Ellen and I have been married 36 years now and in that time we’ve pastored five churches, three of which we planted. Somewhere along the line we had five children all of who are now responsible Christian adults who have given us ten delicious (as Ellen likes to describe them) grandchildren. Wow! As you can imagine, there are some things we’ve learned about pastoring and the pressure this calling puts on a marriage. One wise old pastor once confessed that he had only two goals in life: to stay a Christian, and to stay married. Here’s some tips for staying married while ministering.
1. Don’t encourage after-hours phone calls from your parishoners. A good rule of thumb says, unless they’re dying or are holding a gun to their head…it can probably wait until morning. Never tell your people that they can call you anytime. Believe me, if they really want to talk to you they will call anyway, but we don’t need to encourage this. Similarly, never tell your people that they can drop in any time, unless of course you don’t care about staying married.
2. Only work an appropriate number of hours. Nowhere in the Bible does it say pastors have to work 40 hours a week. Just because some of your people work 40 or more hours a week doesn’t mean you have to. Here’s a good formula:
a) If you are full time at the church only plan for a 30 hour work week. You know an unexpected 10 hours will creep in there somehow and you’ll probably end up putting in 40 anyway. The thing is, if you plan on a 40 hour work week, and the extra 10 creep in…now you’re up to 50 hours a week. Too much to stay married.
b) If you are part time at the church never plan more than a 20 hour work week.
c) If you work full time outside of the church never plan more than a 10-15 hour work week.
3. Take vacations.
4. Take two days off a week. If your spouse works make sure your days off coincide with theirs. But only if you want to stay married.
5. When home have something to talk about other than the church.
6. Never become emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex.
7. If your marriage is in trouble, get help. There is no shame in going to a marriage counselor. There is shame in your marriage falling apart. Another rule to live by: If one of you thinks you need to see a counselor…you need to see a counselor. Just do it, it’s no big deal and it just might keep you married.
8. Make time for sex.
9. Always remember, your marriage is more important than your church. Unless, of course, you don’t care about staying married.
10. Try to find some friends outside of the church. Another couple in the ministry is ideal.
11. Invest in the care of your soul. There will be a direct corrolation between how happy your marriage is and how consistent and meaningful your times of solitude and silence are. If you need help in this area contact me.
Ruth Graham was once asked if she ever considered divorcing Billy. She answered, “Divorce, no. Murder, yes.” That’s funny!
Pastoring a church can be hard on a marriage. It would be an interesting conversation for you to sit down with your spouse and go over these 11 tips and discuss how your marriage measures up. But only do it if you want to stay married.
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