7 Suggestions When a Good Marriage Isn’t Working

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be. It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose that would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Even good marriages suffer at times.

Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. It could be my work — or hers — or family situations. Outside stress causes tension in the relationship. Things aren’t falling apart. We aren’t questioning our commitment to each other — but we both know things aren’t working as well as they should be. We are having more miscommunication, we are more tense in our reaction to each other, or we may just feel we are passing each other through our days, not connecting as well as we usually do. Thankfully, we’ve always been intentional during those times.

Those times are usually seasonal and they happen in most every marriage. That appears especially true in the earlier years of the marriage, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they happen later in a marriage either. When major changes in the marriage or in life occur, such as children moving out of the house, loss of job, or other serious trauma, marriages can struggle for a time. That’s normal.

Those periods can last a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t love each other, or even that they want out of the marriage, but that they just aren’t on the same page as much as they should be. The key in those times isn’t to panic, but to intentionally work to restore total health to the marriage.

Have you ever been there?

During these times the way a couple responds is critically important.

Here are 7 suggestions for those seasons of marriage:

Communicate – Keep talking, to each other and to God, even when it’s awkward to do so. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest than to allow the marriage to fall apart or slip further from health.

Stay close – Keep doing things together. Sleep in the same bed. Find times to do special activities. Have regular date nights. Talk. This will help protect your heart from wandering.

Discipline yourself – There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage.

Get help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but it is important you invite someone to speak into your life.

Learn - There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods that we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again. This is a great season to do some of those things.

Be Patient - You’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient.

Hang on - Renew your commitment to the marriage and each other. These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes. Every marriage can be restored and improved with two parties working together.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t as much fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better. If any of those more serious issues are occurring, get help immediately.

You might also read my post “Making Marriage Fun Again“.

Again, have you been there?

Help others out. How did your marriage survive through these stressful times?

7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife…Without Even Knowing It

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I recently posted “7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It“. It’s been a popular post. Thankfully, I’ve not seemed to make a lot of women mad…a few…but not many that I have heard from…yet. We will see how the men respond with this post.

As I committed, a companion post is warranted. Guys, we injure our wife. All of us do. We are different and the way we respond to our wife often causes injury. And, most of the time, it’s unintentional. We didn’t even know we were doing it.

I’m not making excuses for us. We should strive to learn our spouse…and do better…understanding our differences…communicating better…injuring less. That’s what this post is about. Awareness. Understanding.

I ran this post by my wife…so it’s Cheryl approved, although it wasn’t hard to write. As a counselor and pastor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and have seen this countless times. I wish I could say I never did any of these…but that would be a lie. This post is written with one finger pointed forward…and four more pointed my way.

Here are 7 ways a husband injures a wife…without even knowing it:

Cuts her out of the discussion – When you act as if she isn’t even there or wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, she feels a part of her is detached. She sees the marriage as a partnership…in every part of life…even the parts she may never fully understand.

Fails to notice the difference she makes – A woman doesn’t want to be appreciated for only what she does. She wants you to appreciate who she is, but you can admit it – she does a lot. Whether it’s decorating the house or making sure the clothes are clean…or that you have your favorite soap…a woman wants to know what she does is valued by you.

Underestimates the small stuff – You only said “this” but it was “THIS” to her. And it hurts. You may even think it’s funny. She may even laugh. But it is often building a wall of protection around her heart each time you do. The key here is that you can’t talk to her like you might talk to another guy. She hears and feels deeper than you do. Words can and do hurt.

Speaks with curtness - When you talk down to her, as if she’s somehow less than you, you bruise her spirit. Deeply. And, you know she’s not less than you…you don’t even think she is…she just can’t tell that sometimes based on your tone and the way you talk to her.

Corrects her as she’s talking - This could be finishing her sentences or speaking for her in the company of others. She feels demeaned and devalued when you present her to others as if she can’t compete with you in original thought…which you know isn’t true. (My wife is much smarter than me.)

Acts suspicious - Don’t misunderstand or misapply this one. When you hide information, even when you think you’re protecting her, you cause her to question your motive. When you protect your calendar…or act like you are upset at the question “What did you do today?” or “What did you talk about?” or “Who was that?” when someone calls, it gives her an eerie feeling something is wrong. And, that hurts.

Admires other women over her – She sees you looking. She may even understand your highly visual make-up. It hurts her, however, when a glance becomes a stare…especially when it happens everywhere you go…all the time.

A wife’s heart, no matter how independent or strong she is, is tender in places. Lots of places. She can bruise easily in some areas of her life…especially the places that involve the people she loves the most…like you. A husband who understands this is more careful in how he speaks and responds to her.

Most husbands I know would never injure their wife knowingly. They want to be her protector. Men, when we don’t realize the damage we are doing to our wives emotions, we invalidate every desire we have to be her defender. I always like to use this thought as a reminder: Would I ever allow another man to speak to or treat my wife like I am doing? She’s a precious gift guys…let’s treat her well.

What other ways do husbands injure their wives, without even knowing it?

(Note: I used this post in a message I preached on marriage. You can view it HERE. Also, I wrote a parenting version of this post about ways parents injure a child. Read it HERE.)

7 Acts of Grace in a Marriage

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After years of working with marriages, including my own, I’ve come to a conclusion. Marriages that struggle are often lacking one key ingredient. It’s something that, when missing from any relationship, will cause trouble in the relationship. The missing ingredient is called grace. And, when applied appropriately, it’s amazing.

If the marriage is struggling, one remedy is to apply more grace. Of course, it ultimately takes two people to make the marriage work, but one way to improve things is to interject more grace. When both parties are grace-giving to each other, the marriage can soar.

Here are 7 acts of grace in a marriage:

Recognize differences – You first have to know them, but you have to give grace for your uniqueness. No two people in the world are alike and that’s never realized as more true than in a marriage relationship. The more you understand those differences the better you’ll be able to grow the strength of the marriage. And, if you live in the grace of marriage you’ll spend a lifetime in discovery…never believing you’ve got this person completely figured out, but always dating, always exploring new dreams together, always learning about each other.

Respect differences – It is not enough just to know the differences, you have to accept them. Respect them. This doesn’t mean making excuses for them but fully embracing the other person’s uniqueness as a gift to the marriage and allowing them to work for the marriage rather than against it. I’m an introvert. My wife is an extrovert. I can’t always be introverted and respect her extroversion. And vice-versa. I need to talk and listen sometime for her. She needs to allow quiet sometimes for me, but when we blend the two differences together, we become a power couple for the ministry God has given us.

Clear boundaries – Don’t hold your spouse accountable for what they don’t know. Understand the unique needs of each person to keep the marriage strong. Establish the boundaries that are reasonable and agreed upon by both spouses, then live within them. It’s not legalism, it’s giving grace to the other person. For example, I know that Cheryl needs quality time. It’s her love language. I extend grace to her when I protect my schedule to spend ample time with her during the week. She knows I am fueled on her respect of me, so she “graces” me by not speaking down to me in public.

Forgive easily – Have high standards for your marriage, but recognize two imperfect people are trying to uphold them. You’ll make mistakes. Both of you. You aren’t perfect. And, neither is the person you married. You extend grace when you practice granting forgiveness more than you practice holding a grudge.

Serve expecting nothing in return - Part of gracing one another is doing for each other with no strings attached. The goal is not a 50/50 partnership, but that each spouse extend 100% grace to one another. When a couple mutually submits to one another…even out-serving each other…the bond of the marriage is strengthened. (See Ephesians 5:21)

Extend trust – A marriage won’t grow far beyond where trust is still being earned. Many of us bring our own hurts into a marriage. It can be difficult to place full confidence in the other person, especially after mistakes are made. For a marriage flourish, you have to risk being hurt and extend the grace of trust. (There will be those reading this who have had reasons to mistrust their spouse…I get that…and it takes time to recover from severe hurt in the marriage. At some point, however, for the marriage to ever be all it should be, a risk of trust will have to be given again. That takes grace.)

Love the mundane – Let’s be honest. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, if things aren’t moving fast enough, we can fall into routines and life can be boring. That bothers some of us more than others. For some of us, we love the big…the grandiose. We love the mountaintop weekends and the pinnacle vacations. We want every moment of our life to be extraordinaire. And, frankly, it’s not. It can’t be. And, if we aren’t careful, we can get bored even in the marriage. In fact, I’d be bold enough to say boredom is a leading cause of marriages that fall into trouble. It often starts there at least. Grace in a marriage means that we learn to love the highs…which is easy…and the lows…which is hard…and the mundane…which is sometimes…for some people…the hardest of all.

Can I ask you a question? Will you be honest with yourself?

Is your marriage suffering from a lack of grace?

7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It

counseling distressed couple

I was talking to a man the other day. He’s injured. Not severely. He will survive. Hopefully. The wounds aren’t deep. Right now. But, he is injured.

It’s an emotional injury. Sometimes those are the worst kind of hurts.

The person doing the injuring: His wife.

And she…most likely…doesn’t even know she’s doing it.

Surprised?

I’m not. It happens all the time. She’s probably injured too. And, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it to her. Marriages are made of two very different, imperfect people. Plus, we often injure most those we love the most.

My friend is newly married. Over the course of the last few months he’s began to realize how many things his wife is saying and doing that are causing him to pull away from her. He even recognizes his reaction as a defense mechanism. Rather than start a fight, he withdraws. And, he’s withdrawn to the point that he was willing to admit his hurt…which is difficult for any man to do. I was proud of him for being humble enough to ask if this was normal in a marriage.

It didn’t take long before I realized, however, this marriage is heading for disaster if they don’t address their issues soon. There’s a great chance she has questions about the relationship also. Thankfully, they’re in a great season to ask hard questions…learn valuable lessons…and strengthen the marriage.

I should be clear. This is not a counseling blog. And, this couple needs counseling. Even though I have a degree in counseling, this is simply a blog where I want to help people. Mostly that’s by addressing leadership issues, but sometimes I address the issues dealing with relationships…families…marriage…children. Because, those issues impact us all. And, our leadership.

Which led me to this post…addressing the ways wives injure their husbands…without even knowing it. I realize this works both ways. As a man, I feel most prepared to address this side of the issue. I consulted with my wife for the companion post 7 Ways a Husband Injures His Wife…Without Even Knowing It.

Here are 7 ways a wife injures her husband (without even knowing it):

Put him down in front of other people – Most men will not counter this type of humiliation in public…if ever. They will simply take it…and hurt. If they do eventually address it it will be out of stored up resentment…maybe anger…and it won’t be pretty.

Go behind him when he tries to do something at home – When you always show him how much better you can do things than he can do them, his ego is injured. When he fixes the bed…for example…and you follow behind him showing him the “correct way” immediately after he finishes, he is reminded he doesn’t measure up to your standards.

Constantly badger him – If he doesn’t do what you want him to do…and you remind him. Again. And, again…it never accomplishes what you think it will. In fact, it injures him with the opposite result.

Use the “you always” phrase…excessively – Because…he “always” does… Not really, but when you accuse him that he always does…sadly, it only helps build him into a man that always will.

Hold him responsible for your emotional well-being – Acting as if he’s the reason you feel bad today…and every other day you feel bad…puts undue pressure on him he doesn’t know what to do with. And, you don’t have to tell him. Subtly, just be in a bad mood towards him…without releasing him from guilt. He’ll take the hint…and own the responsibility. He will think it’s his fault even if it’s not. And, he caries that pain.

Complain about what you don’t have or get to do – He has a desire to fix things. He wants to be a provider. Every man does. Some attempt to live it out and some don’t. But, when he’s trying, doing the best he can, yet he feels he isn’t measuring up…he’s crushed. When you are always commenting on what other women have…that you don’t…he carries the blame…even if you’re not intending it to be his.

Don’t appreciate his efforts – Want to injure a man? Refuse to appreciate the things he feels he does well. It could be work, a hobby or a trait, but he feels part of his identity in the things he does. When you don’t find them as “valuable” as he does, his ego is bruised.

The reality is a man’s ego…self-confidence…sense of worth…is greatly tied to his wife. Just as a woman’s is to her husband. We can be fragile people. Some more than others. And, some seasons more than others. Understanding these issues and addressing them…with a third party if necessary…build healthier, stronger and happier people…and marriages.

I understand some women, especially the equally or more wounded women, are going to take offense to this post. I get that. I’m prepared for that…I think. All I can say is that you can’t measure my heart or my intention. As I said, I aim to help. You can’t address what you do not know. If you are guilty of any of these, the response is up to you. If not, well, thanks for reading to this point in the post anyway.

I’m praying this lands on ears that need to hear.

For a similar post, click HERE

(Note: I used this post in a message I preached on marriage. You can view it HERE. Also, I wrote a parenting version of this post about ways parents injure a child. Read it HERE.)

A Key to Keeping Any Relationship Strong

Elderly couple

One key that helps keep any relationship strong…especially the marriage relationship…is what I call…

Keeping Short Accounts

The premise is simple. If something is bothering you now, even if it is a small matter, it will only bother you more in days to come if you don’t deal with it. You basically have two choices. You can choose to let it go and live with it (Which most of us are not very good at doing) or you can address the area of concern. One of the two must be chosen or the issue will eventually become a major problem.

I realize the first option seems to be the easier option many times. It avoids conflict. It keeps things from being messy. It’s a passive approach that works for a time.

But, here is a truth you cannot escape: Over time, small problems become big problems and big problems destroy relationships.

Learning how to handle conflict is critical to any relationship…especially a healthy marriage, so begin to deal with the issues of concern in the relationships you care most about protecting before they begin to negatively alter the strength of the relationship.

What is bothering you about a relationship in your life?

If the problem never goes away, can you live with it and the relationship still be healthy? If not, keep a short account…address with the problem…get outside help if needed…and get on to making the relationship better.

7 Tips for Healthier Marriage Communication

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Marriages are built on communication. Improve communication…improve the marriage. Poor communication…it will be very difficult to have a successful marriage. We could all stand to improve in this area.

Here are 7 tips for better communication in marriage:

Be a good listener – You can never expect to grow in your communication until you learn to truly hear one another. Have you been listening lately?

Timing is important – Don’t try to address major issues when the other party is distracted. Set aside time to address important topics. Know when to speak and when to listen. Do you need to be silent more often?

Never criticize the person – You can address actions, but when you attack the person, defenses rise and communication fails. Every time. Are you being critical of the one you are supposed to be building up?

Be willing to give each other credit for differences

There are so many…

Men, you can’t talk to your wives as you talk to your guy friends…She is more tender hearted…understand that an deeper meaning is often attached to what they are saying.

Women, if you want your husband to understand something…You must say it in a language he understands…simple…straight-forward…men don’t as easily read subtleties or between the lines.

Keep emotions under control – When the female starts shedding tears or the males anger rises, even though both can be natural responses for either person, communication is hindered. Wait until the intense emotions calm, then address the issue. But, definitely address the issue.

Prompt resolutions – Don’t let issues linger too long. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. The longer an issue lingers, the harder it is to address. Do you have some issues you need to address?

Be willing to humble yourself and forgive – Marriage is hard; people make mistakes; marriage must be free flowing with grace. Are you holding a grudge you need to release?

What would you add to the list? What has improved the communication in your marriage?

Be honest: What is the real state of your marriage communication? Be willing to get the help you need.

There’s a difference in knowing and doing. Let’s commit to improving our marriage communication. I’m in…how about you?

For more help for your marriage, click HERE.

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

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This is a guest post by Tom with Ever Accountable. Tom is a 30 year old husband of one beautiful woman and father of two rambunctious boys. He is a passionate crusader against internet pornography after witnessing the destruction it causes in lives. He blogs for Ever Accountable because he believes their accountability software for Android phones will keep users honest and open in their relationships.

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

Perhaps there is nothing more sacred on this earth than family. Our family fills the primal need to have intimate connections with others of our own species. Our species is a kind that thrives on real connection with real people, and there is no stronger connection than that of a family. So, it is with great sadness that we see the direction of society’s apathy towards perhaps the number one destroyer of families: internet pornography. What follows are five steps to take if you feel you might be addicted to porn.

Admit it

The first step for beating any addiction is to admit that the addiction exists. There is a distinction between accepting and admitting that is obvious to everyone except an addict. An addict thinks that accepting the addiction as part of who they are is the same as admitting their addiction. However, the addiction is not who you are – the addiction just took up residence without asking. Admitting is realizing that you have to evict the addiction, or you will lose everything. Admitting is taking action because you realize that the most important thing in your life is getting rid of pornography addiction.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge of its destructive nature is essentially what keeps us from trying meth, cocaine, heroin, or any other hardcore drug. Why should pornography be any different? For one thing, the problem is not admitted as such in mainstream culture, but there are still great resources that help us understand the science behind porn addiction and these outlets help us understand why we should quit. The science helps us get past the lies that the porn industry feeds us. Porn is harmful, it is destructive, it will ruin you.

Stop hiding it

Porn thrives in privacy. I get that it can seem impossibly hard to tell your spouse or significant other. I get that you fear losing your relationship when you think about telling those close to you. I understand that, but I also know that telling your spouse about your addiction is necessary and the absolute best thing you can do to stop your addiction. When you remove the secrecy of your addiction, you remove the “security” blanket that has kept you trapped in the addiction cycle.

Be held accountable

Because of porn’s reliance on secrecy, it is essential to find someone that will hold you accountable. Find someone that will be firm with you and bust your chops when they need busted, and lift you up when you need lifted. Talk to people in your church that you admire, talk with friends that you think of as strong, moral individuals, and talk with your spouse. Find somebody that you can trust with your addiction and have weekly meetings with them.

Protect your electronic devices

Perhaps the most helpful advice is to get right to the root and fight this problem at the source. Porn is still circulated via print, I know, but the internet is where porn breeds, hunts, and eats. It is almost nigh impossible to live without computers, smart phones, and tablets in today’s world, and fortunately, accountability software exists for this very reason. Accountability software allows you the opportunity to continue using those devices, but with the knowledge that you’ll be held accountable for your browsing habits. I like to use the analogy that putting accountability software on your phone or computer is like being loaned the keys to a Corvette, but with the understanding that the car will be inspected by an expert mechanic upon return. You might be tempted to test the limits of the car, but is that what you want to do when you know your actions will be brought to light? You know where your addiction lives, so it is absolutely imperative that you put in place a defense on that domain.

Don’t buy into the lies that pornography isn’t destructive. Don’t believe that your life hasn’t changed if you’re already in the addictive cycle. When you pull away from your addiction you will very quickly see the destruction porn was wrecking on your life. Be encouraged that stopping porn will be the best step you take for restoring every part of your life.

Things My Wife Does I Take for Granted

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My wife is amazing. In so many ways. She’s intelligent. Beautiful. Caring. She’s a far better person than me. But, she’s also a doer for others. All the time. She does so much for me and our household. Some of them…honestly…I take for granted.

Recently I saw her watering the pretty flowers we have on our front steps. I must admit, I’m not a great detail person. I would be likely to forget those flowers are there, but when I get home from a long day at work, it’s nice to walk into a home that is so welcoming. Those flowers this fall are a part of that.

That’s when it hit me. How many things does she do that I take for granted? She just does them. I don’t even know when she does them all the time. She just does.

Here are a few examples:

Watering flowers – Okay, I mentioned this one. But, someone has to water them…and she apparently does it every day.

Feeding the dog – I love our dog. I don’t mind helping with this one. I just never do. It’s in Cheryl’s daily routine.

Washing clothes – I’ve joked that I only need a couple pairs of underwear. The girl never stops. It seems she’s always washing clothes. (She’s even said she misses washing the boy’s clothes. Whatever!)

Clothes from cleaners – I take my shirts to the cleaners…I mean…Cheryl takes my clothes to the cleaner. And picks them up. And places them back in my closet. All I do is find them clean. Amazing how that works.

Check book balanced and bills paid – I would pay the bills, but the checkbook wouldn’t be balanced if it weren’t for her. Of course, she is an accountant, and this comes naturally for her. She actually feels better when she knows this is done well, but no doubt I take it for granted. Many times.

Special dates remembered – Birthdays, for example, come the same date every year for everyone we know. Funny how that works. Cheryl remembers. Even when I don’t.

Social calendar arranged – Cheryl keeps my work calendar on her phone. It helps her know where I am throughout the day. (Guys, this is not an inconvenience, but a huge blessing. When our spouse wants to know what we did during the day, because they love living life with us, this gives them a head start. It also helps Cheryl know how to pray for me throughout the day.) But, mostly it allows her to plan our social life working with my busy schedule. And, I love having a social life. I just don’t like planning it. She does this. Continually.

I’m sure there are many more….such as being thoughtful enough to send thank you and sympathy cards…but these were 7 that easily came to mind when I took the time to think about them. And, you know how much I like 7. :)  And, at first glance, they may seem like little things, but they are really big things…for example…if we don’t feed her the dog dies…but all of them make life better for me. Bottom line, my life would have less color, less excitement, and less enjoyment without Cheryl. Forgive me for taking that for granted so many times.

Men, what do you take for granted that your wife does?

7 Ways to Protect Your PK…Pastor’s Kid in Ministry

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I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. Recently my wife has guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife. One comment I received was well taken. She basically said…”What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I heard that. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t posted specifically about protecting the children in ministry.

I have noticed the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed that my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One is self-employed, but works mostly in the Christian sector, and one is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, that it is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church…actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church…and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry…if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children that have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics…please share them in the comments if you do…but, if we could avoid damaging a child growing up in the ministry world altogether I think we should.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But, don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are…or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are…SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent…on certain days. And, then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week.And, the more they respect you…the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home…be home. Let voicemail do its thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But, I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor…not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully that’s understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course that. Consider it understood that this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively.

Pastors…or even better…PK’s…anything else you’d recommend?

6 Thoughts for the Pastor’s Wife

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This is another guest post from my wife Cheryl. She’s amazing. (Except she only did six :) )

Here are 6 Suggestions for the Pastor’s Wife:

You aren’t the pastor…don’t try to be

Ever had a church member complain to you about the lack of parking? The worship center is too cold or too hot? The choir never sings their favorite song? Not enough doughnuts (which are actually donated by a church member)? Or, that the sermon should have been about…? And the fact is…if it is something within my control…I’ll do whatever possible to help solve the issue or find someone who can. The problem for me is even when the situation is out of my control I carry the burden…I won’t let it go…it bothers me…continually. I don’t like conflict and want everybody to be happy…all the time!!

I’ve had to realize that there are always some complaints…some issues…that are not within my control and I don’t need to carry the burden as if they are. In our situation…my husband has been called by God and our church congregation to be the pastor…the one ultimately accountable for issues at church. Don’t misunderstand, I believe we equally accepted the calling, but my greatest role in the church is to support my husband…who just happens to also be my pastor.

Find your place…be visible in the church

A friend, whose husband is also a senior pastor, recently shared with me that even though they had been in their current church several years…most of the congregation did not even know who she was. She doesn’t feel a part of the church or even want to be there most Sundays. How sad…not only for my friend and their current church, but equally sad for her husband. God not only calls our spouse…He also calls us. And I fully believe that it is not God’s will for a couple to be pulled different directions. His will is to create unity…oneness…in a marriage. All that to say, I think it is very important for me to be visible…as a supporter of my spouse’s ministry and as his biggest fan. I need to play an active role…fulfilling my God given passion…serving in God’s church. If your marriage is as it should be…the calling is for both of you. You would want to be doing life together. My encouragement is not to live by other people’s expectations, but find your place and learn to love the church. Ask God to give you a heart for the people equal to your husband’s. You’ll also better balance each other better on the good and bad days of ministry that way. (I wrote previously that the role you play should be unique to you.)

Protect your family…above all

Protecting our family is equally important for both spouses. Our children are watching and learning as we model how to handle issues within the church. Being on staff can be difficult at times as you are often exposed more to people’s issues and problems. There are things to share with your family and then there are times for the protection of the other family…or even your own…that it is best not to share. Every family has struggles…and there will be opportunities for you to use situations as teaching moments…but not if it was shared in confidence or will put your family member in an uncomfortable situation.

Be his biggest supporter…his safe haven

Without a doubt, this is one of our most important roles as a pastor’s spouse. At the end of the sermon…or end of the day…our spouse needs to know we are their number one supporter! This is whether it was a good day at church…or a not so good one…whether the church is meeting budget…or attendance is up or down. Our spouse needs to know that home is a safe haven. A place of rest…not to be lazy…but a place to no longer feel the weight of the church…and be loved & respected for their most important role as a husband and father.

Let your hair down…you need friends…yet have to be careful

We need to be careful as pastors’ wives not to build walls of protection around our lives and families’ lives that we don’t allow any one into our lives. No matter your spouse’s occupation…we all need friends. Yet, because our husbands are in the ministry we are often exposed to issues and challenges the church or another person may be facing. We need friends that can be our friends because of who we are as a person…not as an inside source of information. And honestly, I have learned the hard way to be careful who I can “let my hair down” with and who is just pumping me for information. A rule I have tried to strive for is to surround myself with friends who 1) Encourage my relationship with Jesus Christ, 2) Encourage my relationship with my husband and family, 3) Are not afraid to speak TRUTH in love and 4) Enjoy having fun and laughing as much as I do! I need friends like that. We all do.

Continue to grow spiritually…protect your walk

This is the number one most important thing we can do as a pastor’s wife and more importantly, as a follower of Jesus Christ. I NEED to strive daily to grow in my spiritual walk with Christ. It is so easy to get caught up supporting our spouse, raising our family, working inside or outside the home, or even “doing church” business, that we neglect to protect our own walk with Christ. I can’t support my spouse…my family…or our church if I am not striving to grow closer to Christ. A good friend once shared with me that “BUSY” stands for “bound under satan’s yoke”. The enemy wants nothing more than for me to be too busy to do that which is most important. Isn’t that what Jesus shared with Martha? And no one is accountable for my Christian walk but ME! Not even my pastor who just happens to be my spouse!

Those are just a few thoughts on being a pastor’s wife. Any you have to add?

(And, this note at my husband’s request, please be kind in your comments. The last couple of guest posts are simply my opinions, but have triggered a couple of unkind remarks. And, as I said, I don’t like conflict. Plus, I guess that could be number 7…be nice. :) )