The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us. Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time. For those of us who are married the relationship we have with our spouse will greatly impact the type of minister we are to our teens. I've known my wife now for about 8 years, just as long as I've been in ministry. She was there when I applied to my job and she has been there through all the ups and downs. Not all youth ministers are married, and whether or not God is calling you to marriage will not make you a better or worst youth minister. But, by recognizing the role that your (future
) spouse plays in ministry is essential to how long you stay in ministry, because if your marriage fails, chances are your ministry will greatly suffer as well.
There is a lot I could talk about when it comes to marriage in youth ministry and in no way am I an expert; however, here are four steps that I've learned all married couples in ministry should take to make sure this relationship stays strong:
- Step 1: Involve Them - It wasn't until I had three years of ministry under my belt that my wife began to understand what I truly did. She grew up in church; however, like many people it doesn't mean you have a clear picture of life in ministry. After taking her to a youth ministry event that included spouses she began to see the bigger picture. Involving your spouse doesn't mean making them a volunteer, it means including them in on the vision of the ministry, sharing your goals and dreams and allowing them to support you when you are down. The more your spouse knows what you do, the more he or she will understand why you struggle with that one kid or are nervous to call that parent. Your spouse can be that accountability to hold you true to your values and be that true disciple of Christ.
- Step 2: Set Boundaries - If you are married then you need to recognize it as your first ministry. You might not recognize it at first, but as your family and ministry grows you will feel the tension between the two. There will be times when you need to put family first; however, there will also be times when ministry is a priority. The only way to deal with the tension is by setting boundaries and communicating with your spouse. Sit down together and identify your busy season, set limits on when people can and can't call you, and build in margin. With boundaries you can be sure that the pressures and stresses from ministry will not wear down on your marriage. (More on how ministry can hurt your marriage)
- Step 3: Create A Life Outside Of Ministry - Just as you might want to set boundaries on when people can and can't contact you, it's important to create a life with your spouse outside of youth ministry. You'll find that over time your friends will be people that come from the youth ministry; however, don't be afraid to meet people who aren't involved at all. Make sure that you can spend time together doing things totally unrelated to your day to day tasks and be cautious of making your conversations only about work. It's not that ministry is bad for the marriage, you just need to be cautious that we aren't making the center of your relationship.
- Step 4: Grow Together In Christ: Just as you should be growing as a disciple on your own, you need to make sure that you and your spouse are growing together. One of the best ways to do that is by making sure you are in adult small groups. It can be together or separate, but find people who will pour into the both of you and your marriage. Build a prayer life together, read scripture and make sure you attend worship together on a regular basis. And above all else never pull the, "I'm the youth minister card." on them because it will never bring any good.
Your spouse should be your best friend, your lover and your number one cheerleader. Never assume that they are going to become those things, it's something you'll have to work at constantly. I love my wife because of everything she is and everything she inspires me to be. I hope that your (future) spouse is the same for you. Never let ministry or work take over, just focus on God and allow His grace to fill your marriage with joy.
How do you balance marriage and ministry?
Which Step Do You Struggle With The Most?