Married to the Ministry


Put Asunder

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Did God call us, like Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his
son Isaac, to surrender our marriage on the altar of ministry? The
answer is no. To keep our marriage off the sacrifice altar, we may
need to make any of the following shifts in our ministry.

Choice #1: Shift gears. Doreen Mitchell, pastor to children at
Grace Fellowship Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, has a lot to
juggle. Doreen is the wife of Scott, president of Mackay Envelopes,
a large corporation in Minneapolis. Doreen has six children at home
ranging in age from 15 to 23. She is also a children’s minister at
a growing church of 1,300 with more than 800 children from birth to
sixth grade. In her “spare” time, Doreen leads a Weigh Down
workshop and has started taking flying lessons.

“As long as Scott and I are clicking, I am fine with all that I
have to do at the church. When he is not happy or I am
overcommitted at church, things begin to fall apart,” Doreen

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Doreen is probably typical of most female children’s ministers
when she states, “When I go home, it is not to relax! I have my own
kids’ needs to attend to or clothes to wash, dinner to cook, or a
corporate function to go to with Scott.”

So what should children’s ministers say when their church
decides to add another service to that Easter weekend? (By the way,
when was the last time you spent a normal Easter, Christmas, or
Thanksgiving with your family?) What should children’s ministers
tell their pastoral team when they want to add a Sunday evening
service or a second morning service?

Doreen has the answer. “I have to tell my pastor that my
priority is to my family,” she emphasizes. Fortunately for Doreen,
her pastor and church leadership are all in agreement that families
should take priority, but that isn’t often the case.

Choice #2: Shift jobs. One children’s pastor recently left a
large, growing children’s ministry because of the unbelievable
amount of stress placed on him by his senior pastor.

“My pastor’s expectation was that if our volunteers had to be at
church, so did I. Whether it was for setup at a children’s musical
or preparing the rooms for Sunday morning education hour, I
typically spent 60 to 70 hours a week at church. It was just the

While this man was probably wired to succeed at this pace, his
family was not. His oldest son attempted suicide, and his wife
threatened divorce.

“It wasn’t until I was staring at my son in the hospital that it
hit me; I was not giving my family the priority it needed. I had to
make a decision to leave that church and pursue another ministry. I
remember the senior pastor coming to me and really begging me to
stay. He said that I could work fewer hours. He even began to
deride the new church I had decided to move to, but I knew the
decision was right.”

Choice # 3: Change careers. Early in her career, Karyn Henley’s
music-writing career was thriving. In an interview for Today’s
Christian Woman magazine, Karyn admitted that she realized she had
to make a choice when she became pregnant with her son Heath.

“I knew I couldn’t be the mother I needed to be and pursue my
career full-time,” she says of her decision to back away from a
promising career. “If I couldn’t take care of my family, I had no
business trying to take care of anything else. I told the Lord, ‘I
don’t know what you want me to do, but I only want to do what you
want me to do.’ My life hasn’t been the same since.”

Karyn changed her priorities and slowly found herself writing
books to help her as a mom. One such project eventually resulted in
the best-selling Beginners Bible, which has sold 2.9 million copies
and been translated into 17 languages.

When making choices to balance your marriage and ministry, the
key thing is that you, like Karyn, only do what God wants you to
do. Listen to God and follow him into the balance you and your
family need. You may not end up writing a best-selling book, but
the story that God writes on the hearts of your spouse and children
and the people at your church is the only one you’ll really care
about in eternity anyway. cm

TAKE THE TEST name="Ministry test">

Work, Family, and Personal Needs

Use this exercise to measure the degree of balance you have
between the demands of work, family responsibilities, and personal

Answer each question with a number from 1 to 5; with 1 = always
and 5 = never.


_____ Does your family complain that you don’t spend enough time
with them?

_____ Do you make your family sit in the front row during
worship service so the church will see them?

_____ Do you often feel anxious about the demands of your

_____ Does the church’s Wednesday night meal double as your
family dinner?

_____ Do responsibilities at home make you resentful?

_____ Do you check your voice mail or email more than once a
week when you’re on vacation?

_____ Do you expect your family to adapt to your career

_____ Does the fifth- and sixth-grade lock-in double as your
monthly family night?

_____ Is your family vacation ever spent catching up on
responsibilities at home?

_____ Have you ever cut short a vacation for an emergency at



_____ Do you feel frustrated because your income isn’t

_____ Do you feel guilty about the time you spend on your

_____ Do you consistently spend your “day off” working?

_____ Do you resent having to bring work home?

_____ Do you worry that your work interferes with family



_____ Do you feel there’s never enough time for yourself?

_____ Do you feel guilty about taking a vacation?

_____ Do you wish you could get more exercise?

_____ Does preparation for your Sunday school lesson double as
your daily devotion?

_____ Do you feel you never get to do what you like to do?


_____ TOTAL

The lower your score the better! Your total score

• 51 to 100 shows that you’re barely managing the juggling act
of home, career, and personal needs. You need to change your
juggling act.

• 41 to 50 indicates a fair balance. However, one or more of the
areas of your life may be suffering from neglect.

• 31 to 40 indicates a good balance with some need for
improvement. You’re on your way to making every area a

• Less than 30 indicates that you’ve learned to balance family,
career, and personal needs successfully. Good job! Keep it up!

• A high score in only one area indicates a need to organize
that one area so it takes less of your time and energy.

Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.

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