the other, but we do this out of love and respect for each other. Plus no one is above cheating and no marriage is “affair proof”. We realize divorce is sitting at every married couple’s door, especially Christian marriages, because the devil desires to kill, steal and destroy our godly couples. Therefore, I will be old school and keep our boundaries, because my marriage is worth it.
- Honor each other publicly.
If my husband introduces me before a speaking event he loves to try to embarrass me. He is known for going over the top and saying things like, “She’s fine and she’s mine”, right before I come up on stage. Recently we both were speaking at a youth event and the youth director was introducing each speaker. When he announced my name, my husband jumped up in the back of a room full of a few hundred teens and cheered for me like you would see men cheer for their favorite team during the Super Bowl. I am not even going to lie-I absolutely love that he does this. And guess what? I do it right back to him. He even has his own hashtag when I post a picture of him on my social media, it is #hisholyhotness. Some might think we are too much, including our teenage kids, but we don’t care what others think when it comes to honoring one another!
- Have fun together.
Marriage should be fun, especially when you are doing ministry together. Take time to laugh, I mean the kind of laughing that hurts your stomach. Don’t take everything so serious all the time. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Ministry is hard. Make it easier by finding things to laugh about. Laughter is good medicine. It will be good for your soul and what is good for your soul is good for your marriage and your ministry.
- Fight the Devil, not each other!
In the beginning years, my husband and I found reasons to argue over everything. We are both the oldest kids and we both have strong minds and opinions. But we quickly realized fighting every day is not part of a healthy marriage. We made a commitment to God not to fight each other, but to instead fight the real enemy – the devil. That meant I had to learn to walk away and pray when I got upset as well as let little annoyances roll off my back. It meant my husband had to learn to apologize and on occasion say my favorite three words….YOU ARE RIGHT (LOL)! We both had to learn to set aside our pride and keep our mouths shut. We sometimes still have “intense moments of fellowship”, but not nearly as often as we used to.
- Complement each other.
My gifts complement my husband’s and his complement mine. Josh is the best person to have around when there is church conflict. I, on the other hand, am not. My natural reaction is to defend myself and the church. I may even want to throw insults at whoever is upset – I call it my inner momma bear! Josh, on the other hand, is composed and has a level head in conflict. However, my man can’t plan an event to save his life. That is where he needs my administrative and organizational skills. We don’t compare each other’s gifts and whine about who is better at what. We just appreciate that we are better together.
- Step out in faith together.
Two years ago my husband and I stepped out in faith to plant our second church and boy it’s been an adventure, to say the least. Honestly, it was more difficult for me to take this leap of faith than it was for my husband. Thankfully, my hubby was patient with me and he prayed to God to give me assurance. God answered his prayers. Can you imagine the amount of trust Noah’s wife must have had to help her husband build an arc in the middle of a desert with little or no rain in sight? I don’t know about you, but her devotion inspires me. Married couples are called to step out in faith together, probably not to build an arc, but perhaps to build a church, family, business or ministry. It is God’s design for married couples to partner with Him and walk by faith.
- Discern the season you are in.
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”. Most people understand that there are four seasons – winter, spring, summer, and autumn, which must change. Yet very few people recognize we also have seasons of life, ministry, and marriage. It is important to seek the Lord’s discernment for the season of life you are currently in so that you can successfully navigate through it. Perhaps you are in a honeymoon season, or maybe you just had children or started a new ministry, or maybe you are nearing retirement. Whatever season you are in God will help you and your spouse successfully walk in it if you seek Him.
- Pray together.
Prayer is meaningful and powerful; scripture tells us to pray without ceasing. We should always pray for our spouse, but there is also value in praying with our spouse, especially if you are in ministry together. I believe there is truth in the old saying, “A family that prays together stays together.” Difficulties will come in your ministry and in your marriage, but prayer will help you have peace through the storm.
- God must remain first in Marriage and in Ministry.
Unfortunately, many married ministers end up putting so many things first in their marriages, including the church or their spouse’s happiness. If you desire God to be priority in your life then both husband and wife must continuously cultivate their personal relationship with God. After all, the purpose of a godly marriage is to reflect the love that Christ has for his church.
No matter how long you’ve been married, if you put these steps into practice, your marriage, your ministry and your relationship with Christ will flourish. Remember, Christian marriage is a ministry not only to each other but to the church as well. God will honor you!