We are excited to begin a 3-part series on marriage in the ministry. Sharon Drury, 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.