The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 144
By Pastors Matt & Heidi Messner
If marriage isn’t difficult enough, try doing ministry together. Even if you both do not have a vocational ministry position, if your spouse is “in ministry” then you are highly involved as well. Many churches hire for individual positions but in fact have the expectation of a “two for one” deal. Ministry places intense pressure on marriages, but at the same time, ministering together can be extremely rewarding and impactful.
Ministering as a couple creates some unique challenges and opportunities. For the past 32 years, we have tried to do this in a way that honors the unique calling and gifts God has given each of us as individuals and how He has called us together. This has, at times, created moments of great frustration and tension, yet it has ultimately made us stronger as a couple and more effective as ministers.
Perhaps you are hesitant about doing ministry together. You have seen “pastor’s wives” hurt by congregations, or you do not fit the expectations that come with the role. Maybe you have a demanding job and your wife is the one who works for the church. Your schedules don’t match and your days and nights off are the most demanding in her ministry. Through hurt, challenges, conflicting schedules and expectations, you wonder if it is even possible.
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Before you abandon all involvement, remember we are created in the image of God, male and female. Only together do we fully reflect the image of God. When people see a couple ministering together, they get a more complete view of God’s character and nature. Ministering together also allows you to reach people from the feminine and masculine perspectives. Some people need to hear from a man, while at other times your congregants will best receive God’s truth from the voice of a woman. Your ability to connect with a variety of people at a deep level is greatly enhanced and multiplied when both of your gifts are being shared freely.
Every congregation has its own culture as it pertains to the ministries men and women are allowed to do in a church. This article isn’t intended to debate this issue. What is important is for you to know your culture and to be submitted to its theology and expectations. If you are personally egalitarian yet working in a culture that doesn’t allow women to preach, you will experience frustration. We have been in seasons of limited ministry because of gender. There may be times when you need to set aside your personal viewpoint in order to complete an assignment for a season, but you will thrive and flourish best when you find a context that affirms your theological convictions as a couple.
Here are our best practices for ministering as a couple:
- Know yourself and your spouse. No couple has the same spiritual gifts. Your personalities are different. Consider any personality assessments you have done. Are you a couple where opposites attract and the very thing your spouse has complements your deficiencies? Or do you have similar gifts and sometimes clash over how to go about fulfilling them? What are the spiritual gifts of your spouse? What are his/her dreams? Can you honor and support those? How do you differ in personality? How can your differences enable you to reach more people? Too often we project our expectations upon our spouse and fail to identify and cultivate their deeper dreams and latent talents.
- Pursue your callings. We are aware of our individual callings before God. At times it may feel as if these callings are in conflict with the other. For example: One person feels called to the mission field and the other can only imagine pastoring a church in the United States. Yet if God has called you together, you won’t need to abandon these unique callings. Prayerfully consider how and when they can be fulfilled. Respect what God has uniquely called your spouse to do, and what He has called you to do together. Recognize the fact that there are different seasons of life where these things will be fulfilled in God’s time. Lean into each other’s gifts and complement one another’s weaknesses. It is extremely fulfilling to see your spouse being used by God to make an impact.
- Support and empower each other. “Submit to one another, out of reverence for Christ,” -Ephesians 5:21. The call to mutual submission requires humility, and unselfish love. When God calls us to be “one”, it is not meant to be one or the other. Instead, we have mutual respect for each other. We honor one another, and we are aware of our ability to either hinder or empower each other. There are times when we become self focused and we overlook our spouse. Because of this, we can leave them feeling marginalized. The only remedy to this natural tendency is to strive to communicate clearly and consistently whether or not we are feeling supported. It has been said, “If you agree on everything then one of you isn’t necessary”. God has called us together to provide a differing perspectives.
- Expect this to be challenging. If you are going to minister together you will experience additional tension in the relationship. We believe this is because of the spiritual battle we face, yet it is also because God is in the process of making us more like Him. Transformation is often a painful process. We often “team teach”, and in doing so, have learned preparing a message together is way more difficult than doing so alone. Preparing for a meeting where we are co-leading requires more planning, and better communication. It takes time. We will have disagreements as to what we want to accomplish and communicate. Yet if we have the same goals, the net result will ultimately be greater effectiveness.
Ministering as a couple is not for the weak or the faint of heart, but it is well worth the challenges it may create. God has called those in ministry to “equip the Church for the work of the ministry” as Ephesians 4:12 tells us. One of the best ways we can do this is to reflect and exemplify God. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveal a relationship that is honoring, empowering, and submissive to one another in their unity and oneness. This example has been set for us, to become more Christ-like in our relationships and in ministry. We have found it is out of our love and unity, ministry flows best and most effectively. We pray this will be true for you as well.
Doing ministry together is not easy, but we believe that as a couple you are better together than you are alone. You have a broader perspective. You bring more gifts to your ministry. You will be more accountable. You will grow personally and as a couple. You will model to others an empowering relationship. You will connect with a broader audience, and you will more fully reflect the image of God as you do it together.
BONUS: Watch this episode on YouTube.
Matt is a certified consultant with the Malphurs Group, and Heidi is a Regional Pastor with the Foursquare Church, overseeing 50+ churches in Northern California, Utah, and Nevada.