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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

ASK MMI: When Your Spouse Wants Out

A pastor writes:  "My wife has determined that she no longer wants to do "the church thing". We have both been hurt and bear the psychological scars of good intended church people and friends who we have found to be less honest than we thought. I'd still like to consider some kind of church ministry in the future. What are your thoughts?"

FOR DISCUSSION:  What would your advice be to this real-life pastor?  Have you ever been in a similar situation where your spouse has had all she can take of 'the ministry'?

(Stay tuned... more from the multi-site conference later today!)

Todd

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October 25, 2005 in ASK MMI: Your Ministry Questions Answered | Permalink

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Comments

Take a break from Church ministry. This is not a sign of failure, but strength. Your first ministry field is your family. You can reevaluate the future of your ministry when you take a step back and deal with the issues in ministry that have soured your wife.

Do it for you family, but also for your church. You cannot be at your best in ministry if their is conflict at home about ministry. Your church deserves your quality attention and if you can't give it take some time off until you are able to.

Posted by: pjlr | Oct 25, 2005 9:24:51 AM

I agree. Find a church that is for you and your spouse, and serve in an intern role, or as an unpaid volunteer for a while as a part of the healing process.

I don't know why, but God typically gives our wives more wisdom than He gives us, and they're usually able to discern when it's time to go.

You should certainly stay involved in ministry, first to your family, but also in a church setting. However, search until you find a place you can plug in that will love you and help you through the healing process.

Posted by: Chris | Oct 25, 2005 10:55:57 AM

Good suggestions. My wife and I are currently NOT in an associate position. We've had our share of "bangs and bruises" over the years. Listen to your wife.

We're not currently in full-time ministry because of a Sr. Pastor changeover. In our fellowship, when the Sr. Pastor resigns, all ministerial staff tender their resignations pending the selection of a new Sr. man. In my case, when he was elected......he accepted my resignation. Two weeks after he arrived. Go figure. Didn't say I AGREED with this mentality, just that I comply.

ANYWAY....my point is....trying to get involved in another church locally on a lay ministry level is a bit tricky. It's been over a year now, and even though I've offered to do just about anything needed, ....my offers go unaccepted. No bad history, no bad feelings...we love and appreciate the pastoral staff and socialize with them when possible. Still....we just sit....waiting. About ready to move on to another church......there are few to choose from.

Just comments.

WJM

Posted by: wjm | Oct 25, 2005 1:51:25 PM

It is hard to read someone's intention. You can only respond to their hurtful actions that damage you. My wife and I worked in a church for six years and experienced many scars. They may have thought of themselves as well intended people. I was the one that wanted to leave, not my wife. I even considered leaving the ministry for a time. Even though it was a painful question, it was extremely fruitful for my emotional healing. Through my moments of doubt and resignation, God brought us to a new church. This church had been hurt by their previous pastor. I see the hurts of the past as better equipping me for my present position. As long as our past pains are not used as excuses to hurt each other then we can build a loving community.

Both the church and my family are at a place where the change was essential and healthy.

My thoughts go out this family because I know what it is like for the pastor to dread Sundays. That is never a place I want to be again.

Posted by: aaron | Oct 25, 2005 4:29:53 PM

You really need to get on your face and pour your heart out to Father while seeking His guidance in giving you wisdom and the grace ability to turn the focus of your life and ministry exclusively to the needs of your wife, yourself and your relationship!

After 25 years in ministry while pastoring a Church in the Bible Belt I met with circumstances that brought my wife to the complete end of her ability to endure life in Church Leadership any longer. I was guilty of having placed my calling and the Ministry as the top priority in life for me and lived with a non discerning assumption that because we began together that way, it was the same for my wife. The truth was that I was available 24/7 relationally and spiritually for everyone else while neglecting the love, practical life and spiritual needs of my family.

I will not plague you with the details for they are too terrifying and convoluted to do justice by way of explanation here. But the end result was that when I was blessed to be where you are at this moment seeking counsel from other Pastors, I could not let go of what my life had been all about and how I defined myself as a man of God. The result of my foolishness and religiosity cost me and my family everything. We ended up burying the Church right along with my marriage. Yes, my wife walked away from the Lord, the ministry and me.

I disqualified myself from ministry at that point believing I had failed God, the Church, my wife and kids. But it was too late for restoration to come with my wife.

God is good and in His mercy He has seen fit to draw my ex-wife back to Him but for whatever reason did not make it possible for our restoration.

I have been blessed since then with a wonderful wife and completely restored. While I am grateful for the character building experience and growth that has come from this tragedy because he does work all things for our good....;the high road and best thing for me to have done would have been to instantly let go of ministry to care for my wife and family.

We cannot give away what we do not have and if our own marriage is lacking fulfillment in Him our ministry is destined for even worse.


Posted by: JCE | Oct 26, 2005 2:28:37 AM

JCE- How do you respond scripturally to those who believe you should not have remarried? You were both Christians at the time, weren't you? What does the Bible have to say about that?

Posted by: A Pastor & also a Pastor's wife | Oct 26, 2005 12:19:24 PM

"God is good and in His mercy He has seen fit to draw my ex-wife back to Him but for whatever reason did not make it possible for our restoration."

JCE - Man, I don't want to dump on you, but come on, can we really blame God for you and your former wife not getting back together? I don’t believe God is a fan of divorce; however he is a fan of restoration and provides ALL grace for such issues in our lives. If you didn’t want to be restored with her or her with you, at least have some honesty about it and put the blame on your shoulders and not on Gods.

In Love,
Al

Posted by: Al | Oct 26, 2005 2:26:37 PM

A Pastor & also a Pastor's wife,

You ask a valid question and I do not want to put you off. If you would like to dialogue about this and are asking from a place of love rather than wanting to argue over doctrinal isues please feel free to email me by clicking on my signature.

Posted by: JCE | Oct 26, 2005 2:38:08 PM

Al,

Yes, it was not the best choice of words for me to say God did not make it possible for our restoration. Without question He has made the way possible and longs for restoration in these situations always. I believe my heart is pure in saying I was not blaming Him for our not getting back together.

I spent four years out of ministry with my life entirely given to the single goal of reconciliation and restoration of my marriage. To the best of my understanding, and according to the counsel and oversight of spiritual leaders in my life, I did all that I could possibly do to bring that restoration. In the end the decision was out of my hands.

You have no clue about the degree to which I have accepted blame for this devastating experience. But I have forgiven my ex-wife and have even forgiven myself. For you to write the following;

"If you didn’t want to be restored with her or her with you, at least have some honesty about it and put the blame on your shoulders and not on Gods."

with absolutely zero knowledge concerning the level of my honesty and integrity, is to say the least, lacking wisdom of spiritual maturity. But, that's okay, and I appreciate your tenacity and uncompromising insistance on being real and honest. I am not above needing to be called into accountability in this arena, so thank you for your challenge.

I could share so much more but this place is for encouraging another Pastor toward the high road in Jesus for his marriage and does not need to be lttered with the wounds and scars of mine or anyone else's.

Posted by: JCE | Oct 26, 2005 3:13:57 PM

Dear Al and A Pastor & also a Pastor's wife,

Ok. Lets put the guns down. I want to prevent this kind of hurting before it gets too crazy. Its not that I believe JCE needs a defense but these kind of questions are inflamatory and make Christianity as "God's Gonna Get Ya" religion. I can't allow anyone to be attacked for sharing their experiences. We wonder why sinners don't darken our churches its because we are waving our wacking sticks over the congregations' heads. Personally I don't think he has demonstrated any kind of information that give implication to blaming God for what has happened. In fact, it has been the opposite. This kind of judgement has taken away Todd's effort to draw church leaders to aid in a brother's request for help. On top of that, you attack JCE, the man who has made himself vunerable in an attempt to prevent this individual from going down the same path. I am not your judge but something is wrong with this kind of approach. If you two wanted to debate this issue you should have been kind and discussed the matter privately(that includes you too A Pastor & also a Pastor's wife) instead of publically humiliating JCE. I'm sorry but that offends me deeply. That kind of behavior hurts people and I'm in the business of being part of the solution. Even with the best intentions your methods are crude and taste bitter to those whom you are trying to help. I say this not out of anger and despise but as a man giving caution to such harmful methods. I have seen this problem occur so many times that when hear it my stomach starts to hurt. We are inadvertantly killing not only the future conversion of sinners, but also distorting the the Bible's message of forgiveness. Without tipee towing into the realms of theological debate it seems pretty clear to me that throughout the test of time man has been adding to and subtracting from Jesus' eternal message. The right to divorce is without doubt a major issue in today's culture but it seems to me that if one of the two parties refuses to remain in the marriage then how can we hold the other responsible. This topic needs careful research before we up and jump on the "Divorce is a sin band waggon". What about the abusive spouse situation? Let me say that I don't have all the answers but I certainly can think of several difficult questions. We need to consider them if we are going to shout our beliefs for all to hear.

With Love,

Pete King

Posted by: Pete King | Oct 26, 2005 3:54:16 PM

Pete,

Calm down, I was giving JC an opportunity to make his statement clear. I did not want others to infer by what he first said that he was blaming God and I believe his response was very clear to the point that he wasn’t. Nor did I ever even mention the issue of “divorce sin bandwagon.” Hey, my purpose was not to castigate his mistakes, Lord knows I am full of them; my point was to clear up the point about blaming God for OUR mistakes.

JCE,

Thank you JC for taking the time to clarify your first statement. I do realize this is not the forum for such a discussion, but felt it necessary to give you an honest picture of what I saw. No offence meant and from your response I can see no offence was taken.

Many blessings,
Al

Posted by: Al | Oct 27, 2005 12:23:36 PM

Al,

Absolutely no offense taken personally! The truth be known I have certainly been guilty on many occasions over the years of blaming God for a lot of things that did not happen as I would have chosen! He seems quite capable of handling my selfish rage whenever I throw it at Him.

As a side not...I read something here the other day that convicted me about using my initials instead of my name. I believe it exposed some latent pain over the Church crisis I experienced and I was sub-conciously wanting to avoid the possibility of setting myself up here for getting lamblasted by ill motived men from that situation. so, let me move out of my self-defensive posture and be open. In the future I'll use my name. It is Jim Eaton.

Posted by: JCE | Oct 27, 2005 5:27:01 PM

Bless you Jim,

I love your spirit and I have learned personally from your openness!

Anyone comes after you know this, you will not stand alone I will stand with you.

All the best,
Al Stefan

Posted by: Pastor Al | Oct 27, 2005 11:30:43 PM

Hurt people hurt people. It's sad but true. My family and I have been beat up and hurt more while in ministry than any other time in our lives. I often say, "We were never hurt this bad before we were saved and hung out at the bars. Drunks were much nicer and if they had issues, they told you up front."

But, I am also reminded that the enemy is usually pretty quiet if you're not invading his territory. In ministry it sometimes sounds cliche' and trite (and some would argue that's it's bad theology), but if you're not facing some sort of tribulation (no matter how large or small), then maybe you're not in the enemy's face. Has any leader of any nation simply "allowed" invaders to take over their territory? What would have happened if the invasion forces on D-Day had hit the beaches and simply stayed there? It's plain and simple...if you're kickin' Satan hiney, he's bound to kick back. Sad thing is, he will use friends and church goers who will say and do some of the most hurtful things especially to our families. That's why I make sure my entire family is in agreement with my ministry status.

It's spiritual warfare and unfortunately the enemy knows where our Achilles Heels are located.

Does this make it hurt any less? No way, but you really need to make sure your whole family is ready, willing, and able to become caught in the spiritual crossfire, even and ESPECIALLY if they don't want to come along side in the ministry. It's not a job...it's a life.

Posted by: Jay Crouch | Oct 31, 2005 11:44:44 AM

After more that 90 days, I have to revisit this post. Still wondering what ever happened to the pastor and wife who were destined to get out of the ministry and do something else, Lord willing. Any comments to help this couple deceide on the Lord's call?

Posted by: Jay 2.1 | Jan 31, 2006 12:59:03 AM

My husband and I are not Pastor's or fulltime in ministry but we know the calling on our life is to be Pastor's of youth as far as what age we have been in pre-k up to 6th grade for 7 years. We have served every Sunday for these 7 years as well as Sat nights and Wed's in rotation. We are just feeling tired and worn down. We have not invested much family time on weekends due to serving and we work during the week. We have decided to take a time off a "season" to focus on family and to reestablish our relationship with the Lord.

Our Pastor also knows our calling and has agreed 5 years ago to lead us. We are now where we feel we were 5 years ago. He has told us he would give us this and or that and my husband just feels as if they are empty promises due to it not coming about.

All in all we just need to step back refocus and find out God's plan for the next 7 years of ministry for us. I feel "guilty" for taking this season off as I know I am leaving them with a need and many of those that I lead without me as a leader. I don't want to let God down or the Pastor or fellow ministers. But my husband says that we truly need to regroup.

I wish my Pastor could understand rather than say we are "quitting" as I feel we are not quitting but reloading to attack the devil even better when we come back refreshed and with new vision. I just wish my Pastor could say...I release you to take a season off and mean it.

Can anyone relate?

Posted by: LY | Feb 25, 2006 4:35:42 PM

LY,

I am so sorry you and your husband have had to spend 7 years of your lives ministering with the hope and dream for realizing your calling as Pastors not being fulfilled.

I would like to suggest that you consider the possibility these past 7 years have been used of the Lord in your lives for the making of the man and woman of God He desires you to be, and preparing you for future service in His kingdom, regardless of the fact that you have not received the mentoring, equipping, nurturing and provisional support you should have from your Pastor.

Because I know neither you nor your Pastor, I am not in a place to speak concerning whether or not he truly is a Pastor or has or has not been faithful to doing the work of a Pastor in your lives. But it is obvious by your plea that the two of you have at least been left feeling as though your development process and provision has largely been neglected. This may very well be the unpleasant reality of your circumstance. I say this because I know far too well that the vast majority of those walking in the position of Pastor in American Churches fall extremely short of that calling and ministry where it comes to mentoring, equipping, providing for and releasing others into what the Lord has called them to do in His kingdom.

The first thing I would highly recommend is for you and your husband to get together and lay all of your feelings out on the table...the good, the bad and the ugly of them, concerning the last 7 years, your feelings of burn-out, the deferred hopes that are making your hearts sick, and how you truly feel toward your Pastor right now because of all of this stuff.

GET REAL AND GET HONEST WITH EACH OTHER AND GOD!!!!

Then, seek His face in prayer together. Tell the lord what you are feeling. He can handle it. Then ask Him for the grace and strength to take whatever thoughts of hurt, anger, frustration or bitterness you may be feeling captive; and then reject those thoughts and ask Him to fill you with His peace and renew your hearts with love, acceptance and forgiveness for your Pastor.

Then it would be good for you both to actually spend a season of prayer together for your Pastor and God's plan, calling and purposes for his life, his family and the ministry of your church.

When you have sincerely done these things I believe your lives will begin the process of renewal and refreshing you need.

It is a good thing that you are going to spend a season focusing on your marriage and your family! But without your coming together in a get real time of dealing with all of these issues and pursuing a complete release from any sense of woundedness, you will be setting yourselves up for more pain in the future when you return to ministry. In other words, God is going to make sure you get it completely dealt with...now...or later.

It will leave a scar behind for sure. But a scar is so much better than an open wound. In fact, I will go so far as to say our wounds disqualify us from ministry...but our scars qualify us for ministry. This is because a scar is evidence that healing has taken place.

Bless you and your husband and don't forget to remember and rejoice over the wonderful experiences you have already had together touching and being touched by the lives of the children you have served these 7 years.

In Him, By Him, For Him,


Jim Eaton

Posted by: Jim Eaton | Feb 25, 2006 6:07:36 PM

Jim, I appreciate the wisdom with which you shared with LY. I agree, a season of regrouping is necessary and beneficial and is not quitting. LY, if you take Jim's counsel, you will be better prepared to follow God's leading...wherever that is.

One of Satan's ploys is to get us alone and away from those very activities to which God has called us. That happened with Elijach - after a great victory over the prophets of Baal, he was worn out, fearful for his life (with good reason), and feeling very alone (without good reason). God got his attention and addressed all of those things - his need for energy, protection, and company. (Hmm...maybe a good, 3-point sermon here?!) It seems that God got pretty stern with Elijah, too...but he got the point.

LY, this time of regrouping, like Jim suggested, may not be entirely pleasant or easy. My wife and I have been walking through it for a couple years now, and we can certainly attest to that. But it is good; we have had to face things we never would have faced without taking a step out of ministry for this time. We have sensed God leading us in a direction that we never would have imagined two years ago.

With that in mind, I offer a closing comment - be completely open to what God may be doing in your lives. He may be preparing you for a new season of ministry that will look remarkably like what you have been involved (though with more support from your pastor than you seem to have had). Or he may be preparing you for an entirely different ministry...maybe it will mean going to seminary; maybe it will mean going to another country as a missionary; maybe it will mean ministering to your peers - co-workers, neighborhood women (or men or couples); maybe it will mean.... Only God knows. And he will reveal it to you in his perfect time, just as he did with Abram ("Leave your father's household and go to a land I will show you.") Your job is to obey in faith.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 25, 2006 7:39:28 PM

Being in the minority, my situation is that of a HUSBAND who is ready to "give up" on church because of his loss of trust in church people who've behaved badly. I encourage him to remember the joy in serving the Lord. I make sure that he gets credit when credit is due. He is my best friend and greatest supporter. Sometimes I think it hurts him more than it hurts me when I run into "glass ceilings/walls" in the church. Ministry is tough, however, the reward of your life making a difference in the life of someone else is priceless! May God give you the strength and grace to press on!

Posted by: Rev. Diane | Mar 20, 2006 12:43:31 PM

I just read a great article put out by the SBC about how pastors can take care of their wives, incidentally given to me by another pastor's wife.

Unfortunately, I believe many pastors preach one thing from the pulpit and live another at home.

I am a pw and we've gone through years of working this through. It's not easy being a pastor and it's even more difficult to be a pastor's wife in my opinion.

I have held staff positions and my husband has been the supporter, so we've both been in this position. (For some reason we keep trading places!)

Anway, we in ministry MUST begin to live what we say. When hard times come in ministry, when we deal with the "dragons" in our churches, get unfairly axed and experience church abuse, our marriages must be strong so that we can pull together, stay healthy and raise children who are as unscarred as possible.

I think we as a couple are finally there. I honestly have no fear that the rug will be pulled out from under me, as many pastor's wives do. My peace is in the God who puts me where He wants me to serve.

But it was a lot of work getting here!

Just my 2 cents from a bit different perspective.

Here's the link to that article in case you are interested:
http://www.sbclife.org/Articles/2005/06/sla11.asp

Janis

Posted by: Jan | May 26, 2006 12:41:54 PM

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