By John Hebert, Louisiana Baptists missions and ministry team director
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM)–In 1985, I was a happily married father of five and in sales management. I was 30 years old and making a good living. My wife Kitty was a “stay at home” mom, although certified as a high school science teacher.
We became involved in Evangelism Explosion, a method of sharing the Gospel with others, through our church, Parkview Baptist in Alexandria. It was the first time we had partnered in a ministry effort.
The next year I became convicted that God was calling me to the ministry, coming to that realization clearly on a Sunday morning during the worship service, although I had sensed it for a long time.
I knew I would need to go to seminary to prepare for ministry, but I was overwhelmed with questions about the transition: How would I provide for my family? Would Kitty be willing to teach and be the bread winner for our family while also raising the children? Would she make enough to support so large a family? How would all this work? Would she even be willing to give up her comfortable life to take on so much responsibility?
After all, the oldest of our, then, five children was 10 and the baby was six months old.
These questions wracked my mind, especially because I had not even shared my convictions with her at that time.
The following week I finally opened up with Kitty.
I told her I was sensing a call to ministry, which meant: selling our home and moving to Fort Worth, Texas, for seminary; her picking up a teaching job; me working part time and going to school full time; and, that she would be the primary caregiver for our children.
I was afraid she would panic, and maybe even question my mental health.
But that was not her response.
Instead, she affirmed my heart’s desire, and, committed to make it work, together, while I attended Southwestern Seminary.
“Together we can make it work,” is the core of being a successful leader in ministry.
Importantly, spousal cooperation in ministry is a two-way street. It is not about the wife supporting the husband’s ministry. It is about being in the ministry together.
Many books and articles have been written about the role of the pastor’s wife, and the good ones include the wisdom and instruction found in 1 Timothy 3 and Ephesians 5, for instance — dealing clearly with the godly virtues that should be the practice of Christian women, as well as emphasizing the order of the Christian household and the bond that should be shared between husband and wife.
These verses provide a baseline of the marriage standard for couples and give a biblical model for spousal cooperation in the ministry.
Spousal cooperation is part attitude and part skill.
“Together we can make it work” must be reinforced with mechanisms that insure that the wheels “don’t come off the bus” in your marriage somewhere down the road.
You must learn how to keep the “together” in your marriage and ministry.
This skill set includes learning balance between ministry and family.
You cannot neglect your family. Make time for them, even blocking out dates and times on your calendar, and, keeping those appointments.
Be accountable to each other in maintaining spiritual disciplines in your personal lives. Come up with a spiritual health and growth plan and apply it consistently.
Intentionally develop relationships with other couples or friends that will help the two of you connect socially.
But be careful not to blur the line between family and ministry.
These relationships should benefit your spouse and family, not just be an extension of your ministry.
There will be multiple intersections between family and work, and you must be diligent to observe boundaries to protect your family. Finding a good fit for family and ministry interactions will cause your family to affirm your ministry and make them fill affirmed, too. Your children need to know they are valued partners in your ministry as well.
Work on conflict resolution at home, looking for positive ways to resolve friction.
Two people who are working together can find a way to resolve any conflict. Do not cause your partner to lose the desire to work things out together.
Model forgiveness, remembering that forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a choice.
Show mercy to your wife and use every opportunity to express love to her.
Gary Chapman, the author of “The Five Love Languages” wrote, “For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, and endure untold hardships.”
Without love, the smallest pebble of a stumbling block is insurmountable.
Work at staying in love.
Kitty and I truly cherish the ministry call on our life together. There have been difficulties, but God has blessed us beyond our expectations (even adding two more children, a total of seven, to our family). We speak from experience when we say that working together for long-term ministry success has been rewarding well beyond any costs.
Cooperation, partnering together for ministry, is a crucial attitude and skill for success as a church planter and pastor.
Work at it “together” and you and she will enjoy a lifetime of success in ministry and marriage.