8 Practices That Helped Strengthen Our Ministry Marriage, Part 1

We are excited to begin a 3-part series on marriage in the ministry. Sharon Drury,Sharon Drury-ExecutiveTeam one of PSC’s founders and a member of our executive team, will be sharing insights from her experience as a ministry spouse. Sharon married her husband, Keith, in 1967. For 15 years, she was a stay-at-home mom caring for two boys. She also served in a variety of capacities in the local church and started a national ministry for pastors’ wives called Yokemates in 1985. Sharon went on to work at Indiana Wesleyan University for 20 years in various positions of leadership, and she served as the Professor of Organizational Leadership in the doctoral program for 7 years until she retired in 2013. Sharon cares deeply for pastors’ spouses and desires to serve as a source of encouragement to them. We pray this series will be helpful as you work to build a strong ministry marriage. 

I’m going to share with you some things about our marriage even though our dating year in college didn’t start out well. A faculty member said of us, “That’ll never work; two bossy people!”  Even if you aren’t bossy, just living with any other person can be irritating at times, but we eventually learned to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

There is no longer any “typical clergy couple” out there. Instead there are many different ways clergy couples can make their marriages work.  The range of differences I see among ministry marriages usually fall into at least 5 types of relationships:

  • Pastor & Satellite Spouse – this is often in the early years of a traditional couple, when the mom is home with little kids…or sometimes when the wife works well at home and in the church as a follower of his leadership (the old two for the price of one pastor & wife combination sometimes still works!)
  • Supportive Couple – this can be a clergy marriage where the spouse cares but is definitely not called, and believes being a good wife or husband is the best way to free up the pastor to do ministry; then he/she returns the favor by sacrificially loving the spouse and enjoying time off from ministry.
  • Separate Careers – these two often had separate callings back when they got married and now bring in two incomes; they make their ministry marriage work by sharing and caring enough about the other’s work to support them in their career or calling.
  • Parallel Ministries – I often see this when one is the pastor, and the other is very involved in different ministries at the same church. Some male spouses tell me they see it as a ministry partnership: she is the minister, and he has a secular job, but he will take point as a lay leader in a small group, etc.
  • Co-Pastoring – this is when two ordained individuals, often paid the same salary (or not) who have worked out a division of labor for the work to be done that suits their gifts and graces; it may feel like ministry is their “family business.”

Whatever type of relationship that you have, I know there are often undue expectations or even outright attacks on clergy marriages. It seems the devil would love to trip up the shepherd so he can mess up the sheep!  So in this blog series, I’ll share 8 practices that have helped strengthen our marriage, and hope these can strengthen your marriage, too!

When reading about the 5 types of relationships, did you find one that described your ministry marriage? If not, is there another category you might add? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you, and join us next week for Part 2 of this series as we dive into the 8 practices.

Welcome to Pastor’s Spouse Connection

We are elated to bring you the Pastor’s Spouse Connection Blog! It has been on the heart of our leadership team for some time and we are praying that what is posted here will encourage you, the pastor’s spouse, in the unique calling God has placed on your life. We will have a diverse group of writers, most of whom are also pastors’ spouses. We may serve in many different places and contexts, yet there is so much we hold in common.

Our PSC team is thankful for each pastor’s spouse out there and the way you faithfully love, support, and serve alongside of your husband or wife. We want you to know that we get this ministry life. It can be amazing, exciting, humbling, heartbreaking, challenging, overwhelming and sometimes all of that at the same time. In the midst of this, you are building marriages, raising families, managing careers, establishing priorities, and balancing responsibilities. You are often the wearers of many hats. As you navigate this ministry life, it is our desire to come alongside of you and offer inspiration, encouragement, and opportunities where you can connect with others who understand this journey.

The Bakery Experience

I recently attended a conference with my husband in south Florida. I did not have sessions in the morning but my husband did so while he was gone I ventured across the street from our hotel in search of breakfast. The second morning I found myself at a delightful little bakery with heaping displays of fresh baked goods. I ordered my coffee and a vanilla crème croissant and sat down in a quiet corner.

Granier Bakery, Sunny Isles Beach, FL
Granier Bakery, Sunny Isles Beach, FL

It wasn’t long before my quiet corner became a hub of activity. I noticed a couple of older, French speaking gentlemen scoping out the area and then returning to start rearranging tables and chairs. Soon they were joined by several men and women. All were speaking French and carrying baskets full of croissants and toasted baguettes. Their conversation was loud and jovial. It had me wishing I could speak French and join in on the fun.

At first I thought they might be tourists but as they sat there, a few more trickled in and were greeted with enthusiastic welcomes and hugs from the group. By the time I left, there must have been at least a dozen in the group and additional tables had to be added. This seemed to be a regular gathering, a place where their commonalities of language, traditions, and current context brought them together. In this place they were free to be who they were, to be understood in their native language, and to be at ease in the company of others who shared similar life journeys.

Why Connect?

As I sat observing this interaction, I was reminded of the power of community and having moments in life to connect with people who get us, where we can let our guards down, and we can speak in a way that is easily understood. As human beings, we seem to be built with a longing for this kind of connection, and as followers of Christ, the idea of community goes a step further and becomes essential to our becoming the people God wants us to be. We need each other if we are to be and do all he has called us to in this life. Community with members of the Body of Christ is a gift God has given us. The Bible is full of verses that reflect this truth.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:20)

“Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Eccl. 4:9-10)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:8-10)

I could go on listing passages, but these let us capture a glimpse of the many ways we grow and benefit from connecting with one another in community.

So what does this mean for us as pastors’ spouses? We will certainly have many circles of people we interact and connect with in the areas and contexts where we serve. We will love and give of ourselves in those environments, but along with those connections, we believe there is also value in having connection with other pastors’ spouses. Just like the type of community I observed at the bakery, we need a place where we can go and speak in a way that is easily understood, where our guards can come down, and where we can find encouragement as we live out the calling God has placed on our lives. This kind of connection is at the heart of why Pastor’s Spouse Connection exists. We believe we are better together, encouraging one another, spurring each other on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25). So we invite you to join us! Pull up a chair at our table. There’s always room for one more!