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5 Lessons Learned From Years of Ministry With My Wife

For many church leaders serving with family is normal. Many of even serve in the same ministry as family members. In bi-vocaional leadership serving with family members is almost inevitable. In these cases, we will often have to lean on trusted family members to fill roles within the church.
I’ve been in ministry for over 10 years. From leading the worship team, to leading the youth ministry, to becoming a pastor to children for nearly 10 years. In all those years, and in all those roles, my wife was right there with me. I LOVE serving with my wife. Many people say you should never work with family, but my wife and I make a GREAT team. Still, there were some bumps in the road along the way. So, here are 5 lessons learned from years serving in ministry with my wife.
1.) She’s my wife FIRST
In the busy-ness and stress that can often come from leading a ministry it can be easy to forget that your spouse is your spouse FIRST. I hate to admit it, but here were times when I allowed the role she filled in my ministry to overshadow the role she filled in my life. I can’t say exactly what this will look like for you, or how you should make sure you remember this, it will be different for each of us. However, I do think that simply taking the time to remind yourself of this and to think and pray over it will lead to creative ways to remember.
One thing I would recommend is that you talk with your wife about this. Ensure them that, for you, their role as spouse is more important than whatever role they plan in the ministry.
2.) Don’t put too much on her
I get it. Sometimes in ministry it seems there are fewer and fewer people you can REALLY count on. However, you KNOW you can count on your spouse. So, you put more and more on her because you know that she will get it done. It’s ok to depend on her, but take care not to put too much pressure on her. She wants to be your wife. She wants you to know that you can count on her. Sadly, her desire to be dependable and to be “a good wife” can lead her to take on more than she should. If you are the ministry leader, it is your job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
3.) Talk about things other than ministry
 I am passionate about ministry. I think about it pretty much all of my waking hours. I’m constantly thinking about new ways to get out into the community, to serve the community, to reach people, to share the gospel. If I’m not careful then this will leak over into all of my conversations with my wife. She is HUGELY supportive of my ministry and NONE of what God has done in my life and ministry would be possible without her. BUT, she sometimes wants to talk about other things. She wants to talk about the things that she’s passionate about. She wants to talk about her day at work. Talking too much about ministry can leave her thinking you care more about the ministry that you do about her. Make sure you take time to talk about things other than ministry.
Schedule a meeting: If your wife serves in the same ministry as you, or in a ministry you oversee, then there will be times when you HAVE to talk about that ministry. If she was any other person you would schedule a meeting to talk about that ministry. Do the same thing with her. Schedule an evening that you will take an hour, or whatever time is appropriate, to talk strictly about the ministry. Doing this can allow you to get all the stuff you’ve been storing up out so you don’t have to pour a study stream of it throughout the week. Also, knowing that another meeting is coming up next week will allow you to set the stuff aside to discuss at the next meeting rather than bringing them up as you think of them. 
4.) Cut her some slack
It’s a simple fact that we tend to be hardest on those that are closest to us. There is a level of comfort with the people closes to us that makes us feel that we can be harder on them. Sadly, this can lead to us being TOO hard on them. In the case of ministry this can lead to us actually turning our family members off of serving. We can put a bad taste in their mouths in regards to serving. Worse, it can begin to effect our relationship outside of ministry. So, cut them some slack. Be sure to give them the same consideration and slack you would other people serving in the ministry.
5.) Don’t cut them TOO MUCH slack
In the same way that we can be quick to push family TOO hard, we can also tend to cut them too much slack. We know their heart so we might overlook stuff that we wouldn’t with other people. Set standards and expectations. Make sure everyone knows them, including your family members. Then hold everyone accountable to those standards and expectations, including your family.
This is for husbands too.I’ve written this from the perspective of a husband towards his wife. I do this simply because I am a husband sharing my experiences in serving with my wife. However, if you are woman serving in ministry with your husband, the same things apply.
What about other family members? While most of this would apply to any family member, there can be some unique differences depending on who that family member is. In a coming post I’ll share some lessons learned from serving with my son. For now, I’d encourage you to consider these points and work to put them into practice.
Matt Norman

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I am a Christian, husband, father, pastor, church planter, nurse, and freelance writer.

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