July 18, 2016

Being in Ministry Saved My Marriage

This morning, my husband and I prayed together with our kids. Before we walked out the door, we looked into each other’s eyes, and we kissed. Later, at lunch time, we had a significant discussion about personal priorities for our finances. No one shouted or cried or clammed up. We also discussed our church. No one shouted or cried or clammed up. This evening, we ate dinner as a family. We laughed a lot. I did the dishes. He paid bills in the family room. After the kids were in bed, the two of us ended the day by reading side-by-side on the couch.

Ours is the story of a happy marriage. 

We owe this to the grace and mercy of our Lord. And one of his loving means has been our place in the church. 

When yet another pastor falls publicly into grievous, soul-bruising, family-destroying sin, the onlookers can quickly line up to blame life in the church. I have read many articles in recent months that claim ministry life makes pastors and their wives inherently lonely or hypocritical or distracted or vulnerable to sin or prone to cracking from stress. The cumulative message is clear: when failure happens, it’s the church’s fault. 

I know that ministry life can bring unique, and sometimes intense, challenges to family life. (See: this entire blog.) I know that there are neither perfect churches nor perfect pastors nor perfect pastors' wives. Sin is a many-tentacled monster that can drag us toward death from many directions at once. 

But I also know firsthand the privilege of a ministry marriage.

And I worry that an endless litany of blame-the-ministry could cause faithful pastors and their wives to view the local church as their marriage's enemy rather than its best ally. 

The Prayers of Many 

I can’t count the number of times our church has publicly prayed for us and for our marriage. Sunday mornings from the pulpit. Wednesday nights in church prayer meeting. Tuesday mornings at Bible study. The people of God are regularly and specifically praying for us to have a loving, faithful, and happy marriage. 

These prayers are the arms of Aaron and Hur, holding up our marriage whenever it grows weary. They are an offensive weapon against Satan, cutting down temptation before it begins. And they are an open invitation to corporate rejoicing, allowing “the many” to “give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11). 

The Good 

In church life, we are surrounded by couples who are thriving in their marriages—loving one another, serving God, and pursuing faithfulness. We watch them work and worship together. And we see God’s grace to them when trials come. 

Ministry life has taken us to hospital beds and death beds, to moving trucks and waiting rooms, to drought-plagued farms and hard-hit small businesses. We have seen marriages walk through the sea billows and come out singing “it is well.” 

These couples are our cloud of witnesses: cheering us on, handing us cups of cool water, and pointing us to the same Christ who is also at work in them. 

The Ugly 

We have also watched marriages die. Too many times, we have cried together for a church couple who didn’t make it, who met the end in a dingy courtroom stacked with allegations. And we have doubled-over in fear and grief and anger for all the sins that led them there. 

But even the ugly is a grace for my marriage. Having seen the multi-car pile-up beside the road, I resolve to drive more cautiously. Having watched the house next door burn to the ground, I check the batteries on my smoke detectors. Having witnessed a friend falling off the cliff, I back away from its jagged edge.

Thanks be to God. 

God’s Gracious Constraints 

The blame-the-ministry posts are correct when they observe that ministry life comes with plenty of constraints. People are watching you. You have demands on your time. At every moment, you are expected to act like a Christian. True. 

Those constraints are God's grace

Because of the ministry, I must speak kindly to and about my husband. I must serve God alongside him. I must set an example for younger Christians. I must surround myself with more mature Christians. I must submit myself to the direction of the elders. I must show up twice every Sunday to worship God with him. 

And aren’t those the very things my marriage needs? 

I cannot say what my marriage would be like if my husband were not a pastor. I have only the life God has given. But I do know this: ministry life is, by God’s kind intent, good for my marriage.


  1. This is wonderful. I so appreciate the counterpoint to, "Woe is me, life in a fishbowl is so hard."

    Your writing and perspective is continually a breath of fresh air.

  2. I thank God for you Meagan. God has been gracious. I can say from personal experience that this was not the norm for me. Ideally, ministry when done right should draw a couple together but living in community with so many people, all of us broken can have intense strains on a family. It also appears that you and your husband seem to have a healthy balance of the time and place as regards ministry and family. When the ministry completely overtakes family, it can become really lonely. Family is an avenue for ministry not a substitute. I pray for us all in ministry relationships that we are able to also Glorify God with healthy relationships.

    1. I am sorry that you have had these trials. And, yes, I am thankful that my husband and I have been able to give attention to both the church and to our family life.

  3. Love this post and its veracity yet just want to add, all christians are called to live a "ministry life". All too often, its the elder's families or the pastor's alone, who are looked to as an example when it is all us redeemed sinners who are to be battling the enemy and dying to self. These challenges drive us to Him again and again. So thankful for your eloquent challenge as you reveal the blessing of being in the front lines!

  4. Ministry isn't for everyone. Not everyone walks in your shoes and you don't walk in other people's shoes.

  5. God bless you Meagan. This is a silent area, not much articles and materials are written about. Often time, minister's wives are left to battle with an identity issues. I'm glad for this eye-opening piece,looking forward to reading more and ministry and the minister's wife. God bless you with more grace for revelational access to the mysteries of God.

  6. When done properly, ministry should ideally bring a couple closer together, but living in a community with so many other broken individuals may put a lot of stress on a family. Family is a platform for ministry, not a replacement. In our ministry partnerships, may God be glorified via our ability to maintain wholesome relationships.

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  8. When done well, ministry should ideally bring a couple closer together; nonetheless, a family may experience a lot of stress from sharing a community with so many other broken people. Ministry uses the family as a platform; it is not a substitute. May our ability to preserve healthy relationships in our ministry partnerships bring glory to God.

  9. Good work! The goal of ministry is to bring a couple closer together, but living in a community with so many other disturbed people may be quite stressful for a family. Ministry does not replace the family; it simply uses it as a platform. May God receive all the glory for our ability to maintain positive relationships in our mission collaborations.

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