Widowed by Ministry

I love the black and white decisions, like the time I got the call that my three year old daughter was in the hospital with a broken leg. It was a no brainer, drop everything and go. One phone call on the way mobilized my volunteers to cover the ministry event I had starting in just a few minutes.

We live in the grey. Sitting at your desk finishing the one task you’ve been fighting all day to complete and the clock ticks toward dinner time. You told your spouse that you would be home for dinner, but what’s another five minutes? You are on a roll and you work for Jesus after all. Is it OK to finish up?

When the wedding bells were ringing, the sacramental yes in ‘I do’ was the only thing that mattered in life. Now it seems that every yes we say to the ministry competes with this ‘I do’. Ministry is meant to bless the couple and yet we can often find their marriages stressed or even broken due to their commitment to ministry. How do we navigate this tension? How can we discover God’s plan and allow our service to Him be a blessing to our marriage?

The struggle is real

Marriage requires sacrifice. Ministry requires sacrifice. Sacrifice helps us to be more like Christ.
There is a clear tension that exists when we are tempted to sacrifice marriage or family life in order to be successful in ministry. God desires you to have a marriage that flourishes, and your role in ministry is a part of making that possible, OR you are not called to ministry.

Ministry should be a blessing to your marriage. This goes beyond feeding your family on the left overs from a retreat. Your life, your time off, your joy as someone who does meaningful work, should all brighten and enlighten your sacrament of marriage.

Your marriage should be a blessing to your ministry. Our world is filled with false symbols and promises of what love and marriage is or should be. Many of those we serve are coming from a place where they have experienced dysfunction or brokenness as a bad fruit of a marriage that operated outside of God’s grace, or worse a family that was broken because of a bad marriage. The world needs this living witness and whether you give it witness by having your spouse & children present at ministry events, or having yourself absent at certain ministry events because it’s your anniversary, or a child’s event, or you spent the weekend on retreat so you’ll spend the week with your family. The world needs this living witness.

It goes beyond priorities

Putting God, your relationship with God, first is a given. Next is our spouse, then family. Everything else should go to support those things. However, it’s not just about proper ordered priorities as your spouse and family are likely supportive of your role as a ministry. There will be ministry needs that go beyond your ‘normal’ work hours. The grace you receive from being a living witness will amplify your ability to be a successful minister and a successful spouse. Defending your priorities is prudent, but never forget the Sacred One is multiplying your efforts.

Protecting your Yes

Here are 3 key ways to keep your marriage first while navigating the beautiful call to ministry.

Pray with your spouse for the ministry. Hopefully your spouse is already on board with your role as a ministry leader. Praying about the ministry together with give your spouse ownership over the mission and allow futher support. Imagine the beauty of heading into work and your spouse and children know that you are going to do something important. Now imagine that they have sent you forth with prayer from the family into the mission of ministry.

Say “No”. The most important words you’ve spoke were ‘I Do’. The word ‘No’ will protect that in a variety of ways. It shows your priorities. It makes the ministry dependent on the Body of Christ and not just the leader. It models your limits which reinforces the fact that you are not the limitless one. Check out an entire post on how No is vital in ministry.

Delegate. This makes a ‘you’-centered ministry into a Christ-centered ministry. As a ministry leader, empowering others to do ministry should be a primary focus. Delegation does that time, but it empowers others and gives them ownership of the ministry and their faith. Furthermore, your gifts are not best suited to do all things for everyone. God never calls someone to minister alone.

It’s not an easy road to navigate, but God desires no one to be widowed or orphaned by ministry.

Please share this with a ministry leader you know and let’s continue to pray for each other as navigating this reality is more a grace filled art than a science.

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