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.)