After fifteen years of being in the ministry together, we have led almost every type of group imaginable. We have watched as members in suit and tie and those dressed in coveralls both sat side by side in the church pew. Because our ministry has led us to four churches so far we have seen house cleaners, CEOS, and everything in between. My husband, being called to the pastorate, has easily found his niche in the ministry, while I muddled my way through to find my place. No seasoned pastors taught us how to be effective leaders, so we had to earn on our own through trial and (many) errors. But just recently, after a conversation with my husband, I made an astonishing realization:
We don’t lead together.
We co- exist in ministry, but that is about its extent. He has his ministry obligations and I have mine. On Sunday, we often sit separately, each talking to our friend groups, but rarely together. In the fifteen years we have been married, we have never tried to push each other to be better leaders through our marriage.
Jesus compares marriage to our relationship to God. Many Scripture passages support the idea of the church being a representation of the marriage relationship. If we, the church, are to be His bride, and He our groom, than these are some of the things He expects out of His marriage relationship with us:
- We must remain spotless, blameless and pure (Hebrews 13:4)
- We should make the most of our time together, while we are united in marriage (Mark 2:19-20)
- We are to be in unity, enjoy working together, together but perhaps in separate roles (Genesis 2: 23-24)
- We are to be moving in the same direction, not pulling away from each other (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Peter Scazzero, author of The Emotionally Healthy Leader states, “ if you want to lead out of your marriage—not leadership—your first ambition, your first passion and your loudest gospel message.”1 To think the way we treat our spouses is the way the world will perceive God! To achieve this we should love our spouse passionately, and pray for this if our passion has waned, we should strive to have a healthy marriage and lead out of it instead of allowing leadership obligations to come first and how we love our spouses is how we proclaim Christ to the world.
Here are three things I have realized are essential in successfully serving with our spouses:
- The couple that prays together, thrives together- How can you expect your ministry or group to thrive if you are not connected as a couple first? You can’t have what you don’t give. It’s hard to butt heads with your spouse or group members if you are on your knees praying for them.
- Have people to hold your hands up- It’s easy to debrief with your spouse about issues you are having in leadership, but what happens when your issue is with your spouse. Enlist the help of one or two people who will walk alongside you, celebrating your triumphs and pray for you in your trials. Just as Moses needed people to hold his hands up when the demands of carrying out God’s command got to be too much, so do we. Who do you trust to go to when you need support and encouragement?
- Work within your strengths- both you and your partner are uniquely wired with gifts and talents essential to your ministry. You have to be aware not only of your strengths, but also your weaknesses. Now that you have identified these strengths, how do your spouse’s strengths coincide with yours? Are their places where you are weak where he/he is strong?
Ministry is hard. But leading with your spouse, if you haven’t figured out your strengths, can put emotional, mental and spiritual strains on your marriage. Take the time to figure out where you and your spouse shine. Don’t be afraid to work within your strengths, and support each other within your weaknesses. Your marriage and your sanity, may be better for it.