Ministry Marriages, Part Three: Nurturing Your Relationship

 

It’s easy to get so busy in the ministry that you neglect your marriage relationship, but that relationship is foundational to your ministry. A man may be a powerful preacher or able administrator, but if his marriage relationship is in chaos, his ministry will be greatly hampered. Harmony in the relationship is key to a harmonious ministry.

Remember when you were first “in love”? When he looked at you, you felt like a beauty queen.  When she looked at you, you felt like lightning was coursing through your body. After several years of marriage you begin to understand that a lot of that physical attraction is just hormones. Yes, a good sexual relationship will help a marriage and protect it from outside attack, but there’s got to be more to a relationship that that. In time libido will wane, and then what will you have left?

Art and I have been married more than forty years. More and more I see that the biggest hunk of marital love is  friendship and companionship.  You may change ministries. You may move away from family. But a marriage should last a lifetime. If your marriage relationship is weak, your ministry will suffer too. So how can you protect and nurture your marriage relationship?

Trust

Proverbs 31 says of the virtuous woman, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her.” (NKJV)

Your marriage partner should be able to completely trust you and you should be able to trust him. That means you don’t sneak around behind his back and do things you know he wouldn’t approve of. You make decisions that fit with agreements you have already made. You don’t undermine his authority. You know her well enough to know what she’ll like or won’t like and try to please her. You honor joint agreements. You know what your spouse wants to be consulted on and when he doesn’t mind if you make decisions for him and you honor that.

If you can’t trust your marriage partner totally or you can’t be trusted, your relationship will suffer greatly.

Consideration

Art often quotes 1 Peter 3:7 to married men. “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (your wives) with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” (NKJV)

That means a husband needs to consider the needs and desires of his wife. When he makes decisions he needs to consider what’s best for his wife and delight in making her happy. His decision shouldn’t run over her needs.

At the same time a wife needs to consider her husband, how to help him and make him happy.

Simple kindness and consideration for each other is a big part of what makes a marriage relationship strong.

One thing I love about Art is the fact that he takes care of my silly but precious things like dolls, teddy bears, or collectables. If they are important to me, they’re important to him.

Friendship

Your marriage partner should be your best friend for life. That means you need to nurture that friendship. You may have separate interests that you like to pursue, and that is healthy, but you should also have things you like to do together.

What do you like to talk about? Are those things encouraging to you, or do they discourage? Can you read or view something together that gives you more to talk about? Is one person doing most of the talking and the other mainly listening? Encourage each other to share the things that mean a lot to you. Thank each other for sharing even when you don’t agree. Instead of censuring your partner, listen to understand his or her viewpoint.

Develop common interests. You may encourage each other in private pursuits, but you should also have things you enjoy doing together. After a while boredom may step in, so consider breaking the mold and beginning a new joint venture.

Art has always been a fast distance runner. He picks up any sport naturally and well. I’m hopeless at sports but love creative crafts and writing. We’ve each pursued our own interests, but we also learn from the other. I understand more about sports than I used to. Art will sometimes talk about writing issues. But we both like to rummage around garage sales and second hand stores. Sure, our house gets full of silly collectables sometimes and we have to restrain ourselves or recycle things we have previously loved. But looking for bargains brings us closer together. I don’t know just why.

Of course, we both love to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef as well. (Who wouldn’t?)

Life is busy for everyone these days. Follow a diet. Spend time with your kids. Increase your skills. Keep up with social networks. Excel at your job. But in your busyness, don’t neglect your marriage relationship or it will affect your ministry and almost every area of your life.

Part Four will discuss managing your finances.

Ministry Marriages, Part Two: Working as a Team

 

In my last blog I began talking about ministry marriages and how to nurture them.  A couple can have a much more effective ministry by working together as a team than by each going their separate ways. Building that harmony into a marriage isn’t always easy, but good harmony will bless everyone around them.

Scripture pictures marriage as being like two oxen yoked together. The man and wife should be moving in the same direction at the same pace for the same purpose. This need for unity is especially important in a ministry marriage. If a couple is not united in purpose and are going separate directions, their ministry will suffer.

Have you ever met a passionate, gifted pastor with a wife who wished she could be someplace else? Doesn’t work very well, does it? Or maybe you’ve met a woman who longed to be in ministry and was trying to drag her husband along with her. God doesn’t lead a couple together and then give them mutually exclusive ministries.

Wives can help their husbands by supporting their ministries and working alongside them to see those ministries thrive. Husbands can help their wives by recognizing their gifts and encouraging them to use them.

More than forty years ago Art Brammer felt the Lord calling him to a missions ministry in Taiwan. He was training for ministry at Faith Baptist Bible College. I was attending the same college, eager to be involved in ministry and searching for God’s will. Two weeks after we started dating, Art told me about his desire to be a missionary to Taiwan and wondered if I would be open to the possibility. I told him I felt God was leading me to write for Christian publication, but I was also open to missions. The Lord led us together in marriage, then to Taiwan for sixteen years, then on to New Zealand in 1998.

Unity of purpose has helped us to work well together in various times of ministry. We both cared about the same people and ministries, though we had different jobs within those ministries.

Here are some ways I support Art in his ministry:

  1. Support and encourage his teaching ministry and ideas, both privately and publicly.
  2. Give feedback in a positive way. At times Art says something from the pulpit that comes out sounding like he means something different than I know he does. At times like that I mention it to him in private and allow him to correct it as he sees fit. I also try to get a sense of how people are responding to various ideas or events in the church and communicate that to him privately. Are we having enough or too many fellowship nights? Are people ready to make various changes? Who might be ready to fill a certain church office? Is a church member struggling with something?
  3. Offer suggestions for programs or events in the church. Art is a great plodder. He never grows weary of studying and he prepares well for all of his teaching and preaching times throughout the week. It’s easier for me, however, to come up with ideas for outreaches, programs, and events in our church. When I think of a new idea I run it past him. Sometimes these ideas don’t fly, but often, in talking about the idea, we come up with something that works well. Art doesn’t resent my ideas. He welcomes them, though he doesn’t use all of them.
  4. Complement his ministry with my ministry. I teach, plan, play the piano, lead programs, and do what I can do to help our team ministry prosper.

But Art also supports me in my ministry.

  1. He recognizes my gifts and encourages me to use them.

Yes, he’s happy for me to use my gifts in our church-planting ministry, but throughout all these years he has also encouraged me to write for Christian publication. This takes time, energy, sometimes finances, which I have to carve out of my life in addition to church ministry. He encourages me to do this because he wants me to be happy and because he recognizes the Lord leading me to do these things.

  1. He gives me feedback about my church ministry and my writing ministry. He gives suggestions and help. He’s my first editor.
  2. He helps me in areas of need. He works through computer problems and handles my writing finances. He encourages me to go to writing conferences when I can, and order helpful books or resources. When I plan events at church he’s the first to help me set up or clean up. When I plan a book launch he’s the quiet helper who makes everything work.

When a husband and wife work together in accordance with God’s will, ministry becomes more effective and rewarding. The hard times become more bearable. Without that unity of purpose, however, the ministry suffers and the marriage does too. Even when a couple is serving in separate ministries, they can support each other in a way that makes them stronger in each individual ministry.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)

In Part Three I’ll talk about nurturing your relationship.

Ministry Marriages Part One, Building Harmony into Your Marriage

 

How can couples in ministry protect and nurture their marriages toward more love and unity? I’m no marriage expert but my husband and I have worked in harmony in ministry  for over forty years. During that time we’ve grieved as we’ve seen some couples in ministry break up or struggle in their relationship while others draw great strength and encouragement from their marriages.

When a couple works together in harmony, each doing his or her own part in a way that blends with the other, the result is a beautiful ministry. Like a symphony, their marriage blend blesses the couple first of all, and then the people they minister to. On the other hand, when the couple fight each other and go in separate directions, the result is a clashing cacophony.

In a marriage, what makes the difference between that beautiful symphony and the clashing cacophony?

In the next few blogs I’m going to share my thoughts on marriage based on Scripture and what I’ve observed through the years.

Part One: Making Decisions

Submission and individual freedom need to be balanced or the marriage will suffer. Either extreme will affect the harmony of the marriage.

Suzy works hard to be a submissive wife. Sam speaks with authority and Suzy obeys. She hardly makes any decisions without consulting Sam first. Once he speaks on a subject, she follows his desires without question. If she disagrees with his decision, she prays that God will give her a submissive heart. She may not enjoy doing what Sam says, but she feels responsible before God to obey him. If Sam makes unwise decisions, she figures he is responsible to God for them. She leaves herself in God’s hands, satisfied that she has done her part and must leave the result to God.  In their church ministry Sam writes Suzy’s job description and she fills it. She never disagrees with her husband in public. When people ask Suzy for advice she refers them to Sam and she doesn’t answers questions without consulting him first. She never offers or accepts invitations or makes plans without consulting Sam first.

Edward and Enid, on the other hand, believe in perfect equality in a marriage. Edward makes his decisions; Enid makes hers. They negotiate to make joint decisions come out 50/50. He doesn’t tell Enid how to live and she doesn’t nag him. Edward makes jokes at her expense from the pulpit. She publicly criticizes him. In conversations they often correct each other or argue over who is right. Neither one can offer or accept invitations without consulting the other. Each speaks for himself or herself, but will not answer for each other.

These two couples show two extreme views of submission and individual freedom. Suzy takes submission to such an extreme that she doesn’t even need to think for herself. Sam, on the other hand, misses out on a lot of help Suzy could give. Enid works so hard to be equal that she loses some of the benefits of marriage, while Edward’s ministry would profit from her support.

Scripture does talk about submission, but an extreme view of it can destroy a marriage.

Ephesians 5 teaches us that wives need to be submissive to their husbands, but that we all need to submit to one another. A husband should love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church.  1 Peter 3 also admonishes wives to be submissive to their husbands and husbands to live with their wives with understanding, giving honor to them. It calls husbands and wives “heirs together of the grace of life.”

So who gets to make the decisions?

The husband, as head of the house, is responsible for final decisions on major issues. He should lovingly lead his family in spiritual issues as well as more mundane matters.

A Christian wife, however, brings her own unique gifts and abilities to the table. She can also be led by the Holy Spirit and should be capable of making wise decisions. A Christian husband can and should be able to learn from his wife.

A couple should work together in an open and trusting relationship in which each works for the good of the other. Marriage can add  a vitamin boost of energy to your ministry or it can drain all the nutrients and make your ministry anemic.

Each couple needs to work out the way they will implement these principles. Both need to give and take. Both need to recognize the strengths of the other. Who will make what decisions?  What will they do when they disagree? How will they work out differences?

Our marriage

Art and I compartmentalize many decisions. He decides car issues and many house maintenance and lawn issues. I get to rule the kitchen. I make suggestions about our ministry. He sifts them and implements many of them. He decides what computer to buy. I purchase clothing and small home purchases. He drives, I ride.

Many other things we talk about until we come to an agreement. Sometimes a decision is more important to one of us than the other. The one who cares least allows the other one to decide. Sometimes one of us gives in because it doesn’t seem that important. Art’s a gentleman and wants to make me happy so that helps a lot. It’s rare that both of us feel really strongly about a decision and take opposite sides. Rarely I might need to give in, even though I disagree, simply because he’s the husband and I leave it to him.

We did have one issue on which we didn’t agree. When it came up it really upset me and robbed me of any kind of peace. We had agreed that neither one of us would use money for this purpose unless we both agreed on it. The issue surfaced at unpredictable times and always left me feeling unsettled. Finally I said, “Take x amount of dollars a year to use for that cause and I’ll leave you alone about it. I don’t want to hear about it or talk about it. Just use the money to do what you feel you need to.” In that unusual situation, that was the best way to make peace.

A balanced view of submission and individual freedom will reflect these Biblical principles:

The husband is the loving leader of the home.

  • Each person brings gifts and skills to the table. Each will be better qualified to make certain decisions.
  • Each person needs to have freedom to make many decisions by themselves.
  • Each person should consider the feelings and needs of the other when making decisions.
  • Each person should trust each other and be trustworthy.
  • Each person should be giving and taking. No one should get his or her way most of the time while running over the feelings and desires of the other.

 

In Part Two I’ll discuss working as a team.

Ministry Marriages

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. There’s even a song about it. Couples in ministry usually find extra opportunities for ministry over the Christmas season. So you would expect ministry couples to feel their closest to each other at Christmas.

Statistically speaking, however, Christmas is a tough time on relationships. December 11, exactly two weeks before Christmas, is the day couples are most likely to break up. Many unmarried couples break up then because their relationships aren’t going well and they can’t bear to go through the holidays pretending everything is all right. Even for married couples, the Christmas season with its many family expectations and social gatherings can be hard to get through when your marriage is struggling.

We expect ministry marriages to be bullet proof, but couples in ministry have the same sort of problems as couples in the pews. Added to the normal stresses of life, ministry couples often deal with the struggles that other couples face as they seek to counsel and help Christians in crisis. Just as ministry couples try to plan more time for family traditions and social gatherings, they are often expected to produce extra services and ministries at Christmas. Each activity may be fun and rewarding, but added all together they can put a strain on their own family relationships. And then the global pandemic has added its own challenges this year.

Personally, I find my marriage is the easiest part of my ministry. I thank the Lord for that. But I’ve found that many marriages struggle in ways no outsiders would ever suspect. Here are some tips for these last few days of the Christmas season:

  • Be kind to everyone. You don’t always know who is struggling.
  • Don’t let Christmas get out of control. If traditions or obligations are stressing you or your family, take some activities off your list.
  • Spend time with family and friends doing simple things you can enjoy.
  • Tell your family you love them, that you’re proud of them, and why.

If you get past Christmas and your marriage is still struggling:

  • Make working on your marriage a top priority.
  • Talk out your problems with your spouse.
  • Become accountable to a trusted person outside your marriage. Activities you keep secret can kill your marriage before you even have a chance to work things out. If you’re not okay, you need to tell someone who can help.
  • Make space for quality time with your spouse and your children.
  • Determine to find a good balance between your ministry and your family.

I hope your Christmas 2020 will build your relationships and not tear them down. May God bless your marriage and ministry this Christmas.

Deb Brammer

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas 2020!

Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection. I’ve already read about half of these novellas by Christian authors. I’ll announce the winner at the end of this Book Blast.

Because of Covid 19 my husband and I were not able to return to the States for Christmas 2020. New Zealand remains one of the safest countries of the world from Covid. Our country here continues to have near zero cases of community transmission. We were due for a furlough from our mission church ministry this year but it didn’t seem like a wise time for us to go back.

We were disappointed not to be able to see our family who we have not seen since 2017. So we planned a virtual Christmas. From Thanksgiving to Christmas we met online for weekly Zoom calls with our daughters and their family. We used these advent calls to share memories and photos from the past, seasonal crafts, share brief devotionals, and even play a short game. We planned activities that could involve everyone in some way. Several times we talked about the ways God has provided for us during the last year and during difficult times in the past. These have been positive calls that helped us be together in a year like 2020.

I have many things for which to be thankful. Today I’m especially thankful for social networking like Facebook and Zoom which allows us to be connected to friends and family even when many miles (or kilometers) separate us.

What Christmas tradition are you changing because of Covid-19 this year? What special blessings have touched you during this unusual year? What have you learned to appreciate more because of the effects of the pandemic?

I hope you have a lovely Christmas full of awareness of all life’s blessings.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of a book with a cross cultural theme.

And the winner is … Jenny Leavitt from Florida.