Meet Ryan and Markey — Ryan’s a pastor and Markey is a homeschooling mom. Combining marriage and ministry hasn’t always been easy for them, but the rewards have outweighed the difficulties over the years. In the past 20 years of marriage, there have been times when Markey has pushed her way into something Ryan was doing for fear he would choose ministry over her. There were times that Ryan unintentionally left Markey standing alone simply because he was so focused and excited about what God was leading him to do. Then they threw kids into the mix and, as you could expect, that brought on additional challenges in their relationship. But two things that have remained true about this couple over the years is that they love people and love doing ministry together.
Join Ryan and Markey as they invite you into their story, and offer some best practices and much needed boundaries from their experience to help engage with family well as you’re doing ministry in this season and beyond.
There are so many ways our spiritual enemy will try to divide our marriages and push us to live with resentment for each other and the ministry God has called us to. Every day we have to fight against things such as comparison, feeling left out, and shutting down. No one prepared us for how tough ministry could be on our marriage if we didn’t have boundaries. It’s definitely not a “9-to-5” job. The expectations can at times feel unrelenting and the burdens we carry can sometimes feel like just too much.
Most importantly, though, no one prepared us for how much joy ministry brings and how much it would strengthen our marriage when we did have boundaries. We can honestly say our marriage would not be as healthy and purposeful as it is today without serving God with joy as we walked in the call to full-time ministry together.
With the right best practices and a few boundaries, God can use our families as a strong force that will grow us as individuals and build His kingdom.
1. Your family is your first ministry.
One day, ministry will be behind you. There will no longer be long Sundays, hospital visits, staff meetings, or added stress. Your family, however, will remain. The degree to which we invest in our marriages and our children now and put them above all things, will not only determine our immediate health, but also when every “endeavor” in this world fades away.
Take the Apostle Paul for example — even Paul noted the importance of keeping your family above vocational ministry and seeing them as your first and most important ministry. When laying out the qualifications for a pastor, he talks about family right in the middle of it all:
“…for if someone does not know how to manage [lead] his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” — 1 Timothy 3:5.
Here are a couple of things we’ve done to grow in this area:
- Be fully immersed in each others’ spiritual lives. This includes healthy conversations without kids, as well as praying together.
- Plan growth opportunities. Pastors are great at event planning, so bring that into your family! Plan spiritual opportunities such as retreats, family Bible studies, nature walks, and more.
- When you say you’ll be home, be home. Yes, emergencies arise. But know what’s really an emergency and what isn’t. Once we’re home, we need to put the phone and computer away and be fully present. This is truly what our family needs!
2. Celebrate and tackle ministry together.
We have always referred to the ministry we each do as our ministry. No matter which spouse holds the title, we are both called by God. Now that we have kids, we involve our kids in as many ways as possible and try to help them learn how to use their gifts, too. We minister as a family, even if we are all doing slightly different things.
Here are a few ways you could start to make ministry a family focus:
- Share thoughts, ask for opinions, and then really listen to the answers. Ask if there is any way your spouse or kids would like to be involved, but be sure to not expect a particular answer.
- Learn each other’s personality. When it comes to ministry, if your family loves details, share them! If they are visionaries, share your ideas and let them dream with you.
- Protect each other from gossip. Gossip can cause you to look at the people you minister to together differently. Share issues that need sharing, tell each other what you need prayer for, take the burdens to God together, and confront everything with grace and truth.
3. Engage with trusted mentors and counselors.
There have been many times in our marriage where we both have felt alone — feeling as if we have to have it all together, shoulder ministry on our own, and raise perfect kids. But these are all lies! At the time, every one of these lies made complete sense and kept both of us from opening up with each other. Sometimes bringing trusted friends or even professionals into the conversation can help us learn how to process our emotions in a way we couldn’t have figured out on our own.
Here’s what we’ve learned through engaging with mentors and Christian counselors:
- We all need someone. God designed us to do life together, and this includes mentors or other professionals! We all need someone to listen to us, extend grace, point us to truth, and help us regain a Godly perspective. We need people to simply be there for us with the intention to have a conversation that’s all about what we’re going through.
- Counseling is all about you. Therapy can get a bad wrap, but when we struggle with knowing how to communicate or connect with people, whether a spouse, child or otherwise, a counselor can help give us the tools to turn the corner in those relationships. Our family has been to counseling multiple times for a variety of reasons, and we are all stronger because of it.
- Do the hard work. As with any relationship, we will get out of it what we put into it. Counselors and mentors have great tools and advice, but it’s up to us to take that wisdom and apply it. The more we apply, the healthier we will be. Then, the healthier we become, the more ministry we can do and the more people we can influence for Christ!
As you seek to engage with your family in this season and beyond, we hope you hear this:
God can do more through our families when we work as a team than when we stand alone!
It’s important to take time every year to reevaluate where you are headed as a family and what you need to put into place to get there together. As pastors, when we do this, God is faithful to strengthen our families and our ministries on so many levels. We are stronger together!
Are you or your spouse experiencing overwhelm in this season? Check out these resources if you want to read more on this subject.
Relationship Goals (message series)
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