Being a couple in ministry is a daunting and difficult task.
Many couples find that ministry is all-encompassing, time with your spouse is hard to prioritize, the pressure is overwhelming and balance seems impossible. It’s a unique calling with unique challenges and often comes with less-than-adequate preparation, training, or even warning. In their new book from Leadership Network NEXT/Harper Collins Christian Publishing Book Series, Together: A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together, Geoff and Sherry Surratt share vital lessons they’ve learned in over 30 years of experience that helped them thrive in ministry and in marriage.
Whether you are both in vocational ministry or just one spouse is in ministry, Together will encourage you to continue serving side by side and help you maintain the fulfillment of helping others while being drawn closer to God as a couple.
The following is an excerpt from Together: A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together.
“We’ve always wondered what life is like for ministry couples who always seem to be pursuing the same dream. They are both focused on the same church, the same ministry, and the same goals. Some couples both work for the same church, and sometimes one works at the church while the other one stays home, but they see themselves as walking the same path. If that describes you, we envy the clarity that must bring. That has seldom been our story.
While we’ve always supported each other’s dreams, those dreams have often been in different arenas.
Thirty-plus years of marriage and ministry together is a long time. We have learned, and are still learning, a lot along the way, and we have had some incredible experiences. We are amazed we’ve had opportunities to teach thousands of leaders, meet world leaders, and lead ministries that impact tens of thousands of people. We are very average people whom God uses in spite of ourselves.
One of our biggest struggles as a couple in ministry has been that of comparison. We are jealous of ministry couples we see on Facebook with perfect churches, perfect kids, and perfect hair. We wish we had their lives, but we don’t. We wish it hadn’t taken us twenty-five years of marriage before we learned to pray together. We wish we had taken our kids on amazing memory-making trips on their milestone birthdays instead of to dinner at Applebee’s. We wish every day was a new experience of spiritual insight and revelation instead of budgets and board meetings.
What we are realizing after doing ministry together for so long is that we will never be the Facebook couple, but we can fiercely love each other, our family, and the people we minister to. Something else we’re learning is that there are more ministry couples like us than the perfect couples on Facebook.
Most of the couples we talk to struggle with the same questions we do.
How do you prioritize your spouse when ministry is all encompassing? How do you raise kids who are semi-normal and love Jesus in the fishbowl of ministry? How do you discover whether God is calling you to be faithful or move on when ministry knocks you down?
We don’t pretend to have all the answers to all the difficult questions, but we believe we are
learning some important principles along the journey that might help other couples like us.
Our new book Together is our conversation with you about these important questions. The image we have is sitting down together at our favorite Starbucks and talking about the ups and downs of doing marriage and ministry together. We’ll be as transparent and authentic as possible. We’ll share our mistakes and foibles and the lessons we’re learning. We’ll talk about the unstated expectations we brought into marriage, the difficulty of raising preacher’s kids, and the times when we both thought our marriage was over. We’ll discuss the thrill of seeing God use us to change people’s eternal destinies and the challenge of working together and working apart. We’re not afraid to talk about the hard stuff, and we’ll invite you to tackle it too.
We admit we struggle with bad attitudes, selfishness, and sometimes still crumble in the face of criticism. But it’s okay. We bet you do too.
We are writing for couples in ministry. You may be a young couple just starting down the road of ministry, and you’d like to not pay the same “dumb tax” we paid. You may be in the middle of raising kids in a ministry home and desperately need someone to say, “It’s going to be all right.” You may be in a very rough time in your marriage and struggling to find your way through. Some of you are navigating the new reality of doing ministry from an empty nest. Some couples are both in vocational ministry, and other couples will have one spouse in ministry while the other stays at home with the kids or works a secular job.
The thing we all have in common is we are deeply invested in being faithful in ministry and fruitful in marriage, and we all know how challenging both can be.
Our hope is not that you’ll want to emulate our marriage or ministry; our hope is that our stories will spark meaningful conversations for you as a couple.
We encourage you to learn to laugh at yourselves with us. If you’re not ready to see the humor
in your own story, we invite you to laugh at ours. It’s okay, we do.”