I have only been married for about a year so I do not claim to be any sort of expert on the subject of marriage; but my husband, Joe, and I have had the unique opportunity of being married and both working full time in youth ministry.
Joe is an Edge youth minister and I am the Edge Support Coordinator at Life Teen. This has given us the incredible opportunity of always being able to bounce ideas off of each other and to be on the same page in our love of youth ministry. I know that there are many spouses out there who may be less than interested in being your Core Member or your go to date to all the youth’s extracurricular events, but for Joe and I it is a little bit different. Since we both love and understand the importance of youth ministry we have experienced many blessings and many struggles.
While I would not change our situation for the world, there are a few things that we do, and would suggest to other couples, so that our ministry does not take over our marriage.
1. Go On Real Dates
Since Joe began his job as a youth minister I have been a Core Member for both their Edge and Life Teen program. You may think that is crazy, sometimes I do too, but I love it and love getting to do ministry with my husband. Since I know the teens that he serves, I am always more than willing to go to all the plays, sports games, and choir concerts that he gets invited to. While these events can be fun “dates”, we also make sure to schedule and put on our calendars real dates – you know the ones with candles, flowers, and no teenagers.
2. “Ministry Talk” Time
Joe and I are both very passionate about what we do. We love to help each other out with planning, implementing ideas, and brainstorming. It is great to always have someone at your side to talk to about something you believe so much in, but often times we will find ourselves only talking about ministry related topics. There are some nights where we have to check ourselves and agree to just stop talking about ministry. Something we are very conscious of in our own marriage is making a plan of when we will have our “ministry talk” time, that way it will not trickle into every dinner conversation.
3. Have Hobbies
When ministry takes up so much of your life as your full time job, not to mention all the night and weekend commitments, it can be hard to find other things to talk about. I am realizing how important it is to have hobbies and interests that have absolutely nothing to do with youth ministry. Not only will these hobbies bring you new life, but they will also help bring vitality to your marriage. Joe is much better at finding hobbies than I am (#newyearsresolution), and I have seen how much they have blessed his life and given us so many more things to talk about and do other than ministry.
4. Don’t Be Too Understanding
This may seem bizarre at first, but just bear with me. Since Joe and I both understand the great importance of ministry we are both very understanding of the other needing to stay late to talk to teens, to go to weekend events, or to be gone for a retreat or summer camp. While it is important to be understanding and supportive, it is also important to know when to draw the line. Your marriage is more important than your ministry, period. You have to work together as a couple to help each other not to get priorities out of whack. While there are times of dire need when a youth needs you to stay an extra 30 minutes to talk, that should not happen all the time. Tell the youth you need to get home to your wife/husband and kids and they will understand; besides most conversations can wait till tomorrow.
5. Learn to Say No
When you are as cool of a youth minister as my husband is… you will get invited to go to ALOT of events. It can get hard sometimes to say no, especially when you really do want to show your love and support to all the teens you serve. But in all reality, you can’t be everywhere all the time and your family needs you just as much (actually more) than the teens do. At the beginning of each month decide together as a couple how many after hours events you will go to as a couple or as individuals, including retreats, that way when you meet that quota you can easily say no to the excessive invitations to see Gone With The Wind. Also plan out your “black out” weeks when you just can’t, and shouldn’t, plan extra things.
This is by no means the way to find balance between ministry and marriage, or the only ways. They are just a few things that we have learned very quickly that have helped to bring peace and perspective to our lives and our marriage.
(Photo Credit: Elizabeth Binette Photography)