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We look at three ideas to remember in ministry with your marriage.

p.s. How cute is my beautiful wife?!

When I first entered youth ministry, I constantly sought the wisdom of my mentor about how to do ministry well. He had a ton of great advise that enabled me to do ministry better. Yet, maybe the best advise was not how to serve students, but how to take care of myself and my family.

Here are four things to add to your personal philosophy of ministry as you also serve your spouse.

  1. This is not your spouse’s job. The church or organization did not hire the both of you. Your contract does not state that they are getting a two for one deal. So why do you expect your spouse to serve with teens? Make it very clear to your spouse that they are not expected to do anything. The occasional emergency of needing another driver may come up, but if all they want to go home and take a nap, that should be okay. This should also be clear with your church staff, so that they do not “request” her assistance.
  2. Your spouse’s gifts may not be your own. You may be the best game running, middle school entertaining, sermon speaking youth worker in the state. But this does not mean that he or she can do the same things. Keep that in mind if and when they serve in your ministry.
  3. Keep the phone off. Even if it is for only an hour during dinner, ensure that EVERY DAY they have your full attention. Ask them about their day, share a meal, help with the laundry, and give them some affection. Also, align your Sabbath with theirs so that you are giving them more than just seven hours of your week.
  4. Keep the boundaries clear. We can get extremely busy in ministry, but we need to guard these boundaries with our lives. Do not let anything break it. Remember that your covenant with your spouse is so much more important than a contract you sign for your job.

What other boundaries do you have for your married to keep it separate from ministry?

When I was in high school I had a great youth pastor. He was probably in his late 20′s early 30′s when he took over the youth group. The best part about his ministry was that his wife was a complete partner in whatever he did. On Sundays he would share things from a guy perspective and then she would share things from a girls perspective. They both would go on all retreats and events. The ministry would not have been the same without both of them. I remember deciding then that I would like to have a relationship like that- marry a youth pastor.

Now, I am not saying that I married Jeremy because he is a youth pastor but it is interesting how things turned out. What I did find out is being married to someone in youth ministry is filled with great opportunities but it also has its downsides.

The Positives

  1. Working with kids- Jeremy and I both are in career fields that work with kids on a daily basis. This not only gives us a common interest but clearly a passion we share. Not to mention the kids themselves. Let’s just say that when you work with kids, every day is a new day.
  2. Opportunities- God has provided for Jeremy and I in every way we could ask for. Even the lesser important things like going on ski trips, Denver Nuggets games, paintballing, shopping and great food at events to mention a few. These things are the luxuries in life that we could not afford on our own but because of Jeremy’s position we enjoy them for free.

The Negatives

  1. Weird Hours- Jeremy works mostly from home and that is great for him and our dog not to mention the baby. However, his hours are really strange- not a 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday kind of job. He works late into the night and on Saturdays and Sundays when I have off. This makes spending time together tricky sometimes.
  2. Sad Situations- Jeremy working with teens, some of them for many years, allows us to get to know them and their families very well. Some students families have become like second families to us, which is great. However, we have also experienced hard things with these families like death, hospitalizations and hard consequences for poor choices.

All in all- the good and the bad- I would not change a thing. We have listened to the plan God has for our lives and are carrying it out to the best of our abilities. God is faithful to us. Shouldn’t we be the same?

When you were married, you said that you would be the number one person in their lives no matter what. In fact, you probably said the exact words “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” It does not say that “to love and to cherish when you are not working.”

So where do you stand in your marriage? If you have not taken the time, you really need to take the time with your spouse and evaluate your marriage. Here are three things to ask yourself on how well your marriage is going.

  1. How are you doing?
    This is a loaded question that you could spend weeks answering, but we are looking at the foundation of who you are in front of your spouse. Are you one person in ministry and another in front of them? Do you find yourself purposefully at work or working in front of him or her? Do you bring your work home too much on accident? How passionate are you about your marriage right now?
  2. What does your marriage look like?
    When you said “I do,” you took yourself and added your spouse into your life. This means that every decision that you make should include them into the equation EVERY SINGLE TIME. Do you feel like you are always angry at your spouse for the little things that one big thing could end it all? Do you still talk at the end of the day and ask how their day went? Do you know the emotions and feelings your spouse is having about your marriage? Do you feel loved by your spouse? When is the last time you supported them in a big or tough situation?
  3. Where is God in the marriage?
    We constantly tell students about how God needs to be at the center of our lives and should be in the middle of dating relationships, but do we apply it to our own lives? When is the last time you prayed at length for your spouse? When is the last time you took a significant amount of time WITH your spouse? Do you build each other up? Does your spouse feel obligated to volunteer in your ministry? Do they resent parts of your job?

Are there any other questions you would ask in this evaluation?

The war for your marriage is in one of the toughest times that man has had to face. In a busy environment like youth ministry, you need to fight for your marriage, and I do not simply mean that as a dramatic verb to keep you reading. Weapons may need to be used here.

Youth ministry is a busy place, I do not need to tell you that. If your mission is to reach every student in your community for Jesus, you probably need to put in 25 hours a day and 8 days a week to be able to accomplish that by the time you are ready to retire. Then throw in working with volunteers to help you in this mission, speaking at school functions to begin relationships with students who would never step foot in a church, continue the programs to appease the senior pastors and board of elders, fund the next big trip, fill out that paperwork (oh, that paperwork…), and be interrupted by the crisis of students and parents that need your immediate and undivided attention. You could be working from sunrise to sunset and still have a mile long to-do list.

Within all of this is that you are probably neglecting your family to some degree. Have you missed a ballgame with you child, had to pass on a date night with your spouse, rearrange your vacation time because of summer camp schedules? The hard truth is that marriage within the youth ministry field is not easy.

Here are three hard truths that we need to wake up and realize today:

  1. The ministry you serve should not rely on you 24/7. The first ministry that we should be investing in is our family and ultimately our spouse should come first. Regardless if you work in a suburban ministry that each of your students are the perfect Bible reading, church attending, and honorable students to their parents or you work in an urban setting that has gangs, teen moms, and only one other volunteer, you need to make time for your spouse. If you always answer that next phone call, respond to that text message, or pass on a date night for ministry, you could be giving up on your fight for your marriage.
  2. Words are worthless without actions. People are great at making promises. I promise my wife I will be done with work by 6PM and spend time with her. I promise my husband that I will give him the time and attention that he deserves. But those promises are meaningless unless we follow it up with our consistent and frequent actions. If you promise to be home at a certain time and get home with the phone still on, you failed. If you say you will give your spouse attention, but only do so watching television, you have failed. Commit to your promise all the way or do not commit at all.
  3. Love like you’ve never loved before. They said “I Do” for a reason. If you seem to have lost sight of it, take a weekend off. Cancel that meeting with volunteers and take them on an hour walk. Reschedule your morning meetings for a later time and have morning devotionals with your spouse. Be home to not only have dinner, but help out with it. FIGHT for your marriage.

The hard truth is that we will have to sacrifice and work to rebuild and maintain our marriage. Failure is not an option here.

What have you done to fight for your marriage recently that has worked?

One of the most memorable stories about our relationship is the first time I said good night to her. A friend of both of ours had actually set us up together on a blind date with a group of people and the evening went extremely well. As she and the friends that arranged the date walked me to my car, the only thing going through my head was the advise her roommate gave me, “She is not a touchy feely person, so you probably do not want to hug her right away.” The truth about this is that my wife is not overly affectionate with this roommate. So the time came to say goodnight and with hands at my side, she came over and hugged me. It looked like a scene straight from the old reality game show “Beauty and the Geek”. She was not following the rules and I was panicking.

I vividly remember thinking to myself that she was (and still is) WAY out of my league and that I did not have a shot with her. Yet, those big eyes and bright smile gave me enough confidence to get the courage to try. I have so many different memories during that time of learning about who she is, what her beliefs are, and how she lives life.

Two of the biggest reasons for proposing to her is that I find myself better because of her. She is a vibrant person who loves to live in the moment and seemingly can strike up a conversation about anything with anyone at any time of the day. She has a deep passion for helping those that need assistance and enjoying authentic relationships. The brightness of that smile that you may see from her is simply an outlet of how beautiful she is on the inside.

Marriage Changes Everything

We had an interesting relationship in that we both defined up front that we were not dating to simply date. So, on December 19, 2008, we both said “I Do” before many of our closest friends and family and began a life together as one. The last 3+ years of marriage has been a whirlwind of coming closer to each other, facing crisis moments as well as enjoying the bright moments, and living life completely intertwined together. In that time, she has successfully become a special ed teacher, I have been working on this youth ministry, and now we are anticipating our first child.

By no means has this journey been all rainbows and unicorns. Every week we fight the struggles of busyness and simply going through the motions. The easy route is to simply go on with our lives of work, dinner, television, and going to bed. With a child on the way, the routine of the day will be that much harder to fight for our marriage. What happened in these last five years? I remember one busy weekend when I had to commit most of my time to ministry, if I had personally had lost that loving feeling. Sure, my wife would understand why I did not spend time with her because I HAD to get this lesson done. The next time, was the same basic excuse… I was going against my priorities that my marriage was more important than youth ministry.

Love Is More Than A Feeling

Within this gloomy conversation, there is a joy within all of this. I do not know the last time when I have been with my wife that I have missed the opportunity sometime in the day to tell her “I love you.” I love that phrase because it shows us one important thing: Love is more than a feeling, it is an action. It does not matter how crappy my day in ministry has been, how rough of a day she spent with the students in her class, or how little time we do get together. In that moment, I have a choice to make. Maybe we are not on the best terms of that evening and we could easily say that we do not like each other. But the choice to love your spouse, regardless if you like them, is still on the table. My wife knows that I love her and I know she loves me with her whole being.

Five years into the relationship and those eyes and that smile still melt my heart. We still have those regular moments when she looks me directly in the eyes and tells me she loves me. Trust me, I will still mess up and make her mad… in fact, I probably should be doing the dishes right now! But regardless of how she feels towards me, I know that she loves me and I will forever love her. Somewhere deep down in this youth worker is still that geeky guy that is excited she gave me a shot.

What was that one thing that drew you to your spouse and that made you say “I Do?”