The following question is an actual question I once received from a blog reader, but it’s representative of one I frequently receive:
Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?
Great question. I think it is one everyone in ministry should be asking.
My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. No doubt about it. Everyone in our church knows it. Our staff and the church see her as an equal part of my role within the church.
It’s important to note, Cheryl was my partner before I was in vocational ministry. We taught Sunday school together. She has certainly been a partner now as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church.
In every church we’ve been in she’s been widely loved and popular. (I have joked that when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.)
I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.
Here are seven ways I partner with my wife, Cheryl, in ministry:
I tell my church she’s my partner.
This may seem obvious, but I believe it is huge. I want the church to know her value to my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church.
Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I try to be clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.
I keep others from assigning her commitments.
This to me is also huge. I realize it won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches where I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so.
She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings. She has a servant’s heart, so she’s willing to do anything necessary. But, I help her keep Sunday mornings mostly free of an ongoing assigned task. Both of us want her available to assist me in ministering to people.
Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending this one necessarily, unless it works for you, but Cheryl and I like her being able to greet people. She shakes lots of hands and hugs lots of necks. We can tag-team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It would be difficult to attend our church for long—as large as it is—and not meet one of us.
I let her work in her area of passion.
Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies and leading women’s Bible studies. She also loves to invest in women in our church, including some of the wives of other staff members. She does a lot of one-on-one mentoring. It fuels her.
I feel part of my role in partnering with her is to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart, realizing her ministry is equally important to mine.
I keep her informed.
I work long days, but before we go to bed or in the morning, we unpack my day. It could be over dinner, on a long walk or before we turn out the lights at night or as we walk to breakfast in the morning. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want Cheryl to have many surprises, because I didn’t tell her something.
At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron,” on issues which she may not have an answer to or that we haven’t yet addressed together.
I seek her input.
Cheryl is often my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted adviser.