Do you think being a pastor is a benefit or a hazard to your family life?

This question was posed in a survey of ministry couples by Leadership Magazine a few years ago. Of those surveyed, 40% said hazard and 60% said benefit. While everyone can rejoice with the 60%, these responses mean that 40 in 100 ministry couples believe they face some kind of risk.

The key to living in joy as part of your spouse's ministry is to establish your own Bill of Rights:

  • Try being yourself. Resist letting your spouse, children, or church family push you to become someone you don't want to be.

  • Use your best gifts most often. Do the things you do the best and delegate what you don't do well - and don't feel guilty about it.

  • Make your priorities obvious. Let the congregation know what's important to you. Don't let the church squeeze you into their mold, and don't overreact so they think you are too good to be a servant. A delicate balance is needed.

  • Don't attempt to control the church. Work alongside people in your church. Be a happy affirming helper rather than the one who has all the answers and influences all the decisions.

  • Listen more and talk less. You help others the most when you just listen. Do not condemn or put people in their place. Listen and allow others to come to their own conclusions about issues of consequence.

  • Show visible love to your spouse. In your conversations let people know that your spouse is both special and human. Keep showing the church that you love one another and you care for each other.

  • Talk about advantages to your children. Never tell your children they have to do something because they are the pastor's children. Give better reasons for your family standard - there are many. Don't expect perfection, but help them know that while they have demands, they also have privileges. Help them see how they have a positive part in your family's shared ministry.

  • Find a prayer partner as a soul mate. Seek to be part of, or even establish, a clergy-spouse group to hold each other accountable. Be honest with one another.

  • Take a worship break. Go somewhere every few months where you can worship as a family. Find someone, other than your spouse, who can be your pastor.

  • Don't spiritualize everything. Enjoy life - its ups and downs - without becoming so religious in your outlook that you're no fun to be around. Learn to laugh at yourself and your situation. Have a life outside of church activities.

  • Schedule vacation days and date nights. See to it that your spouse puts important family dates on the calendar.

  • Encourage your spouse to find an accountability partner. Every pastor needs a covenant partner, where "pastoral stuff" can be talked about and burdens understood and shared.

  • Don't bug your spouse. Everyone knows the heavy demands on pastors - they don't need to be reminded all the time. However, never let your spouse off the hook where you and the kids are concerned. Your home and your marriage energize and stabilize his or her ministry.

  • Stay attentive to your spouse's needs. Don't back away. There will be times when your spouse, under the weight of the struggle, will become sullen, aloof, and depressed. This is when he or she needs you the most. Try doubling or tripling your affection and support.

  • Commit to self-care. Take care of yourself - spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Continue to mature spiritually.

From Married To A Pastor's Wife by H.B. London Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman. Copyright (c) 1995 by Victor Books, an imprint of Chariot Victor Publishing, a division of Cook Communications, Colorado Springs, Colo. To place orders call toll free: 1-800-437-4337. Used by permission.

H. B. London, Jr. is vice president of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. A fourth-generation minister, he pastored churches for 31 years before accepting his present position in 1991. He and his wife, Beverley, have been married for 37 years and have three grandchildren.Neil B. Wiseman is professor of Pastoral Development at Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. A veteran of more than 20 years in the pastorate, he also serves as director of the Small Church Institute and editor of GROW magazine. His wife, Bonnie, teaches English to second-career ministry students.