Take the quiz at the end of this article to
determine if you are "Married to your Ministry."
Don't make the mistake of having an illicit affair with your
ministry. Here's how to uphold the vows you made to your spouse;
and impact children and families in your church at the same
The sacred vow we took the day of our wedding was the beginning
of a lifetime of making and keeping promises with our best friend.
Equally sacred is the call we received when we accepted the
ministry of shepherding children and their families. But more often
than not, the commitment to our spouse takes second place when we
have to phone volunteers well into the night, cut short a vacation
for a work-related emergency, or stay at church until the last
child goes home.
It's difficult to balance the demands of our own family with the
demands of the family of God. When faced with a choice to be a
success at home or a success at work, which do you choose? Do you
give yourself permission to put your family first?
On one hand, you may make your family #1 by thinking, "After
all, I have my ministry for a short time, but my family
Yet on the other hand, Luke 9:61-62 rings in your ears; "Still
another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back
and say goodbye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his
hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom
of God." We may waffle between a guilty compulsion to please God
with a successful ministry and a gnawing compassion for our
I Take You (and You, and You, and You)
Can we be a success at our ministry and our marriage? Or do we
even have to choose? Dr. Alan Loy McGinnis, author of The Balanced
Life: Achieving Success in Work and Love, says that you can have it
all! Our work and family actually need each other. Your home is
generally happy and healthy when your work is successful and vice
versa. Your ministry succeeds when you have a healthy home!
Dr. McGinnis notes four laws of success for career and marriage
that form the basis of a balanced life.
Law #1: Commitment-We should avoid saying, "Who
will I have to neglect today?" Instead we must commit to making
both areas of our life successful since we're called by God to be
faithful to our marriage and our ministry. The people who live only
to work may excel for a short time, but they'll burn out because
they lack a support network. Yet those who live only for their
family run the risk of isolation, moral superiority, and social
You can endure a lot of stress in a highly intense work
situation if you have a deep set of relationships outside the
church. For most people, that's a family to go home to which
becomes the keel that keeps them steady. A commitment to ministry
and home allows for God to be well-pleased with our well-doing!
Law #2: Discipline-Marriages often go awry
because the spouses haven't learned self-discipline. If you're a
workaholic by nature, ask your spouse to help you exercise more
discipline over your work habits.
"Being a workaholic doesn't just mean being a hard worker," says
Bryan E. Robinson, a psychotherapist and professor at the
University of North Carolina who's been studying people's work
habits for years. Robinson is also author of the book Chained
to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and
Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them.
Robinson calls workaholism the best-dressed addiction because
it's often rewarded--at least in the short term--and is seen as a
positive attribute by people who don't understand the destruction
it can cause. Sometimes staying long hours at church can allow
people to avoid issues at home. If your marriage isn't going well
or if financial burdens are dragging you down, it's easy to work
late because you don't want to face the pressures at home. In The
Time Bind, Arlie Hochschild notes that although people say they
feel guilty about not spending more time at home, they actually
view their job as an escape.
Okay, okay. That's the dark side of overworking. The reality is
that long hours aren't a definite sign of an addiction. You may be
putting in long hours because it's crunch time on your church's
calendar. If so, it's important to tell your family, "Look, I'm
going to be spending a lot of time this week at church because of
vacation Bible school, so I'll make it up to you and we'll head out
on vacation in two weeks." Families understand that they'll often
be called upon to be flexible just as churches are called upon to
be flexible when there's a crisis or crunch time in the family.
Law #3: Collaboration-Talk about your work at
home. Having a mate who supports you is a powerful force in helping
you reach your goals. Keep the conversation on a positive note so
that dinnertime doesn't become a gripe session about church
problems. That'll pull family members down. It's great for your
kids to hear about your accomplishments and see that it helps you
to talk out your challenges with your spouse. That makes your
children feel secure. If they see that you and your spouse support
each other, that you're there for one another in success and in
failure, then they'll learn a lot about how a healthy marriage and
family work. Plus it might give you the solution that has eluded
Communication at home can and should occur on three levels,
according to McGinnis. Each level reveals a more intimate and
effective form of communication.
- Level 1-Most couples limit their conversations
to straight facts, the least-revealing level of communication.
"Pastor Dan is presenting his new service proposal to the board
- Level 2-The second level, which goes deeper,
is sharing opinions, such as "I don't think this new service is
going to work."
- Level 3-The deepest and most meaningful talk
involves sharing feelings. "If Pastor Dan's new service idea is
accepted, my opposition will cause the board to think I'm against
progress, but it's just that I'm afraid of stretching our already
Law #4: Adaptability-As your career and
marriage grow, it helps to correct any faulty assumptions. People
sometimes believe that if they marry the person God intends them to
marry, then they'll get the relationship they desire. Without the
investment of new energy, though, any marriage will soon
disintegrate. To prevent that, adapt in some way. Choose to change
and do whatever you can to meet your mate's needs as your