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Defining the Role of Marriage as a Pastor

by Nate Holdridge

Defining the Role of Marriage as a Pastor

"He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" (1 Timothy 3:4-5, ESV).

Ministry and marriage, marriage and ministry, the two cannot be separated. If a pastor is the husband of one wife, his marriage influences all he does. Marriage is not in one compartment and ministry in the other.

But we like to compartmentalize in life. In ministry, this is impossible. Everything bleeds into everything else. Marriage is no different. A strong marriage will bleed its way into a pastor’s pulpit presence. A weak marriage will hurt his decision-making. A church is helped when the pastoral marriage is strong.

Our church has an incredible team. The pastors, staff, small group leaders and volunteers are amazing. They run hard. They are faithful. We enjoy each other.

Apparently, this shows. I often hear comments about how wonderful the entire team is, how obvious it is that we like each other. I know, however, the most vital human relationship I have is with my bride. We have endured many different seasons of church work together. She has always been there: supportive, loving, encouraging. I long to grow in fruitfulness, but I cannot imagine any of the fruit thus far happening without her. She has been instrumental.

No one else can help the pastor in the same way his wife can. She can be a source of life, a safe place; no one else could or should be. Her encouragement, comfort and support can propel the man. She will use her gifts in the church, but her giftedness will be uniquely felt in her marriage. In other words, someone else can teach the second graders. No one else can sit on the couch late at night, snuggling, listening to her husband. Her role is unique. Her role is powerful.

The Pastor’s Job

The pastor must tend to his bride. To be a good husband and father is in his job description (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5 above). I’ve heard of church interviews that excluded any contact with or even questions about the marriage — that’s insane.

Paul told Timothy that pastors must be faithful in marriage and good leaders within the home. It is easier for the pastor’s wife to encourage her husband when she is first encouraged by her husband.

If you are in the pastorate, remember this calling. You are called to serve her and your children well. The word Paul used was “manage.” You are to consider, or manage, your family at every stage and season. You pray for the church, considering different stages of its development. You manage there, guiding the flock. The same must be true for your family. Consider where they are at and how to serve them.

She Is A Church Member, Always

The people you tend to will come and go. People move, quit church, or quit your church, but your wife will always be a member of the church you serve. She will always be part of the body. Some will say they are with you, only to depart in a few months time, but your wife is truly with you. She is for you. She will dutifully listen to all your sermons.

Remember this. She is going to have a front row seat to all your growth. You will esteem some church members for their faithfulness — wonderful. Consider also her faithfulness. She goes with you wherever you go. She listens. She prays. She just might be the most faithful member of the church.

Honor her for that. Remember, she can’t look for another church. She’s with you. Love her for that.

Servant-Lead At Home

Jesus taught us the way to greatness. The greatest serve. The first are last. In the home, make sure you practice servant leadership. When you do, you will practice it in the church. If you are the autocratic leader of your home, then you will lead the church that way. This is poison. To practice servant-leadership in your home is helpful to the church.

If a pastor considers his wife's perspective, he will do this in the church. As he listens, he becomes a good listener, which is crucial in ministry.

If a pastor considers his strengths and weaknesses in the home, he will do this in the church. He is good at some things. She is good at others. He cannot do everything. The church knows this already. To practice this is in the home will help him in the church.

If a pastor considers the feelings of his family members, he will do this in the church. His sensitivity levels are raised this way.

If a pastor pursues his children, he will pursue the people he is called to in the church. If a pastor takes out the trash, does the yard work or balances the checkbook, he won't mind the little things in church work.

Your home is not your vacation spot. The love of your family is a refuge, of sorts, but it is also a place of work. The home isn’t a place where you only unwind from your real responsibility, church work. No, it is a place you work hard to serve and love.

Love Your Wife

The Bible is clear. Wives are to respect their husbands. Husbands are to love their wives. We are to love them well, like Christ loved the church. We are examples to every husband in the church; we are to lay down our lives for our brides.

First, one of the major ways this happens is through an open-heartedness to your bride. Of course, some information we don't share — the inner workings of the church, other people’s lives, there are lines we don’t cross. But it behooves us to be as open as we can with our wives.

She loves you. A way you can love her is by letting her into your heart. She needs to have an access no one else has. She needs to hear you in ways no one else can. Open your heart to her.

Second, do not be self-absorbed. Hopefully, you have become aware that you are not as great as your biggest fan, nor are you as bad as your biggest critic. Don’t believe, in either direction, the hype. But sometimes leaders, including pastors, fall into self-absorption. Repent. Confess. There is no room for this within your home. You aren’t a big deal. You are husband. You are dad. Serve and love.

Third, make sure you are loving your wife with your time. She is God’s gift to you. Spend time with her. Date her. Put those dates on the calendar, so you both have something to look forward to. In the frenetic pace of life, it will be an anchor to hold onto. Slow down at the end of the day with her. Walk and talk, process life together, vacation with her, sometimes without the kids. Get away and enjoy each other’s love.

When this is flowing in your marriage, you will be given the gift of perspective. Life isn’t all about what you do for the church. Her love will be good medicine, a salve for the difficulties of life, including church work.

Support Your Wife

People will have expectations of your wife, so protect her. She is a mature woman, so she can do the fine speaking for herself, but your support goes a long way.

One way to support your wife is by encouraging her in her support system. Perhaps an older woman can pour into her life. Make sure she has the time for that relationship. Additionally, she might voluntarily meet with women. She will listen and pour into them. She will do the majority of the giving. This is good, but these are not friendships. Encourage friendships in her life, mutual relationships with women. These friendships will restore and refresh her.

Another way to support your wife is to clarify expectations to the church. Continue to do so. One of the first things I did once I became the lead pastor in our church was to communicate my wife’s role. She wasn’t going to lead the women’s ministry. At that stage of life, with three small children, her focus wouldn’t be on the daily ministries of the church.

Finally, support your wife by helping her explore her gifts throughout the years. You will pass through many seasons with her. Not only will those seasons change, but she will change. As she does, she will become aware of burdens and giftings that are unique to her. She helps you pursue your calling and gifting. Return the favor.

Honor Your Wife

Make sure you praise your wife publicly. My bride doesn’t care for this much, but it is important for the body to hear. Obviously, this can be done in a self-serving, “Look at me and how much I love my wife,” kind of way. This is gross. But there are appropriate ways to honor your wife to the church. This is helpful for a multitude of reasons:

First, it models marriage for the church. Married and unmarried alike are edified by your example.

Second, it humanizes you. You have earthly relationships you tend to, just like everyone else. That’s human.

Third, it develops trust. Sincere honor of your wife helps the church know you are faithful to your bride. In the age we live in, this is important.

Conclusion

I cannot imagine handling the intensity of pastoral work without my bride. She has been God’s great gift to me. There’s no way I cherish her enough. Your marriage is a gift from God. Cherish it. Allow your home to be your ministry. To be more fruitful elsewhere, be fruitful there.

Nate Holdridge

Nate Holdridge wrote this article. He is the senior pastor at Calvary Monterey located in Monterey, CA. Nate is married to Christina, and they have three children.