We have been in ministry for five years. For five years, my husband has been involved with the Christmas Eve service. Because of this, we don’t even start our holiday travel to see family until Christmas day. Everything is a big rush so that we can make it back to church for the next Sunday. This is the only time of year that I get to see my whole family. I love our church, but do I have to sacrifice my family every year at Christmas?
Missing Mom at Christmas
Dear Missing Mom,
In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about loving Him more than we love the members of our own family. I don’t think this means that we have to sacrifice everything for the annual Christmas Eve service! You need to draw a line. It’s ok to occasionally take a real vacation over the holidays. The congregation can lead more than they think they can. Give them the opportunity. If you have other pastors, let them rotate leadership for this one service a year. I think your congregation will understand. I bet not many of them have made it to all five of the last five years of Christmas Eve services. It’s good to retreat as a minister’s family. Take some time to step away and just be removed.
You didn’t mention where your husband stands on this issue. All of this goes for him too. Sometimes in our pastors’ zeal to serve, they forget to refresh and renew. When you are new in ministry, especially when you love your church, it’s really hard to step away for even a week to go visit family. Talk with your husband about your desire for some balance over the holidays. Even if he doesn’t miss your Mom as much as you do, he needs some Sabbath time as well!
My husband works all of the time. When he’s not at church doing some kind of meeting or bible study, he’s at home on the computer or on the phone counseling someone. I can’t remember the last time we had a date or even an uninterrupted conversation. I know his ministry is more than just a job so I feel bad saying anything when I know that these people really do need help. I’m willing to share him for the sake of God’s kingdom, but it’s starting to get lonely around here. Is this the sacrifice I have to make to be married to a pastor?
Alone Again in
Dear Alone Again,
Yes, sacrifice is a part of a ministry spouses’ life, however, when you start describing your life as lonely, the red flags go up. I have a rule in my household regarding “worthy ministry” that helped revolutionize the way my husband and I view what is really important enough to interrupt our private time together. Whenever presented with a ministry opportunity, we ask ourselves these two questions:
- Is this something that has eternal value?
- Is this something that someone else could easily do?
- Running up to church during dinner because someone forgot to lock the doors has no eternal value and could definitely be done by someone else.
- Running up to church during dinner because someone’s family is in crisis has eternal value and requires your husband’s attention.
- Going to a football game to support a teenager from your church could have eternal value, but it is something that someone else could easily do.
- It may be necessary for your husband to conduct a leader’s meeting, but can it happen at a different time than on your only day off.
Considering these questions before disrupting your family time for ministry will help you be a more supportive spouse and help your husband be a more attentive husband. It’s helped my family to organize our ministry and family time much more effectively. It also forces us to allow other people the chance to be involved in ministries that my husband might have just done himself in the past.
Recognize the red flags. Please sit down with your husband and tell him how you feel. Reassure him that you are supportive of him in ministry but you need some more time with him. I challenge you and your husband to try out the question method and see if it doesn’t transform your time together and maybe even your ministry!
I’m newly married to a youth pastor. He is a wonderful man and I am madly in love with him. I’m just not so sure that I’m madly in love with being a pastor’s wife. I want to support him, but this is not exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed about our future together. I’m finding myself frustrated all the time- frustrated with teenagers, frustrated with church people, frustrated with our finances, and frustrated with our lack of time together. When I said “I do”, I didn’t sign up for this.
I don’t really want to say this but the reality of your situation is that when you said “I do”, you did sign up for this kind of life. Church people, teenagers, and financial struggles all come along with the “married-to-a-youth pastor” package. However, while you do have to live with the lifestyle, you don’t have to live with the frustration.
Some tips that might help:
1)Set your boundaries. As a newlywed, this is a great time in your life to establish some strong boundaries between your personal life and the youth ministry. My guess from your letter is that your personal life and your public life have been blending together. Spend some time with your husband talking about how you are going to define your family life and how much of your private time you are going to share with ministry. Regularly schedule time that is “ministry free”. Yes, actually put it on his schedule. If you don’t, someone else will fill that time for him.
2)Find a mentor. This does not necessarily have to be another pastor’s wife. Choose someone who lives a very busy lifestyle and successfully maintains a close loving relationship with her husband. Get to know her and search for the tools that make her marriage work.
3)Live on love! I Peter 4:8 says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This not only goes for you and your husband, but for church people, too. Focusing on the “why” behind your sacrifice of time, money, and privacy will go a long way to helping you deal with the daily frustrations of ministry life. Ask God to help you love these people the way that He loves them despite their faults.