7 Ways I Keep My Wife as My Partner in Ministry

Recently I received this question as a comment on my blog:

Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?

Great question. My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. In every church we’ve been she’s been widely loved and popular. She was before I was in ministry and taught Sunday school. She has been as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church. I have joked that when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.

I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.

Here are 7 ways I keep Cheryl as my partner in ministry:

I tell my church she’s my partner – That seems obvious, but I want my church to know that I value her in my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church. Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I’m very clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.

I keep her from assigned commitments – I realize this won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so. She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings, but I help her keep Sunday mornings free. I want her available to assist me in ministry. Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending it necessarily, but Cheryl and I like being close to each other between services. We can tag team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It works for us.

I let her work in her area of passion – Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies, and leading women’s Bible studies. I try to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart.

I keep her informed – I work long days, but sometime before we go to bed or in the morning, we debrief my day. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want her to have any surprises because I didn’t tell her something. At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron” on issues which she may not have an answer or that we haven’t yet addressed together.

I seek her input – Cheryl is my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted advisor.

I don’t hide things from her – I could try to protect her, but I’ve learned she will discover the truth eventually and be more hurt because I didn’t share it with her first. (The only exception to this is that I don’t share intimate personal information about men I meet with in the church. I don’t want her to struggle when she sees some of them on Sundays. With women, this is the opposite. She may know things she doesn’t share with me. I always tell women I meet with that I have to include my wife in intimate details about her life. I have to protect my heart and marriage first.)

She shares my office…and my life – The best way I keep Cheryl involved in my ministry is that we keep our relationship as healthy as possible. We genuinely do life together. Cheryl has access to my office, my calendar, my computer, my wallet… :) She frequently comes to my office, puts things in my desk, and has freedom to everything in my “personal space”. I’ve always told my assistants that they can communicate anything to Cheryl they feel is pertinent. We have no secrets. She feels a part of my ministry mostly because she feels a part of my life.

Is your spouse a partner in your ministry? Tell me how that works for you.

(This week I’m addressing questions I’ve been asked where I felt the answer was general enough to apply to more than just the person asking. I get many questions via Twitter, Facebook and blog comments that I believe are too long an answer to share only once. It’s good material for my blog and I feel has a wider use of my time.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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24 thoughts on “7 Ways I Keep My Wife as My Partner in Ministry

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. My husband and I have been married 9 years and he has been a Pastor for a little over 2year. We have struggles in our personal relationship that have bleed over into the ministry. My husband has been a minister almost all his life and has been "doing" ministry by himself and does not include his wife in a lot of things, unless he needs to "fill-in" when someone is out on a Sunday. I really feel used sometimes and not like a real partner. He struggles with understanding how to have a partner in life and ministry. Please pray for us and our ministry

  2. My husband and I have been in ministry together for 10 years. We don't just 'minister' together but LIVE in our ministry 24/7. People often ask us how we do it and we attribute it all to God's grace. We realize that what we do (live in community with about twenty 18-25 year old young men) isn't for everyone :) God has given us special grace and provision to do what He has called us to do. All your points are exactly what we do too. We are truly 'one flesh' and people often joke that Bill & Stacy should be hyphenated "Bill-and-Stacy" Spencer as one person :) Finally…we do thank God regularly that He has given us the personalities and marriage that is able to minister together for His glory…there are no 'secrets'…just God's GRACE (the empowering presence of God that enables us to be who we were created to be and do what we were created to do). You can learn about our life/ministry at http://www.narrowgatefoundation.org

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  6. Thanks so much for this post! I was ordained right out of college and began pastoring my first church – I have pastored for 6 years as a bachelor. On Sunday I start my tenure at a church, but I’m no longer a bachelor. This topic has been talked about a lot lately as I have never done ministry with a wife and she has never been a pastors wife. Thanks again!

  7. Ya know…these ways are not just for those who work in a ministry. These are things that will help any marriage in general.

  8. We have always been together in ministry and I love it. I know that God created him for me and created me for him and our giftedness, our personalities, our wisdom fits together perfectly, makes a complete package for God to use. When we were in military ministry, we stood before 500 soldiers per weekend and shared the gospel, taught and encouraged them, they called me MommaMac and they called him “Sir”, as they received the Word strongly, firmly and with great tenacity from him and from me they received the same message, but with empathy, compassion and exhortation and as a team, God did great things through us.
    PS… I loved the part where your office is accessible to your wife and she is in and out of it. What a great atmosphere to set. I was a Pastor’s secretary for years and I can see how doing that would have been such a good witness for every marriage in that church. Just the daily visibility of “a three strand cord not easily broken”! I think sometimes the Pastorate sells short the sacrament of “marriage”, it is not visible enough, the unity of the Pastor and His Wife, the flowing together of the giftedness of the two. Like you said the church usually assigns the pastor’s wife things that take her out of sharing in the Sunday ministry. Things that lay leadership should and could do.
    Thanks! Great Post!
    Twitter: kmac4him

  9. This is a great post! I'm currently working through this in my ministry with my wife. I'm getting better at it but it's a learning curve for me. I'm trying to do a better job of keeping her informed. How do you keep from departmenalizing your life too much?
    Twitter: ericspeir

    • It's a discipline and frankly Cheryl helps with that. I give her permission to remind me when I'm not doing as well as I should. And I keep pictures of her on my desk. :)

  10. Way to go Ron & Cheryl! It takes a team to make it work, through raising a family to leading a church. You two set a good example. My first visit to Grace…you and Cheryl were working the crowd, greeting and hugging which showed partnership.

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  12. Great post! For my wife and I, we've been married for 21 yrs this Aug. All that time has been in ministry. Currently, however, we are both on staff at a very healthy & growing church in GA. At times, the (perceived) demands of ministry can be overwhelming. Not only do we need to communicate extremely well (we do our best) and constantly compare our multiple calendars….but we also recognized not long ago that we despirately need time of solitude in our lives. Often this is done together, but for example this week my wife went out of town for 3 days after putting over 90 hours into a VBS event last week. She also had 2 separate kids camps just before that. When she returns, I'll be heading out to do the same thing. Taking time of solitude, out of town and away from work and other distractions has been so refreshing for us. We do this, either on our own or with our kids, about 4-6 times a year.