Ministry should not kill marriages

A few weeks ago, I asked What would you like me to write about? This post is in reply to input from that request.  Click the link if you would like to suggest something.

It is my firm conviction that God calls us to our spouse and children first and foremost. In fact, 1 Timothy 3 says to me that those men who are not good fathers and husbands are neither qualified nor allowed to be leaders. Based on this, I am convinced that God never calls us to sacrifice our marriage, or deny our spouse, in the name of serving Him.

This is not to say marriage is more important than serving the Lord, rather He has made marriage sacred and because of that He will never call us to a position where serving Him will destroy our marriage. (Please note that I see a difference between following Him and serving Him – and there are times when a spouse’s hard heart means following the Lord can harm or destroy a marriage.)

Unfortunately, ministry often hurts and even ends marriages. Consider these statistics*:

  • 1 in 3 ministry leaders say being in ministry is hazardous for their families
  • 77% of ministry leaders said they don’t have a good marriage
  • 80% of ministry wives think their husband is overworked
  • 80% of ministry wives wish their husband would change professions
  • “Wives’ issues” is the No. 1 reason pastors leave their ministries
  • The divorce rate for pastors is no better than for the public as a whole

Additionally, those who minister to pastors and their spouses agree that pastors have worse marriages than their congregations, worse sex lives than their congregations, and higher levels of porn use than their congregations.

The above is for church ministers, but things are no better for missionaries and those involved in para-church ministries. Why is it so bad? Why is it that being a minister puts your marriage in danger, and often means your wife is miserable? Clearly, the way we’re doing things isn’t right because the result is something that is far, far from the will of God. 

If you are a minster: Please get your priorities right – with your wife and your minor children being ahead of your church or ministry. If your ministry is hurting your family, make changes. If your ministry is killing your marriage, do whatever it takes, up to and including getting out of ministry, to save your marriage.

If you’re not a minster: Please understand how difficult ministry is. It’s not as easy or footloose as you think. Ministry is hard on those who do it and on their families. Pray for and support those in ministry, starting with your pastor. Be an advocate for getting your pastor more help, better pay, needed time off, and so on. Refuse to let your church be a marriage killer!

*Statistic sources: Schaeffer Institute, Barna, Focus on the Family,  Global Pastors Wives Network, and Fuller Seminary

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:


Tips to Last 47 Years: Happily Married After shares tips on marriage from a couple who have been married 47 years. This is a simple list, but the depth of wisdom is massive. I don’t say “MUST READ” often, but this is in that category.

Chemistry Lesson: Another fast read with deep implications from Happily Married After .

Uncomfortable: A great “Grow Up!” post.

Bringing Flowers: A cute cartoon that hits a bit too close to home!

7 Days of Sex Challenge: Are You Ready?: The 7 Day of Sex Challenge made by ONE with Tony & Alisa Dilorenzo, starts today (Sunday).

Are You Punishing Yourself or Your Spouse for Past Promiscuity?: A follow up post by Julie of Intimacy in Marriage. Are you guilty of this?

Healthy Friends are Responsible To, not For Eachother: A fantastic post by Donald Miller. I think this is valid for marriage as well as friendships – at least for a healthy marriage.

Wife or Children?: Better Husbands and Fathers has good thoughts on a subject that can lead to screaming (been there, been accused of hating children).

Swift kick in the life list: Simple Marriage‘s Corey Allan has an idea that blows away the bucket list – do you have a this-is-the-way-I-live list? BTW, Corey’s book, A Simple Marriage is 20% off this month (not an affiliate link).

Love Does Not Insist On Its Own Way!: Debi Walter of The Romantic Vineyard has another in their what Love is and isn’t series.

How your Marriage is Like A Wedding Cake: The Marry Blogger has a thought provoking analogy between marriage and a marriage cake.

7 Comments on “Ministry should not kill marriages

  1. Positive and negative comments – 1) The higher level of leadership position, especially in ministry, the greater the attack from the enemy to destroy and kill – therefore, pastors, missionaries, etc, must expect the attack and put preventive measures in place to protect from the attack. The problem I see is that many in such levels of leadership want the position but not the requirements that come with the position.
    2) The demands that put upon pastor’s and their families by their congregations are extremely self-centered. In the church I am in, their is no thought of serving the pastor, only the pastor serving the people (which should be his attitude, not theirs). Such self-centered demands are many times unrealistic and always inconsiderate of the pastor’s personal life with his family. Many times the same attitude of the congregation is projected towards the pastor’s wife and his children. When this happens, many pastors either are afraid to teach their congregations orthey do so after being hurt and do so with a wrong attitude. In few cases, the people of the church are so rebellious, they refuse to consider they could be wrong.
    3) A thought, many times pastor’s dealing with divorced people then somehow allows them to consider that divorce is okay and it is a way for them to get out of their problem marriage rather than dealing with the issues. The result of that type of thinking is seen in the church body in general, because the church becomes what its leadership is. Maybe that is why the world says that the church is in a leadership crisis.

    • @John Delcamp – I agree with all you have said. The difficulty for most pastors, I think, is the second pint – the wrong expectations placed on them and their families by the members of the church. The common clergy/laity divide is very destructive to those who are in ministry, and to their families, and I don’t see this as a problem that can be solved by the clergy side alone.


      • I agree 100% – it is going to take clergy working with laity and laity working with clergy to solve this issue and because the church is the body of Christ, I am assured that some how, some way, God will make it happen.

  2. “Clearly, the way we have done things is not right, because the result is something that is far, far from the will of God.”

    An insightful and I perceive, correct observation.

    My hat is off, with great respect, to any human who can keep a peaceful, righteous and joyful marriage while being in ‘the ministry’.

    For I have perceived why the many changes that were made in how the churches of Jesus Christ relate among themselves, beginning in the 300’s A.D., would lead to the kind of statistics that you quoted.
    The organizational structure that evolved from these changes and which governs, to this day, how so many Christians relate to each other, is radically different from the ‘organizational structure’ that existed when Paul penned those words you referenced.

    (I have several good friends who were once a part of that organizational structure and are very open about why these statistics happen. Plus, just like you, I’m human, too, and thus can comprehend, through another’s experience, what I have not personally experienced.)

    Back then, in Paul’s day, at least two hundred years before these changes began to become ‘official’, a good, improved marriage, where righteousness, peace and joy were obvious (for these things could not be faked in a marriage under the ‘old ways’ of doing things), was quite indicative of the good changes wrought within a human for being truly re-sired of Jehovah.

    And it was that very same good marriage that demonstrated to all that these ones were, indeed, fit for that particular and humble service to others in the church, through what was called the ‘office’ of a ‘bishop’.

    How those radical changes came to be is a history lesson that would be good for all modern Christians, who are considering becoming a minister of the Gospel, to grasp so that they might not become another statistic of this peculiar, medieval Christianity that has come to be what most of the church of Jesus Christ is under the authority of, in this day.

    And for my knowing of this history, I put my hat in the ring with you in agreement that it’s far better to get out of the ministry, in order to save your marriage and possibly even your soul, should the two of you prove to be among those many who cannot hold up under the intense pressures created by the organizational structure that is modern, medieval Christianity.

    And that those who dwell within this structure, those who are called, ‘the laity’, should become aware of these pressures and thus should respond with compassion for these ministering ones that are striving to meet your expectations; the very same expectations created for you and them to expect by that same organizational structure that makes you ‘the laity’ and them ‘the ministers’.

    But, above all, ministers and laity alike, you should be good. For that is what you were created to be!

  3. @Eleutheros – Yes my house church friend, you are right.

    I have a very interesting perspective on this, having gone full circle. After almost 11 years of being house church, I now am involved in both a house church and a more traditional church. I can clearly see the strengths and weaknesses of both models. I am also blessed to be involved in groups on “both sides” that are seeing what the other can offer, and are looking for ways to work together for the Kingdom of God.

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