Marriage Ministry 101
Are you doing enough for your spouse in ministry? It's hard to always know how to support your husband or wife, especially when life is stressful and overwhelming. Davette Bishop knows these struggles, and in today's blog, she shares how to support your spouse in ministry with seven helpful tips.
My husband, Robert, and I have spent most of our married life in full-time ministry. For the past 19 years, he has been the main preaching and teaching pastor at our church. We continue to learn that life is different for ministry families. Along the way, I have discovered a few vital ways to support my husband, and help our lives flow smoothly.
Here are 7 ways to support your spouse in ministry:
Understand study time is most productive when uninterrupted
Early in our marriage, I learned it is important to let my husband focus when he is studying. This is especially important when he works from home. I have discovered, even the times he steps away from his commentaries and goes to the kitchen to refill his coffee cup, he is still in study mode. This is not a good time to interrupt with, “Just one quick question.” He might be deep in thought or prayer and this breaks his concentration. We both benefit when he has fewer interruptions, it enables him to be fully present when family time comes.
Allow space to recover after preaching and teaching
There is a natural adrenaline crash and exhaustion that follows public speaking. Be sensitive and supportive of your spouse’s needs. All forms of public speaking are draining. This is compounded when you add the spiritual dimension of representing our Holy God. Learn how to support your spouse following intense ministry. I have a friend who meets her husband with a soda between services because she knows this helps him get through his second sermon. Some people take Monday mornings off and sleep in, others want to play basketball on Sunday afternoon. Does your spouse want to meet friends for lunch or would they prefer to go home? Ask questions, be sensitive, and learn how to be helpful following ministry activity.
Never commit for your spouse unless you are confident of their response
Experience has taught me not to oblige my husband to some engagement or task without talking to him first. Even an off-handed comment such as, “I’ll have them call you when they get home,” might obligate your spouse to do something they cannot or do not want to do. There may be a backstory. I need to give my spouse the freedom to draw boundaries.
Encourage people to use established means to talk with your spouse
If someone in our congregation needs to reach my husband, he welcomes them to email him personally or call the church office. Occasionally, someone will call me or talk to me after church and say, “I know your husband is really busy and I don’t want to bother him, so I thought I’d have you ask him…” In these situations, I politely encourage the individual to email him or call the church office. It is not helpful for me to be in the middle of the discussion.
Be a safe place for your spouse
In our family, we value working together as a team and being loyal to one another. I am always on my spouse’s side and seek to be his safe place. I do not complain or gossip about my husband to other people. I want to be his biggest champion and prayer warrior! If I need to get support or ask a question of someone who is wiser and further along than me in marriage, I go to a trusted person to talk.
Prepare for the spiritual battle
The Enemy tends to attack when we are feeling vulnerable. Be prepared for these times! Anticipate busy seasons, such as Christmas and Easter. Ask friends to be available to support you when your spouse is out of town for ministry. It is not uncommon when your spouse is on a staff retreat in the mountains and out of cell range for a kid to get sick, or the hot water heater to blow, or the Labrador Retriever to attack the pet bunny, or a teenage daughter to trip while going to the bathroom at 3 a.m. and break off her front tooth (yes, these things have all happened in our home.) Keep in mind spiritual attacks come during ministry lows and following ministry highs. Be prayed up and put on the full armor of God so you are ready to fight discouragement.
Make time to connect and talk about family life
On my husband’s day off, most often, you will find us eating lunch on a patio at a local restaurant. This is our time to connect over family stuff. I usually have a list of things I want to talk about, some questions, and a few things for him to add to his to-do list for the next week. There was a season in life when this was impossible, so we made time to walk around our neighborhood after dinner while our teens did their homework. Knowing there is a set time when we have each other's full attention to share burdens and talk through the logistics of our week makes it much easier for me to support him in these other ways, and for him to support me.
I have enjoyed serving alongside my husband in ministry for 34 years and have grown to understand one of the ministries the Lord has given to me is to my husband. By being sensitive to his need for sermon preparation and recovery and encouraging the congregants to connect with him directly, I am ministering to him. I can be supportive in public and private and be prepared for the battle. I have never taken a class on how to support my ministry spouse. It has been through trial and error that I have learned ways to help our lives flow more smoothly, and I encourage you to do the same!
Davette Bishop (‘89) serves in lay ministry. While she teaches Good News Club and is trained as a Disaster Relief Chaplain, her greatest joys are making women into disciples and training Bible study teachers to minister in the local church.
Davette and her husband, Robert, have been married for over 30 years. Both attend Redemption Hill Church in Whittier, California, where Robert is Senior Pastor. They have two wonderful daughters: Amanda who works with HOPE International in Kigali, Rwanda, and Kirstin who is a 4th-grade teacher in Southern California.