Is Marriage In Conflict With Your Ministry?

Ministry LetterpressMany spouses feel their marriage is in conflict with the ministry God has given them. Their attitude seems to be: “If I really give to my marriage what all these books and counselors say I should, my ministry will suffer. Marriage is important, but my ministry is for God, and he deserves 100 percent.”

This type of thinking translates into the resolve that “I will respond to anyone who calls at any time other than my spouse. Even if my spouse needs for me to be at home with him or her, if someone else calls for my attention, he or she will just have to understand that God’s work comes first.”

Perhaps the bluntness of the above statement makes it seem like something that you would never say. However, this type of thinking can creep in subtly.

Marriage Vs Ministry?

The reason for this error is a misunderstanding of how marriage and ministry fit together. Many couples believe and live as if marriage and ministry do not fit together. They view these two areas as being in irresolvable conflict and feel that one must be subordinate. Frequently, this translates into a severe neglect of the family, because “serving the Lord” is more important. Those having this attitude defines service to God as “spiritual things that take place outside the home.”

Other couples believe that marriage and ministry ought to fit together. So they run back and forth between the two. The fit is never comfortable or easy, but they enjoy some success from their juggling efforts.

Managing the Family Well

The first approach, a neglect of the home, is clear disobedience to God’s standards for those who oversee his church. Paul tells us that “[an overseer] must manage his own family well” (1 Timothy 3:4). Obviously, a pastor cannot manage his home if he is never present. The second approach will work when both areas make major demands at the same time. Those who try to take on both equally are prime candidates for burnout.

There is a better way. I have seen it work for people who made a commitment to it from the beginning. It also works well for those who first chose one of the above approaches and then struggled hard to change horses in midstream. This is a third option regarding marriage and ministry. We view our Bible studies, singing in the choir, our teaching, or our counseling as a part of our ministry, so we must see our marriage as a viable part of our service to God.

One of the most important assets in an effective ministry is a healthy and strong marriage. Many people in ministry are failing God because of problems in their homes. These problems have been generated by their neglect.

Traps

One of the traps that many ministry couples have fallen into is that of separating spiritual things from earthly or mundane things. God makes no such distinction in our lives. We are to honor him and give glory to him in everything we do. Surely God would not have us neglect our families for the sake of his church. Rather we need to nurture our relationships at home so they, by example, can strengthen the body.

An example of this is found in a young pastor who believed that the things he deemed “spiritual” must be treated as being more important than those he felt were of this world. Early in his ministry he worked six long days in the church.

On his “day off” he left his wife and three small children at home and spent twelve hours in the streets passing out Bibles. This pattern was repeated for ten years, and his marriage and family suffered greatly. He said to me, “How I wish I understood that loving my wife and nurturing my children were also ministries!”

How we must grieve God when we neglect the very relationship that is to illustrate Christ’s relationship to his bride. What a greater affront is that we do it “in his name.”

Neglecting the Family

Several years ago I was counseling a ministry couple whose marriage was on the verge of breaking up. This pastor’s neglect of his family was staggering. I suggested to him that his pattern of behavior was not of God. He replied: “You do not understand. Whatever crosses my path is from God and requires my complete attention. I cannot say no. He will care for my family.”

This minister had defined ministry as absence from home. How sad it is that he never saw that his family had also crossed his path and that his ministry to them was as important as any speaking engagement!

Everything we do is to glorify God, and all that we strive for is to be in service to him. This is as true of listening to and encouraging our spouse as it is of being at the bedside of a dying parishioner. God makes no distinctions: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

We are to be Godly Examples

The idea that every area of our lives is to be considered service to God is powerfully emphasized by Peter’s exhortation to elders. He says that overseers are to shepherd others while also serving as examples to their flocks. Paul reiterates this idea many times when he says, “Copy me” “Be imitators of me.” We are to be godly examples to those we serve. This certainly includes all areas of home and family life as well as all aspects of our church ministry.

A perfect ministry and a perfect marriage are not necessary in order to glorify God. However, obedient hearts that strive to please God in every area of life are necessary if our example is to bring honor to the name of Christ.

This article comes from the book,  Counsel for Pastors’ Wives -written by Diane Langberg, published by Zondervan. In this book Dr Langberg offers sympathetic and realistic answers to 14 questions submitted to her from pastors’ wives —ones that are often asked. All of the answers require acts of faith, renewed patience, and wisdom that must come from God. With these divine resources come healing and possible solutions.

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Filed under: Pastors and Missionary Marriages

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Comments

76 responses to “Is Marriage In Conflict With Your Ministry?

  1. The first institution in the Bible was between a man and a woman, thus the institution of marriage. Church gatherings came later. Our most important ministry is to our spouse and our children, along with other relationships with extended family. They will be with us from the beginning of our lives to the end. We should be faithful in our churches, ministries, etc…but our first loyalty is to God, then our families. I’ve heard of a local pastor and his wife that will not attend the grandchild’s baby or wedding shower, a family birthday party, etc…if there is something going on in the church at the same time. Even though the grandchild begged them to attend, they would not, even when they could have rearranged things to allow them to attend those events.

    I think anyone can act holy in church, but how they act with their families in their home is how they really are. How those young grandchildren must look at the church. I have two friends whose husbands abused them at home, but acted spiritual in church. They are both divorced from those men.

  2. I met my husband in a backslidden condition; prior to meeting him I was married and divorced and in ministry. Then I fell into alcoholism daily, and drug use. We met at this time and he was into drinking and drugs too, so we got married. I told him I am called to the ministry so he said he understood so God thrust me back into my ministry (prophetic,deliverance,etc.)

    God delivered me from alcohol and drugs overnight and I have 2 meetings a month. It is going well but my husband has changed he is doing even more drugs being disrespectful. It is just a mess. I have the call, it is my life and I cant go back. I feel like he wont be able to support me like I need. It’s hard because I love him, but he has changed and I know what I have is spiritual and I realize I feel a disconnection. Just need prayer for Gods will to be done.

  3. I am a pastors wife. My problem is my husband is so involved in church we are growing apart. When I try to discuss this I am either ignored or told the Church and God come first. Or I should pray about it and get myself right. Then he becomes angry and spends more time at the Church. I am tired. My husband chose to be a pastor without my blessing. I feel I have lost the life I had. I am a Christian. I love The Lord. I don’t feel this is my calling.

  4. I would like to find out if it can work where a couple are pastors but they are ministering in different denominations? Is it a must that the wife should follow the husband? I feel it is a challenge because of the church politics the churches have.

    1. Hi Cindy, Everyone may have different opinions on this. I certainly don’t throw stones at other’s opinions because I don’t know that I have the “anointed” answer for this. But personally, I’m not comfortable with a woman being a main pastor, but I definitely appreciate those who head up women’s ministries and also those who head up family and children’s ministries, discipleship, and such. Those are the ones that come to mind from the top of my head. Again, this is my personal opinion. But I’ve met some women pastors that seem to do a good job.

  5. My problem is financial. I work and he doesn’t. He wants to be full time with God. Can anyone help me? Please, we just had an argument!

  6. My daughter married a youth minister and they soon were accepted into a wonderful ministry at a small church. She became the children’s pastor after a few years and then they had their first daughter. In two years she has a 2 year old and just had a set of twins! They’re healthy and beautiful and lots of work, but precious work. When she found out she was having twins she waited until she was almost delivered to step down, feeling she wouldn’t be able to do service to the ministry and take care of three children under 3!

    We’ve always thought her husband was a good father and husband, but little things I’m seeing and hearing are bothering me. Their 2 year old is defiant, she has slapped my face, kicked me, tells me No! And his response is soft and gentle, oh we don’t do that. Or, that doesn’t make Jesus happy. While all that’s true, shouldn’t there be more discipline? He has spanked her once, but it’s not consistent correction.

    Then, my daughter said one day, when he wasn’t around, that he told her she would have to make sacrifices as a ministers wife. I gasp to myself and said why! I didn’t ask her then because she is still emotional from having the babies. Then last night I was rocking one of the babies and the other began to cry. My daughter was putting the 2 year old to bed (another ordeal!) and he was in the back of the house. While this was happening I heard the teapot start whistling and he came running…fixed his coffee and grabbed his phone. By this time I had laid the one baby down and picked up the crying baby. And he didn’t skip a beat and went back to where he was. I don’t know if he just thought I wanted to take care of both babies :( or really what he thought! Yes, he had been at work that day, but his wife and myself had been with the children all day and we were a bit frazzled.

    He is a very hard worker for the church guaranteed… but I’m getting the gest that now that she’s home, this is all her! I’m thinking this isn’t my business, but I don’t see happier days ahead if this is how it will continue to be. Do I show my daughter what I’ve just read or just “pray about it”?

    1. I have been in full time ministry now for 14 years, about 6 as a youth minister. I fear your son in law is falling into the working for the church and not focusing on the work God has put before him. This is easy to do, especially if his mentor did that. I would say show this article to your daughter and maybe her husband also (if you have that relationship with him).

      If he has as mentor or coach (not on staff) consult them. That is a tough position to be in. I am sorry you are in that position, but it is no surprise to God you are there. Talk to God, listen for solutions. But there is an end in sight, God will work on his heart and mind, make sure you are doing the same for them and for you. You’ve got this.

  7. My girlfriend and I live together, we have plans on getting married. We both work 40-50 per week which my feelings are that our time is valuable. I am very proud of her that she put time in the children’s ministry at her church, approx 20 hours a week. I feel that this is too much time, It does not allow us the time necessary to get to know each other before marriage. I am at a cross road; I am unsure if I want to live my life with a person that puts our relationship behind for work, church, and her family. I feel that I am in 5th place in her life. I am an agnostic. I have thought about finding another that might have more time for me but I love her and don’t want to lose our relationship

    1. Every newly married couple should take a year sabbatical from outside ministries and minister to each other with counseling scheduled and many dates, and talks of setting up standards for the house now and in the future. I see that you’re not equally yoked in your spiritual beliefs. This alone would cause division. I’m not sure what denomination she attends but most churches believe in the sanctity of relationships with very defined boundaries. She does not read like she has good boundaries. I am surprised that she is living with you without honoring the marriage bed as Christ has.

  8. How do you express the concern about the stress ministering to the divorced can take time away from a newly married relationship and the concern that you want the person’s thoughts to be as far away from divorce as possible?

    1. We’re not sure what you are trying to ask in this question. Could you clarify a bit more?

  9. This article is so well spoken. It reminds me also of Mary and Martha. Jesus said “Mary has chosen the best part. Only what we do for Christ, “As he instructs us, is what is important. Jesus only said and did what God said. If husbands would lead like Christ, and love them “like” the church, women have no problem submitting. That makes for a very happy home… Heaven on earth.

  10. My husband and I have been a part of a ministry for 17 years. Our children have grown up in this church. I am an evangelist and my husband is over the pastor’s aid ministry. We have served for years.

    The problem is that our pastor and his wife of over 20 years divorced and the pastor is now married to another member of the church. I wanted to support my pastor in his new marriage, but there are so many reasons to believe his relationship with his new wife began before his divorce. I would come to church and have no peace about the situation while the man of God preached. I let my pastor know how I felt and after two months resigned from the church. I was unable to ignore Gods word; shun the appearance of evil. A few others left the church also and people on the outside have negative feelings about the situation as well. Believers have to represent Christ so that we can draw those on the outside.

    The pastor even began to oppress and suppress members that were not in agreement. He has told some of the members not to have any contact with me after I left.

    It has caused a strain on my marriage because my husband is still there. I don’t understand how he can support this.

  11. We have to realize that not only a black and white approach to performing for God purveys among ministry leads but also unhealthy relational attachments. Look up ‘love avoiding’ and ‘love addict’. Many couples in ministry will find a level of unhealthy emotional attachment to each other. The pastor who has Hero/martyr identity may avoid those he feels obliged to save, denying himself and his own emotions, therefore denying his wife’s pain and emotional need to be met as an adult intimacy not as a child being rescued, just for the super hero to fly off and save another distressed person.

  12. Well said. This will bring balance to the church and family. Society will also be in order. I have been Pastoring a church for more than 10 years. I have 2 boys, 8 and 5 year old. I am taking care of them in any way I can and help my wife with household chores.

    The only threat to our marriage is the ministry. Our fights are about the church. She behaves as a co-minister, and when I try to advice her that I will be happy if she can just be my wife and not the Pastor’s wife, there is a fight. I am not neglecting my family, but the power that she wants is really affecting us. I am thinking of quitting the ministry for peace sake. Pray with me.

  13. Of course, taking care of your family should be Christian’s first priority, as Christ is the head of the church so a man is the head of his family and he must lead with examples of love, caring and being there. However, whatever he does with his family there should be time for God as the beginning and the end of every family.