Someone told me this really big lie in youth group: “Mike, if you want to be a good pastor, you can’t have a good family. If you want to have a good family, you can’t be a good pastor.” I’m sure this person meant well but that statement is just wrong. Over the years I’ve met many aspiring ministers and couples and shared these lessons from my own (albeit short) life. These four things are among our non-negotiables and have kept us together in some pretty crazy seasons:
A minister’s life is characterized by interruptions. No one ever has a crisis at a convenient time. People don’t give up their free time for you, but they expect you to give up your free time for them. Special events or productions center around family holidays, which means everyone else has family time except you. Routines create predictability in the unpredictable life of a minister. Whenever possible, Iris and I watch a movie on Friday nights at home. We’ve done it so many times that when I’m on the road, I can feel the same emotions I would if I were home. That’s the power of routine.
2. Travel & Talk Together.
Communication is important (duh), but we rarely talk deep a lot at home. We never unplug there…I’m busy, she’s busy, or we just watch movies! In really stressful seasons or during times we don’t feel connected, we go to New York City or go out to eat. Restaurants and road-trips have been important for us and still are. It’s expensive, but doing so forces all distractions to be gone. We’ve had some of our most meaningful conversations in the car, on the train, or at a table. We’ve changed our ways somewhat because of point #3:
3. Start Saving.
I once heard a pastor say that for pastors wives, security is spelled S-A-V-I-N-G-S. (Isn’t that true for all wives?) Yes, we all live by faith—but having a measure of financial security goes a long way. We’re not wealthy, but like most of you we’ve worked hard to make ends meet. I also think the man in me wants to have a better answer than, “We’ll have to pray for a miracle again!” for my wife when she asks about our finances.
Savings also keeps us from “charging” for ministry. This is just the path God laid out for us…no condemnation on others who have a different call. It’s allowed us to say “yes” to invitations that weren’t financially beneficial and minimized the blow when churches were stingy. When I agreed to serve as lead pastor of our current church, we offered to do it for free. The size or income of the church didn’t matter because we were able to say yes regardless. Recently, they insisted on compensating us sometime later this year, for which we’re very grateful! How we spend money is an indicator of what’s in our hearts. I feel vulnerable and defensive when Iris looks at my credit card statements. That’s exactly why I need her to look at them. If cutting down on guitar gear or Starbucks will give my wife a feeling of security, I’ll go without them.
4. Sow Seeds.
Many people have expressed shock at how much Iris and I are apart at times. In 2012, I traveled for ministry almost every week, usually 3 or 4 days at a time. When Iris visits her family in Korea, she goes for months because airfare there is more expensive than our mortgage…she wants to make the most of that ticket! In 2010, Iris lived in San Francisco for the summer because of an internship.
How did we survive? Because of the first 3 reasons listed, and because of an attitude of sowing seeds. Iris traveling was “sowing her as a seed to Korea for 6 weeks to be with her family” or “sowing her as a seed to an internship in San Francisco that she’ll never forget the rest of her life.” Likewise, she sowed me as a seed to build relationships and pour into churches or conferences. Our marriage is stronger because I sowed her as a seed, and we’ve met some of our best friends in the world because she sowed me as a seed. Sowing means you give something up now for the hope of something greater later on. It’s not easy, but God gave us grace for it. Sometimes life dictated these difficult times apart but we changed our attitude to that of sowing…and we’ve reaped tremendously.
Any others out there that have some ministry and marriage tips for the rest of us? Chime in or share on Facebook!
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