Is Your Marriage Prepared for the Messiness of Ministry?

How messes develop in marriage and ministry.

A long, long time ago, I can still remember … how that “ministry” used to make me smile?? 

Recognize the lyrics I altered just a tad?

Now, that you’ve got the lovely ear-worm, American Pie, running through your mind, allow me to tell you what I really felt in those early ministry days.

My hope is that it might open your eyes a bit, especially if you are a young couple entering the ministry. Especially if you’re church planters who are currently discouraged by the daunting nature of your calling and task.

But even if you’re not either of those things, I hope this post will give you a peek behind the curtain. Not to be nosy, but so you will have compassion on young pastors, wives, and their families.

Ministry takes a lot out of a couple personally, relationally, and sometimes even spiritually! 

Let’s hold them up in prayer!

As I’ve looked back on the early days of my marriage and ministry with my husband, I’ve often wondered which came first? Is it a …

Messy marriage, therefore, a messy ministry?


Messy ministry, therefore, a messy marriage?

In my household, it’s been both/and. Sometimes the messiness of my marriage made our ministry messier. And sometimes the messiness of our ministry made our marriage messier.

So, first, let me consider how our marriage made the ministry messier …

When my husband and I were young, church planters, there were quite a few times when we got into an argument in the middle of our small group Bible studies hosted in our home. Talk about making everyone feel awkward, wishing they could slink out our door!

Then there were the times when a fight had just occurred before our church members came to our door. You guessed it! Often fighting because they were coming to the door. Still, we felt the need to plaster smiles on our faces while seething underneath as we ministered to them in various ways.

Might have been one reason why we got into those arguments in the “middle” of a Bible study. Ding! Ding! Ding!

As shoestring-budget church planters, my husband’s office was in our basement beneath our kitchen. This made it especially hard for him to conduct any ministry business down there, whether on the phone or in person. That’s because it just so happened to be where our toddlers (at the time) loved to shout, run, and ride their scooters happily (obliviously) above.

You guessed it—more angles for us to argue over! UGH!

Now to how the ministry made the marriage messier …

As young church planters, we felt the stress of barely scraping by on my husband’s meager salary. Naturally, that gave us plenty of exciting, new topics to argue discuss when it was time to pay the bills.

Add to that, our fledgling church often required long, on-call hours, keeping our doors open to just about every need. Boundaries, shm-oundries!

Sometimes a church plant starts off with disgruntled people from other churches. That was our situation, allowing us to be surrounded by many who wanted to pick apart what we were doing … many who saw our youth and newness to ministry as a golden opportunity for criticizing guiding us.

Ironically, those same church members (you know, the “wise ones”) often expected us to know how to do something God-sized with our little bit of seminary knowledge youthful hopefulness.

Sadly, I also remember a time when my husband and I were the targets of back-biting and gossip. At such a young, tender stage of life and ministry, their words stung like a dagger in our heartsI’m almost certain it drew us toward unhealthy and messy ministry situations years later since those situations and people felt familiar. Different faces but the same dispositions and dysfunctions.

I also know why these unhealthy dynamics continued to repeat in different churches and it wasn’t just because of those who felt familiar. These dynamics revealed the toxic baggage we inadvertently were dragging from ministry to ministry.

Of course, I was recently reminded of those hard times (that, thankfully, are much better now in the ministry we enjoy today) when the anonymous writer spoke of her own messy marriage and ministry difficulties last week.

Ministry requires a lot from a couple—especially a young couple that’s just trying to figure out marriage much less ministry.

And let’s not forget how Satan wants to destroy anything of any power in the kingdom of God.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

I say all this for those of you who are on the front lines and in the trenches of ministry. Please, know that you are not crazy, or weird, or failures! And most importantly, you are … not alone. 😉

Would all of you join me today in thanking your ministers and their wives for all that they put up with and do? Please make a point to pray for them, especially the young ones, as they battle the unceasing demands of being in a messy ministry and/or a messy marriage (not to mention being young, inexperienced parents).

“The elders [pastors] who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV emphasis mine)
Let’s give them the double honor they deserve and need so they will thrive and help our churches grow stronger, bringing greater glory to God! It’s a win-win-win. 😉

Start church. Messy ministry and marriage.

Our first day of planting a church was Easter 1992. We met at a nearby school for services and then our hosted our small group in our home.


How can you relate? 


How does it help to know the effect of the pressures ministry brings to your marriage or vice versa? 

19 responses to “Is Your Marriage Prepared for the Messiness of Ministry?”

  1. I’ve seen a lot of this firsthand in being in a little church. It’s a great reminder to encourage and build up our pastors and their wives. Great post!


  2. Because one of my closet friends is a preacher’s wife, I can appreciate your plight 😉 I just love her stories, some as good as The Devil in Pew 7, which I’ve not yet read but can’t imagine being any less eventful. Have you written your pastor’s wife adventures yet?


  3. What an important reminder! The strands of our lives intertwine, and it’s important for all of us to remember that applies to our church leaders as well and to embrace their humanity – it only makes them better leaders!


  4. yes…our lives are scrambled eggs…all mixed up together…we can’t separate them with walls…your honesty only makes you all better leaders where you are…blessings to you~


  5. Heather Copple Avatar
    Heather Copple

    Great post!


  6. messymarriage Avatar

    Yeah, it’s interesting to do life from the pastoral side. I’m sure that other careers make marriage messy too, but there’s something about the overlap of church, life and marriage that’s extra difficult. Thanks for your kind words, Debra. And no, I haven’t written much about “my pastor’s wife adventures” for two reasons – to protect the identities of those I would write about and secondly, because I don’t want to veer too far from the mainstream issues of messy “marriage.” But thanks for asking!


  7. messymarriage Avatar

    Yes, the word “intertwining” does describe it well, Angie. And I wholeheartedly agree that our difficulties have made us better leaders and better husband and wife too! 🙂 Thanks for coming by and encouraging me!


  8. messymarriage Avatar

    Haha! I like that metaphor, Ro! It truly is scrambled “eggs” in ministry. Thanks for encouraging me regarding my honesty. Sometimes I question it–especially when it comes to the subject of “ministry.” I don’t want anyone to think that we viewed our parishioners as bad people. We were all learning, failing and trying to figure things out. Thank the Lord for his grace! 🙂


  9. messymarriage Avatar

    That’s been our hope, Ann. Satan makes us question that we’ve made a difference for Christ–especially since we’ve had more than our share of failures along the way. But I keep reminding myself that failures help us to learn humility and … what to do right next time! 🙂 Can’t beat that! Thank you again for your continued encouragement and support!


  10. messymarriage Avatar

    Thanks, Heather. I appreciate your continued support and encouragement. 🙂


  11. Yes, life does get rather messy, at times!Thank you, Beth, both for the transparency and for the reminder that some amount of messiness is normal…and even when beyond normal is still subject to God’s control and plan.


  12. Thank you for your vulnerability and for giving us a glimpse into a life that many, if not most, of us have not experienced. The story of my marriage, though quite painful for us, looks to be possibly leading us to a ministry all our own, and I cling very closely to Christ’s hand as we move forward.


  13. OutnumberedMom Avatar

    Love your blog title — and the subtitle — real, raw, redemptive! This is a great post. My oldest son is a pastor, so I read with particular interest and a lot of prayer!


  14. Our pastor just finished seminary, and at his graduation party, we were sure to congratulate his lovely wife as much as him. We are so blessed by this couple, and your blog post here in a reminder to keep letting them know how much they are valued and appreciated.


  15. messymarriage Avatar

    Thanks so much for your continued support and kindness, Joe. I am comforted in the thought that no messiness, even in ministry, is beyond God’s control and plan. Actually, I’ve lived to see that redemption in many ways. 🙂


  16. messymarriage Avatar

    I’m excited to hear that, Megan! I will certainly pray for you about the calling that you and your husband are sensing. And thanks, as always, for your encouragement and support of Messy Marriage!


  17. messymarriage Avatar

    Oh, wow! I think it’s even tougher to watch our children go into the ministry. My oldest just finished college but plans to go on to seminary and pursue full-time ministry thereafter. So I join you in prayers for both of our sons and all the young ministry couples and individuals out there!


  18. messymarriage Avatar

    I’m so glad that you congratulated her too! Sometimes pastor’s wives get overlooked, but they are so essential to the ministry of any pastor. And there’s so much that they sacrifice in their lives for the church that no church member will ever understand or know. It’s great that you recognize that. And thanks also for stopping by to encourage me–just one among so many pastors wives out there! 🙂


  19. Look at that beautiful, fresh-faced family! Life is messy, isn’t it? I’m so sorry for the hurt you all went through because of the messiness. And look how God is using it now. He uses it all. Yes, thanking Him with you.


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