How to Prioritize Your Spouse in Ministry

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Editors’ note: 

For more reading on long-term faithfulness in ministry with practical wisdom from veteran pastors, see Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime from The Gospel Coalition.

In this video, Juan Sanchez speaks out on how pastors should primarily shepherd their spouses.

The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

When we get out of seminary we have great zeal, great vision, for the church that we’re going to pastor. We have all these ideas that are going around our heads. It’s kind of like a new parent who thinks, My kid is going to be that perfect kid. They’re the ones that are going to speak at 2 years of age. They’re going to do everything right. And so we get to a church and we have this idealistic vision of what things are going to be like. Things can get pretty hard quickly so one of the things that I would encourage my married brothers who are going into ministry to do is to care for your wife.
Your primary ministry is to care for her, to shepherd her, to love her, to not allow her to feel like she is a bother or that she is an inconvenience and to not allow her to think that the church is a mistress with whom you’re having an affair. So in order to do that I think communication, conversation, and helping her understand what the ministry is like in a manner that you don’t burden her with the weight and the responsibilities of being a pastor. She’s not the pastor, you’ve been called to be a pastor, so treat her as your helpmate, encourage her, talk to her, let her know what you need from her.
Also understand that when you’re going into a brand new ministry, both of you are in a learning curve. One of the best things you can do is to do as much as you can together. You go into a new ministry, get to know the people the church, open your home, be hospitable. The more that you can do together as husband and wife, the more that she’ll begin to feel a part of the ministry and not some inconvenience out there.
Give her the liberties to be your wife and the mother of your children, if the Lord blesses you with children. She needs to have that freedom because our wives are uniquely made. They’re different than we are but each woman is different from every other woman. So we need to, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7, “Live with our wives in an understanding way.” I think that means that we need to live with them according to creational knowledge and spiritual knowledge (knowing her as our sister in Christ). Getting to know our wife involves making sure we know what she’s like and know what she’s like in this context. We may be married for a few years, but this may be a new context. How is she going to respond? What are her fears in this context? So you should get to know her, live with her in an understanding way, and affirm her so that she feels encouraged and a part of the ministry and church.
But also everyone’s going to look to you if you’re the pastor and want to get to know you. And you want her by your side. One of the things that I think is encouraging is to let the people know even from the pulpit your love for your wife and how you honor your wife. Don’t use your wife at her expense, making jokes about your marriage or about women or things like that. Instead, honor her before them, and it will help her know that she’s a part of you, a part of your life, a part of the ministry, a part of the church.
Also guard her from expectations that are inappropriate and unrealistic. She’s not been called to serve, you have been called to serve; she’s been called to serve alongside of you as your helper and also as a mother of your children. So she needs to have the permission from you freely to just be a regular church member––whatever that looks like for different church members. She can serve as a regular church member and not have the pressure of performance and filling in the gaps where people are presently not serving. She needs to have those freedoms.
Care for your wife, study your wife, know your wife, honor your your wife, and help her feel valued as a partner in ministry.