What is your greatest joy in ministry/marriage?
What is your greatest struggle in ministry/marriage?
Wow. Those are two thought-provoking questions. As I contemplated the answers, a list of positives and negatives came to mind. In our twenty-four-year marriage, my husband and I have served in three different churches as youth pastors and lead pastors. There have been some low points, but, thankfully, the good times have far outweighed the bad. As I tried to narrow my answers down to the greatest joy and struggle, I mentally sifted through memories and came up with several on both lists.
Ministry/Marriage Joys . . .
• As a full-time minister, my husband’s schedule is more flexible than most husbands and fathers. He has the ability to rearrange his schedule so that he can attend our children’s daytime events, such as track meets and swim meets, and I appreciate this greatly.
• Ministry has allowed us to develop lasting friendships that continue to this day. Kids who were in our youth group eighteen years ago are all grown up now, and we hear from them from time to time. We are blessed to still have relationships with some of the people from the first church we pastored thirteen years ago, and with people in our current church. These friendships are a beautiful blessing.
• I have to include all of the wild and crazy memories on my list of joys. The time we had to kiss a pig at a VBS closing, but forgot to get a pig so we “borrowed” one from a local farmer who didn’t know we were borrowing it. (LOOONG and hilarious story) The time the rooster crowing sound effect wouldn’t work during the Easter production, so a man called out “Cock-a-Doodle-Doooo!” from the sound booth, and so many other funny stories that my husband and I love to re-tell each other and share a laugh.
...the greatest joy has been the shared calling.
Ministry/Marriage is filled with many joys, but as I thought about it, for me, the greatest joy has been the shared calling. This shared calling is an inescapable responsibility, a daily concern, a repetitive beckoning of the Holy Spirit to a man and wife to rise up and be the shepherds their assigned flock needs. It’s a partnership like none other. It’s the look the husband gives the wife across a crowded sanctuary and the immediate understanding. It’s the waking up in the middle of the night and praying for the church and for your spouse. It’s understanding that he needs me in his corner praying for him and working with him. The wife who shares the calling with her husband knows that he doesn’t stop being a pastor after office hours, or even while on vacation.
It isn’t a job. It’s a life.
Ministry husbands and wives who have a shared calling experience a special closeness. We are a team. We are in this together. The church isn’t “his” workplace, and the position of pastor isn’t “his” job. It is “ours.” I know that every marriage is different. Perhaps yours doesn’t operate exactly like mine. But, for me, this shared calling has been the greatest joy in our ministry together.
In 2 Corinthians chapter eleven, Paul lists numerous ways he had suffered for the cause of Christ. Beatings, exposure, stonings, shipwrecked, dangers, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and naked, and at the end of the list, he states in verse 28 . . .
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
That “pressure” Paul speaks of is the weight of the calling. It’s incredible that he lists it alongside beatings and shipwrecks, isn’t it? Can you testify that it’s true, though?
The shared calling is my greatest joy, AND it is ALSO my greatest struggle.
When I think about marriage/ministry struggles, I remember . . .
• People getting angry with us over matters in the church or decisions we had to make.
• People saying bad things about us
• A teenager in our youth group poisoning our dog
• Mean, untrue rumors about us
• My husband working long hours on church building projects, being called at inconvenient times by people who needed him right away, vacations that had to be rescheduled and on and on . . .
However, after considering the negatives, I would say that the greatest struggle is the shared calling. The weight. The pressure. The stress of knowing that the eternal destiny of souls is what we are working for. We aren’t working with money, houses, education, or even medicine. All of those occupations are important, but they deal with temporary things. Our responsibility is eternal, and sometimes the weight gets pretty heavy.
Sometimes the shared calling means you can’t sleep at night because you are compelled to intercede in prayer for the church. Sometimes the shared calling means you are the first to arrive at church and the last to leave. Sometimes the shared calling means you and your family serve in unrecognized capacities in the church. Sometimes the shared calling means you plunge the church toilet. Sometimes other people don’t understand the weight, and that is when a spouse who shares the calling is a great blessing to her husband.
I praise the Lord for my ministry marriage. It’s busy, chaotic, and stressful, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. One day, my husband and I will see the people we reached for the cause of Christ in Heaven, and the busyness, chaos, and stress will have all been worth it as side by side we worship the King.
Life in the Ministry Marriage is ENTRY ONE in February's blog series, Marriage + Ministry. What have you found to be the greatest joy in your ministry marriage? Your greatest struggle? Join the conversation by posting below and via our Facebook community this week.
Martha Fouts and her husband, Kevin, of 23 years have three boys, ages 17, 16 and 14. Her primary passion in ministry at Discovery Church (Yukon, OK), where the couple are lead pastors, is to serve wherever she is needed, from women's ministry to hospitality. But her personal passion is to write. With four books to her credit, as well as a blog, Martha has a wide variety of offerings for the female reader. When she manages to find free time between her taxi services to three active boys, Martha loves to go shopping or snuggle up with a good book. Looking for a new book to read? Martha has recently published a new book! You can find her works at Amazon or your favorite e-book retailer.