How much of what happens at church should be shared with our spouses? The short answer: What builds trust in marriage, and unity of heart in ministry.
Looking back, I did our young marriage no favors by sharing everything that happened at church with Emily. I would come home, and she would ask how my day was. My response on a bad day was to lay out all the frustrating or hurtful stuff that happened. My response on a good day was, “fine.” This influenced Emily’s view of the church and ministry as a whole—though she’s always had her own mind on the subject
This is still a work in progress, but, I’d like to think I’ve gotten a bit better at discerning what and how to share ministry with Emily. Here are some observations.
- Share what will help build trust in marriage. I’ve learned not to share every critical email, every tragedy, and every burnout I’ve got with Emily. To do so would add my stuff to her stuff and force her to carry both of our “stuffs.” However, she deserves to know everything that registers a 5.0 or higher on the ministerial Richter scale, or anything that is going to give her a different husband for a period of time. If I’m coming home all wound up about something and she and the kids are going to have a tense dad for the first hour I’m home—tell her. Or, stay away until it passes to the point you can manage yourself.
- Share when you aren’t wound up, broken-hearted or fresh out of a conflict. Time heals. Use it. Even 10 minutes of calming down time can do you wonders. Time is your best friend. I actually now try to live 10 minutes away from the building so I can better check ministry baggage on the commute home. When I live on the same street as the church, this was much harder to do—in part because I passed the building coming and going from the house. Generally, a little space + a little time = a little more patience.
- Find a way to “boil down” what happened. It’s one thing to share with integrity. It’s another to share ad nauseam. I’ve also learned that sharing every word and every thought on a matter often communicates an importance that isn’t really there. I’ve learned to communicate better what happens in an abridged format…amplifying if necessary or requested.
- Share what will build unity of heart in ministry. Share thoughts on the good. Share thoughts on the overall direction of the church, and the daydreams you have about how God can work. Listen to theirs. Do the same with tragedies. A year ago, I had a friend commit suicide here in San Diego. I ID’d the body (he jumped off a bridge), helped pastor the family (none of who were Christians), and performed an emotional funeral. It was tempting not to talk about it—because I didn’t want to have to relive it. That would have been wrong. Sharing my heart with Emily helped build intimacy in our marriage, helped her minister to me, and bolstered our commitment to serving the Lord together. When we’re thinking about a major move at church, or I’m thrilled about something going on, I share that. It gives her a chance to add her “Amen” to it, and keeps us focused on what God’s doing rather than what Satan’s up to.
- Find ways to help your spouse understand while Jesus is first, ministry is third behind Jesus and your family. Ministry need not be a competitor to family life. Ministry can be huge blessing to family life–usually when it’s third in life. When family comes before Jesus, it’s an idol. When ministry comes ahead of family in your heart–that’s a problem. Families usually understand certain sacrifices need to be made for ministry. However, they don’t want to be sacrificed–and God doesn’t want that either. Have a few spandex boundaries helps with this. So does simply saying it out loud around your spouse and children. Ministry and family are not enemies–they are allies. However, the evil one will try to pit them against one another. Sharing a biblical priority system out loud will enrich your home and keep your priorities better aligned.
Question: What would you add to this? How have you learned the good way or hard way about how to share ministry with your spouse?