If you’re at all familiar with marriage, you know people don’t generally marry someone just like themselves. They often marry someone who is quite different from them in significant ways. The life-of-the-party guy person marries the “Can we just have a small wedding with only family?” person. The ultra-organized person marries the poet with their head in the clouds. You get the idea. If you have a spouse, you can probably think of multiple examples right off the top of your head. 

3 Keys to help your marriage thrive in ministry

So what happens when you put those differences into ministry? There are three important keys that can help spousal cooperation not only survive but thrive. 

1. Shared values

This is the piece that needs to be addressed primarily before marriage. Two people can be very different from one another, but if they have shared values and a shared vision for life, those differences can become complementary rather than conflictual. I am pragmatic, methodical, and goal-driven. I lean toward the practical and results that can be measured. My wife Janet is intuitive, good at slowing down to listen to the Holy Spirit, and sees beyond what is visible to most. She leans toward the mystics and the realities that cannot yet be seen. This match could be a recipe for disaster… except for our shared commitment to reaching the world around us with the good news of Jesus. We may go at that in different ways and see it from quite different angles. But we agree on what’s important, and we can often serve as important correctives for each other. With a common mission, we are stronger together. 

2. Open communication

The second key is open communication, which needs to take place consistently throughout the life of a marriage. Asking good questions—and really listening to the answers—will provide a much fuller picture of reality than any one person can get alone. What are your thoughts on this? In what ways is X important to you? How is God speaking to you in this? What concerns do you have? 

You’ll also need to be clear on who is good at what and the different areas each of you prioritize. One partner may be on the go all day, meeting with multiple people all over the city and making plans. The other may be organizing a household, taking care of all the basics like paying bills and making food, in order to create a home environment that is necessarily restful and also a good environment for hospitality. Very few people would be good at both. 

3. Mutual respect

This last can be a challenging one: mutual respect. It’s so easy to consider your own strengths the important ones. But it’s not true. Learn to not just tolerate, but to truly value, what your spouse brings to the table. Empower them and be grateful to them for their contribution. Your chosen roles might be different from one another—and often one may be more visible than the other—but both matter in accomplishing the shared vision of ministry. 

Defining Spousal Cooperation

Although this definition and the accompanying behavioral expressions were written with church planters specifically in mind, this definition of Spousal Cooperation applies to all who are in professional ministry roles. Consider how you and your spouse are doing in each of these areas: 

Spousal cooperation: Works together effectively in both marriage and in ministry, maintaining individual and family health 

  • 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 

Making marriage and ministry work

Essentially, the point is coming to a shared agreement on boundaries, protecting family life, and ministry. It doesn’t really matter specifically what type of boundaries you choose—just that you’ve processed them together and agree on them. There’s no one right way. Some couples function as co-pastors, while others have very clear work-life boundaries. The point is agreement. 

Consider how you and your spouse see your respective roles in ministry. Where are the differences? Where are the tensions? Seek out a counselor or other safe person to help you facilitate these important conversations. Because when you are functioning well and happily together, that’s when you are truly serving God to the best of your ability.

Coaching Spots Now Available

If you are brimming with vision to bring the way of Jesus to your community, Dr. Bob would love to come alongside you and see that vision become reality. Email admin@loganleadership.com to request a FREE 30-minute conversation with Dr. Bob and learn how coaching can make all the difference.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash