When a married individual works in full-time ministry, there can be the temptation to think the spouse should volunteer in the same area in order to help. Sometimes this temptation comes from the full-time minister pressuring the spouse to “support” his or her ministry via volunteering or sacrificing. Other times it’s the spouse that pressures herself to volunteer, believing her husband’s calling is her responsibility too.
While one spouse can and should be supportive of the other spouse’s full-time ministry, that certainly doesn’t equate to having the same passion or gifts. Let me share a quick personal note . . .
My husband, Art, began serving in full-time ministry as an administrative pastor in 2008. At the time, I was in a full-time graduate program at a secular institute. While he was working to help a struggling church, I was learning about mental health issues in children and adolescents. Our daily worlds were far from similar. And yet, I found myself trying to fit into his full-time ministry. How can I volunteer in his area of ministry in order to help him?
Fast-forward 13 years. A lot has changed for both Art and me; since 2008, we have changed jobs, moved homes, relocated to a different state, and now have children. One thing remains the same: God created Art and me very differently. While Art enjoys finances, I enjoy mental health and child development. I feel things deeply, and Art is more stoic. God fashioned us differently and paired us together, which is a beautiful thing.
So what happens when God pairs two different human beings together and then calls one to work in full-time ministry? Does that calling mean the spouse needs to volunteer in the same area to help? Learn from my mistake. The question I asked myself many years ago, “How can I volunteer in his area of ministry in order to help him?” was indeed the wrong question. The better question is, “How has God designed me to live and fulfill His mission?” On the flip side, “How has God designed my spouse to live and fulfill His mission?”
Instead of trying to fit one spouse into the other spouse’s ministry, it’s okay to recognize that God has designed and equipped each individual with unique qualities. A spouse that serves begrudgingly in an area of ministry is of little benefit to the ministry or the Kingdom of God. However, when each individual serves wholeheartedly in the way God has designed them, both areas of ministry will benefit.
Maybe you can relate. You and your spouse have very different desires and skills. What do you do when that happens? When you and your spouse have differing gifts and passions, here are a few pointers:
1. Find ways to serve together. If there are areas you both enjoy serving, try serving together. This area may not replace your main area of ministry, but serving together in a smaller capacity can benefit your marriage and other ministries.
2. Support each other’s ministry (full-time or volunteer). Ask questions, speak encouragement, and be involved when possible. Even though God has given you different areas of ministry, you can and should support activities that honor God.
3. Ask your spouse for feedback about your current area of ministry. Having your spouse share his or her input creates a team member mentality. It communicates that you value your spouse’s opinion and your spouse has a voice in your ministry.
4. Talk regularly about how God is working in both your lives and ministries. Talking about how God is moving in the lives of others is an encouragement to everyone. Sometimes God uses your spouse’s walk with Christ to convict you or grow your area of ministry.
5. Allow God to utilize you each in different ways in different areas of ministry. It’s okay not to have the same passions or interests. Trying to force your spouse to serve in ways God has designed you will create burnout and bitterness in your marriage and within your spouse. Allow your spouse to choose where she or he is equipped to serve. After all, your spouse is serving the Lord, not you.
6. Focus less on the roles, and more on the mission. God has not called you and your spouse to the same roles, but He has called you both to the same mission. Understanding that each spouse is called to be a disciple-making disciple allows freedom in how that mission plays out in your lives.
7. Celebrate the way God made your spouse. We serve a God of complexity and diversity. It’s His beautiful design that we are all created differently. Without the differing parts of the body of Christ, we could not operate in the way He designed us. Celebrate that!
8. Don’t compare your spouse to other’s spouses. Every couple is different, and every spouse is different. The comparison game will leave you feeling either prideful or depressed. God gave you your marriage for His glory.
9. Seek forgiveness. If you have pressured your spouse to serve your ministry in certain ways, you should seek forgiveness. Don’t try and fit your spouse into how God has designed you.
You and your spouse’s various gifts and passions are a blessing when it comes to marriage. God can utilize you and your spouse in different ways in ministry to usher in His kingdom, for His purpose, in His ways, using your different gifts. Amen.
This article was written by Sarah Rainer, who earned her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology, and originally published at churchanswers.com on March 14. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.