Church planting can be brutal on a marriage.

While other professions can present problems for couples too, I want to talk about church planting and its effect on marriage. That’s what I have lived and observed since the year 2000, so that’s what I know. First I’m going to talk about the challenges, and then I’m going to provide some tips for dealing with the onslaught of issues a new church can introduce to your family.

The Challenges

Each time we set out to plant a new church, several things happen.

  1. The shiny new church suddenly becomes a big deal.

John spends a lot of time raising funds, building a team, and making connections in the community. Sometimes these time consuming tasks happen in addition to his usual work day, but other times they make it so his work days are a lot longer.

What’s the effect on a marriage?

There’s a rearranging of priorities that can effect the time a husband and wife have together. Couples who aren’t careful about caring for their relationship at this phase of planting might feel their marriage has taken a backseat to the church plant. If this issue isn’t dealt with, bitterness and resentment can fester.

2. Income can become a bit uncertain.

There are many different ways to fund a church plant, but often at the beginning and possibly throughout, money can be a real issue. You may worry about how long funding will last, if it will be enough, or even if you’ll be able to get funding at all. When finances are a problem the entire family can be effected. The simple act of needing to go to the grocery store can instigate a flood of tears. When every little decision becomes a financial crisis, it’s easy for emotions to become volatile and for spouses to turn away from each other and toward other sources for comfort.

3. Other people’s opinions can become overly important.

Depending on what kind of networks you’re working with or whether or not you’re starting with a plant team, other people’s opinions about all kinds of things begin to surface. This might start slowly or it might hit you in a moment, but it takes a lot of people to make this church happen and this means you’ll have a lot of new relationships in your life. Sometimes people you thought were going to join you decide not to help. Even family’s opinions about what you are doing can cause undo stress if they are judgmental, expect too much to happen too soon, or simply don’t care about this exciting new opportunity.

While it’s unpleasant to consider the negative stresses a church plant can have on your family, the good news is there are ways you can get ahead of these issues to prepare for what’s to come.

How to Tackle Those Challenges

  1. Remember your marriage is always a big deal.

As years pass, marriage shouldn’t become less and less of a priority no matter what you’re setting out to accomplish for the Lord. Some of the ways to nurture a marriage are obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded these are important. Here is a list of ways John and I try to keep our marriage front and center even during church planting.

  • When it’s possible, find a way to show up at church together. It’s so easy to come and go separate from one another when involved in church planting. He gets to church early to set up chairs and make sure his sermon notes are ready. She arrives at a different time so she can get the kids ready. You end up waving to each other once in a while across the crowd. Is this healthy? Not if that’s what happens every Sunday. Whenever possible arrive at church together. This might mean scheduling a Sunday where neither of you have responsibilities, or choose a ministry within the church that you can do together.
  • Allow people to see you together as a couple at church and in the community. Once again, it’s easy to settle into separate routines when the church plant gets busy. One thing that happens is the husband and wife end up talking to different people from the start of the church service to the moment when the lights go out. Instead, find a way to talk to people together at some point in the service. Communion, announcements and greeting can be done as a couple.
  • Keep dating each other. I don’t care if you have to set up a date at home, but it’s critical you keep on dating your husband. If you’re out of ideas of what to do together check Pinterest for fun date ideas. Go out for coffee. Save up for a fancy anniversary dinner. Do what it takes to keep that flame sparkling.
  • Ask each other questions then listen to the answers. John is the best at this. He knows that like other women I am complicated and ever changing in my opinions and interests. He still asks me questions like, “What’s your favorite movie?” It reminds me that he, too, is complicated and ever changing, and I ask him questions too. When he develops a new interest I don’t roll my eyes and consider it an expensive phase. I try to get interested and spend time with him in this new space.

2. When finances get tight, don’t panic.

God’s got this. He will provide. He always does! He knows your needs. He even cares about your wants! Before you even think about what kind of money it’s going to take to get a church started, your heart must be in the right place. This is a heart that rests in the Lord in faith that he will help you.

Consider Luke 9:1-3. Jesus sends out the disciples and guess what he tells them? Don’t take much with you! Here’s what scripture says, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.'”

This is amazing! He doesn’t say, “Stock up now because once you get out there it’s going to be a desert.” He tells them not to pack a second tunic because he plans to sustain them because he can. He can! He will provide for your needs too!

God often provides by using other people’s resources. If you keep reading in Luke, you’ll see that the disciples stay in people’s houses. In order for this to happen, they had to ask and people had to say, “Yes, please come stay with me. I’m excited about your ministry!” Don’t be afraid to ask for money. Part of a church planter’s job is to raise funds.

If funding doesn’t provide enough for your salary, then it’s possible your household will need additional sources of income. John and I both work several jobs. We’ve found that we like to have several part time jobs because this offers flexibility and if jobs change they most likely won’t all change at once.

3. Don’t let other people’s opinions wreck your life.

During our first church plant we spent way too much time worrying about what other people thought. While it’s important to have a healthy respect for other leaders and people’s opinions and needs, it’s never a good thing to spend too much time dwelling on other people’s stuff. Instead, deal with the things you must deal with, then move on accordingly.

I think there’s a reason why during his sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:37 Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes,’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

It’s important not to take all of the church issues home because you need your home to be a safe place where you can wind down and relax. Tomorrow will be another day to solve more problems which will inevitably arise. Sure, there are times when your husband will need you to listen to a problem that needs perspective or attention, but if every week is cluttered with church drama something has gotten off track. Pay attention to this because I’m sure you don’t want your spare time to be filled with plans from the evil one.

While this article could have covered even more ground, I hope that attending to these three big challenges in church planting will help you protect your marriage. If you make your marriage a priority, trust the Lord for resources, and keep a proper perspective regarding other people’s input in your church plant, I believe you will be on track for tending to your marriage and family.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Please protect our marriages. We recognize that during church planting our marriage can be attacked by the evil one, and we don’t want that! Please show us when we are allowing bitterness or selfishness to creep into our  homes. Help us to keep a perspective that is glorifying to you. Sustain us. Provide for us. Renew our love for our spouses as you use us to build the church. We love you and want to serve you. Thank you for using us!

Amen

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

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