When Justin and I got married and entered into ministry, we were both wildly passionate about each other and ministry. Talking, dreaming and planning together always came natural to us, but figuring out how I would be involved in those dreams didn’t come so easily. Almost 20 years later, I’m still as passionate about my husband and ministry, but it took me redefining what ministry truly means to keep my passion alive.
For many of us, ministry was defined by either the church culture we grew up in or by our early years in ministry. Some of us came from backgrounds in which the pastor’s wife was expected to be a part of every church event and always bring a meal for the potluck dinner. And if you’re anything like me, the last thing you want me to do for you is cook. Some of us we were told our only ministry was to create a perfect home for our husbands to come home to (no pressure) and not to be involved in anything else.
I don’t recall receiving a manual giving me step-by-step instructions on how to be a good pastor’s wife. After several attempts to make an edible potluck dinner, I realized I needed to find my own path. Thankfully, I found that path before someone died of food poisoning. But even knowing what I am gifted at still brought about tensions for which there was no manual. I constantly felt like I had to choose between being a good leader in ministry and being a good mother and wife.
So is it possible to have a healthy marriage and a healthy ministry? YES!
The key to a healthy marriage and ministry is to constantly ask and evaluate these three questions.
1. What is my capacity? What is my husband’s capacity?
According to Webster Dictionary, the definition of capacity is: the ability to do something: a mental, emotional or physical ability
It’s important for you to have a realistic view of the amount of leadership responsibility you can handle in ministry and still engage mentally, emotionally, physically (and I would add spiritually) with your husband and kids. When a couple in ministry are both high-capacity leaders, not knowing their capacity can cause burnout. Couples who have very different capacities unknowingly make one another feel defeated for what they did or didn’t accomplish. Knowing each other’s capacity allows you to set up healthy rhythms of investment in each other and in ministry.
2. What season of life am I in?
Sometimes capacity has less to do with your leadership strength and more to do with your season of life. I talk to women all the time who feel like they’re poor leaders because they can’t lead or invest in ministry as much as they would like. When I ask them to walk me through an average week and I hear words flow from their mouth like grad-school and toddlers, I ask them to take a step back and look at all they have going on. I remind them they’re not bad leaders but rather in a season in which they have little margin to lead at the capacity they desire.
3. What are my gifts and passions? What do I feel called to in this season of life?
In my current season of life, I’m in full-time ministry. Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of traveling and speaking, which has allowed me to grow in my gifts and passions, but it’s also meant being gone from my family and my church family on Sundays. For the past six months, I have not lead worship like I normally do at church because when I’m home I feel like my ministry (in this season) is to simply sit with my three boys at church and be available to go to lunch and have rich conversation about the service.
It’s so crucial to constantly be asking and evaluating these three questions. There may be seasons when your ministry may look different and unconventional as opportunities, gifts and passions ebb and flow. The more in tune you are to your calling, the easier it becomes to navigate through seasons and maintain healthy rhythms of family and ministry. It is possible to have a healthy marriage and ministry, but it takes a willingness and humility to admit you can’t do it all, and to remember God never called you to.