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Caring for the Soul of Your Spouse

11 Jun Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Caring for the Soul of Your Spouse
Caring for the Soul of Your Spouse

It was another Sunday morning.  Naomi looked at me and asked, “Do we have to?” After having finished a 60 plus hour work week with our students, it was now time for the Sunday push.  Early to the office, teaching Sunday School, ministering in the main service and then “the line”.

Yep, you heard me right, “the line”.

handshakeEach pastor and his wife were expected to stand at one of the doors leaving the sanctuary while those in attendance slowly made their way out of the sanctuary.  Shaking hands, giving hugs and saying goodbye was the emphasis.  Now, my wife and I are relational people, but saying goodbye to a couple hundred people after an already demanding week of ministry was not my brightest move.

We had a heart to serve, but we had served to the point of exhaustion and were now running on fumes.

I know I felt it for myself. I’d feel the fatigue and dig deep to power up and keep moving forward. But what about my wife?  What in the world was I thinking?  I was young, spiritually immature, facing high expectations and not fully aware of the impact my decisions were having on her.  In my immaturity and desire to follow orders, I was not caring for her soul well.   Protecting her from the demands of my position was, to my shame, the farthest thing from my mind.

Over the years, I have learned to better protect my wife, our marriage and more specifically her soul.  This concept is significant for all marriages, but even more so for those serving in public ministry settings.

The following are five key areas which have allowed me to care for my wife’s soul and see our marriage as formation:

1. Create boundaries.

You are not a two for one deal.  Though your spouse is married to someone in the ministry, they were not hired by the church.  Too often ministries blur boundaries and place significant demands on the spouse of their ministry leaders.  If you worked as a nurse at a hospital, your supervisor wouldn’t ask your spouse to come in and do some freelance work on patients.  Be clear with your language and expectations with leaders as to how much you are willing to have your spouse serve.

2. Be present at home.

Do your best to not bring work home.  Too often demanding ministry positions keep us possessing long after the official work day is over.  Not being present for your spouse communicates that the ministry is more important than your relationship with them.  Also, caring for the soul of our spouse takes energy, time and creativity.  We don’t just show up haphazardly and expect to pull off something amazingly special for them.  Set a time to leave the ministry each day, no matter what is going is unfolding.

3. Plan your calendar.

 I had friend who would consistently plan retreats and ministry outings around the date of his wedding anniversary every year.  Nothing depletes the soul of a spouse more when you fail to plan well.  Planning ministry events around or overlapping significant dates communicates one of two things to your spouse.  One, you simply didn’t take the time to care, or two, the ministry is more important.  Place special dates in your calendar first before making your ministry calendar preparation for the year.  This also gives you the ability to say no, when requests are made for your time around those dates.

datenight4. Be romantic.

Date your spouse consistently and be a hopeless romantic.  Often, your spouse was part of your life before your current position in ministry and for most will be there long after your position comes to an end.  Make consistent date nights which get placed on the calendar while at the same time protecting those outings from additional ministry demands.

5. Give space.

Allow your spouse to cultivate their own identity.  For a couple in ministry, it is very easy for the spouse to always be known as the one married to the “leader”.  Give your spouse space to be their own person.  Encourage them to go after their dreams.  Too often spouses of ministry leaders miss out on following their own dreams do to getting caught in the expectations of their spouses work. Though the spouse will need to be visual for some ministry outings, be careful not to assume that they should be present at all ministry events.

How are you caring for the soul of your spouse?

Does your spouse have your time or does the ministry?

If you really want to know, ask them!  They will be honest.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.