I can’t think of anything I love more about being a Worship Leader than serving alongside my husband, who is the Creative Director at our church. There is something so special about doing ministry with family.
But along with the obvious joys of this situation, there are a few hurdles to carefully navigate. I have watched so many couples dive into ministry together only to burn out quickly and/or see their marriage fizzle. While my husband and I love being on staff together, if we’re not careful, months will go by without a date night. Or the week will come to an end and we’ll realize that our kids have been up at the church every day. There has even been a time or two where we have shown up to a staff meeting fresh off a marital spat and unable to set it aside.
For all of us who choose to serve and work with our spouse in the church, there will be a tension we must intentionally manage. In order to have any kind of longevity, we need to be proactive.
Here are 5 tips to serving with your spouse, that will strengthen your marriage AND your ministry.
1. Set expectations upfront with church leadership.
Have an in-depth conversation with the leadership at your church about your family. When my husband and I were hired, our sons were 4 years old and 1 month old. We arranged my in-office hours around my youngest’s feeding and sleeping schedule. We talked about how staff meetings would work for us. And the conversation is always open.
Make sure you and the church leaders have a clear understanding of the chain of authority. Since I am the Worship Leader, I technically fall under my husband, the Creative Director. But, since that could be hard at times, I work closely under the Executive Pastor.
The main thing, whatever your specific situation, is to be open, honest and clear about what the church expects of you and your spouse’s time and job duties especially as it pertains to your family.
2. Choose a date night. Keep your date night.
I cannot express how important it is to value quality time with your spouse. Ministry is emotionally draining! Make it a priority to get away and alone with your spouse at least two nights per month. Even if it means a cheap dollar menu meal. Just by setting the date, you are showing your spouse that they are a priority in your life.
If you can help it, try to leave your ministry troubles out of the conversation on these date nights. My favorite thing my husband and I do together is dream. Our favorite topic of conversation on these date nights is our crazy dream to retire in the Alaskan wilderness. We grow a closer bond and connection as we imagine and dream together. Do you know where your spouse’s dream place to live? If you don’t, ask!
3. Up your respectfulness towards each other while serving.
We all know that showing our spouse respect is important. What I’m suggesting is you take it up a notch when you are serving and working together. You know how as a married couple you become comfortable with your speech? There are things you would say to your spouse that you wouldn’t to a volunteer on your team. Even the WAY you would say something to your spouse differs from how you would say it to your team member.
Here’s an example. My husband sometimes runs the sound board in a pinch. When there’s a mixing issue in the monitors, this is what I might say to our volunteer sound guy, “I’m not sure what’s wrong, but the monitor mix seems a bit off. Would you mind coming up on stage for a listen?” When my husband’s at the board, I might be more apt to say, “Hey! This mix up here is awful. What are you are you doing back there?” But I should talk to him with just as much respect and kindness as I do volunteers. Our team members don’t need to hear our snippy comments and inside jokes. If you need to have a serious conversation, do it in private.
4. Plan, guard, and protect family time.
Your ministry and service to God is a definite priority. But don’t forget your family while you’re immersed in serving. It’s easy for us die-hard’s to become workaholic’s at church. There’s always a need. There’s always someone who needs help. I understand this completely, but we must safeguard our family time. If you struggle with this, you need to schedule it in your calendar and find someone to hold you accountable.
Sometimes my husband and I find ourselves shuffling the kids back and forth between the two of us while the other one tries to get something done. This will quickly lead to bitterness and resentment. The enemy is always lying to me telling me that MY ministry, MY work, and MY to-do list are more important than anyone else’s. Which is not true (obviously).
Take some time to remind yourself that both you and your spouse are doing important work. Sit down together and map out specific times that you will spend with your family together. Honor your commitment to your spouse and kids.
5. Humble yourself. Pray for your spouse and their ministry.
Praying for your spouse and your ministry sounds obvious. However, I bet I’m not far off in saying that’s it’s often overlooked. Praying for each other will go a long way in helping you squelch selfishness in your marriage. Because that’s the root of most of our troubles, isn’t it? We have to make a conscious effort to die to ourselves daily and choose to think of our spouse first.
How can you pray intentionally for your spouse’s ministry? Try praying for each volunteer specifically. Pray for future volunteers. Pray for God’s glory to be known through their ministry. And never stop.
If you are working or serving with your spouse at church, take some time to analyze how your marriage is holding up with the pressures of ministry. My prayer is for you to be intentional and balance this tension well.