Building a Marriage Support Network for Couples in Ministry
Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, penned a profound thought in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. He wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (ESV).” This passage can speak to a number of different types of relationships including leadership groups, work teams, mission groups, accountability small groups, and even marriage. But in this blog, I’d like to apply it specifically to couples in ministry having a marriage support network. The necessity to have a supporting network for married couples in ministry is essential for growth, longevity, and encouragement. Without it, the journey in life and ministry can be very lonely and challenging due to the many challenges that leadership couples in ministry face. In this short blog, I’d like to explain the value of having a good marriage network and then how to find or even form one.
The necessity to have a supporting network for married couples in ministry is essential for growth, longevity, and encouragement.
The Value of a Marriage Network
First of all, one of the best values of having a marriage support network is simply to have friends and friendships. Ministry can be a lonely place for individuals as well as married ministry couples. Sometimes, depending on the cultural dynamics of the church, the ability and opportunity to have friends in the church doesn’t happen at all. For example, in the Asian culture, which is typically hierarchical in nature due to Confucian influence, the likelihood of congregants seeing their pastor and his wife as peers and friends just doesn’t happen. This reality often causes an invisible boundary between members and church leaders that can easily lead to isolation and loneliness.
Practically speaking, having other married couples of different life stages as a part of one’s marriage network can also provide instruction, guidance, and encouragement for the couple and family. For example, newly married couples can certainly use the wise experience and guidance of older married couples especially as they deal with the newness and adjustments that come with being newlyweds. Later on, when the couple has children, other more seasoned couples can provide everything from parenting tips to even hand me downs of baby clothes and toys. Having older godly couples can also provide guidance and counseling during tough times or conflicts within marriage. These kinds of mentoring relationships provide a support and encouragement to aid married ministry couples through the hard times. This will also allow for greater perseverance and longevity.
How to Build a Marriage Network
So where or how can you build a marriage network for support. I’d like to make two (2) suggestions: 1) Build a solid small group with other staff members and their spouses within your own church or 2) Build camaraderie with other pastoral leaders and their spouses from other churches. The first option can more likely happen in a bigger church. The second scenario is more doable in a smaller church setting. This is where the seminary can also serve as a resource to find other ministry couples. At Talbot School of Theology, there is both the Talbot Wives ministry that meets on a weekly basis as well as the Talbot Alumni Wives program for graduates of Talbot. Other seminaries like Dallas Theological Seminary and the Master’s Seminary have similar programs. This is a great opportunity to build relationships with people in the same situation as well as to find long-term ministry friends.
My wife and I can personally attest to the value of having an older couple from Talbot School of Theology to be available to spend time and minister to us as well. Dr. Walt Russell and his wife Marty have been true partners for us from the beginning. Walt married my wife and I. Walt has spent countless hours talking to me about what it means to be a husband, father, and Christian man. Marty has done the same with my wife Jen as well. Without this couple especially and others as well, our journey and ministry would have definitely been much harder and certainly more lonely.
How about you? Do you have a network of other married ministry couples to connect with for friendship, guidance, and support? If not, I would suggest that you first begin by praying for the Lord to bring a support network together for you and your spouse. Second, look actively to see if others may also be looking for what you’re looking for as well. Third, make a commitment to meet frequently, regularly, and for the long haul so that you can grow stronger in your marriage as well as your ministry.
Benjamin C. Shin has served in the ministry as a pastor, parachurch leader, and professor for more than 20 years. He is a graduate of UCLA, Talbot School of Theology, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He enjoys reading, music, sports (especially the UCLA Bruins), and spending time with people. His vision and passion includes mentoring leaders, re-building churches, and teaching the Word of God. He is married to his bride, Jen and has 2 wonderful boys named Adam and Zachary. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Bible Exposition and Director of the Asian-American Ministry track for the Doctor of Ministry at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA.