Of the hundreds of church planters I’ve coached over the years, the vast majority have been married. The impact of church planting on a marriage and family is significant. It can put stress on the relationship, and kids can feel in a fishbowl as if everyone is watching them. If you are going into church planting alongside a spouse, it’s really important that both of you are on the same page about the planting process and what it will look like for you. I’ve seen the full range of how these couples work together. Some function like co-pastors, sharing up front responsibilities and pastoral care. In other cases, one spouse has a different career or is a stay-at-home parent. No matter how it looks, spousal cooperation is key.
That said, my observation has been that there’s no one right answer to the question of how best to put it all together. There are many right ways. The right way in each case needs to be determined by the couple themselves and what they are comfortable with. Consider the following questions and each of you feel about them. Take into account personality, calling, vision, giftedness, and personal preferences.
Reflection on Spousal Cooperation
- How do we protect our family and home life?
- To what degree do we invite those we are ministering to into it?
- How do we set boundaries?
- How do we manage our time?
- What are the roles the planter is expected to perform and what are the roles the spouse is expected to perform?
- Who will work additional jobs outside of the home and ministry to make ends meet financially?
What works for you?
In our setting, we decided that my wife would simply fulfill the responsibilities of any member. She later chose to be involved in some additional ways, but that was her choice, not because of expectations that she was the pastor’s wife. As an aside– that’s one of the advantages of being a planter rather than coming into an existing church: you set the expectations according to what works for you.
Spousal cooperation is as unique as you and your spouse are. Negotiate the parameters and figure out what’s going to work for you. Many different arrangements can work, but you do both have to be in it together and agree on the principles of the approach you’re taking. Be sure to consider how you will manage the following behaviors and expectations:
- Agrees on respective roles and expectations in ministry
- Sets healthy boundaries regarding workload and its impact upon family life
- Models wholesome family life before church and community
- Communicates openly and resolves conflicts in a healthy manner
- Shares convictions regarding church planting
- Ministers to believers and unbelievers beyond regular church gatherings
Couples who are on different pages from one another are bound to run into difficulties as their expectations clash with reality. Come to an arrangement that both of you can live with, given the realities of your particular marriage, calling, and ministry context. Don’t hesitate to get a coach and/or therapist to help you sift through the complexities of ministry and marriage.
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