How to Have a Successful Ministry Marriage: Part 1 of 4

Marriage is a challenge for everyone but it is especially challenging for pastors and couples in full-time Christian ministry. So much is demanded of them that they have little time to work on their relationship. Often they are struggling but they don’t know where to go for help or are afraid that if they admit they are having trouble they will be rebuked by those in their ministry. They feel guilty because they are “supposed” to have it together and scared because they don’t. If their marriage fails there is a high likelihood their ministry will fail too.

Debbie Hogan (Co-Founder of Standing Stone Ministry) has identified four C’s in “Sailing the C’s of Marriage” that will help effectively navigate a successful marriage in ministry. Without effectively navigating these four “C’s” it’s impossible to have a successful marriage. Amidst the challenges of ministry life, finding the time and energy to work on these C’s will pay immeasurable dividends for both your marriage and ministry.

In this blog series, you’ll hear her perspectives on the four vital ingredients for a successful marriage. Here’s Debbie’s story and the first C:

I’ve lived in Southern California all of my life and have been raised near the sea. I’ve been lucky enough to have done quite a bit of sailing during my life. I’ve been married for over 40 years and I can’t help but compare some of the experiences I’ve had sailing to experiences I’ve had in my marriage. I remember one particular time sailing on a catamaran to Catalina when the wind was brisk and the sea smooth, lying on the bow netting between the hulls, reaching down and almost touching the dolphins racing along side of us. It was magical! Jim and I have had some wonderful times in our marriage when it was sheer bliss. However, we’ve had some rough times on the ocean as well as rough times in our marriage. I remember cruising in the San Juan Islands between Washington State and Vancouver Island when it was so rough we had to tie ourselves into our bunks to keep us from falling out. There have been times in my marriage it’s been so rough I’ve felt like I needed to be tied down or I’d fall overboard. Rough water, doldrums and rogue waves can often send a marriage crashing into the rocks but if your marriage can endure them it will be even stronger because you managed to survive and not abandon ship!

There is no getting around it: A successful marriage doesn’t just happen; a successful marriage takes a lot of hard work. All too often marriage becomes like a 3-ring circus. First comes the engagement ring then comes the wedding ring then comes the suffering. That’s why people decide to jump ship.

Often we go into marriage with unrealistic expectations. We just know we’ve found the perfect mate or if he’s not quite perfect we know we can change him into the prefect mate. It’s interesting that most women go into a marriage thinking they will change their husband where most men go into a marriage hoping their wife will never change. I know that Jim still wished I would wear my hair in pigtails the way I did when we were dating and during the early years of our marriage. When Jim and I got married he had the annoying habit of leaving the toilet seat up and leaving his wet towel on the bed. Guess what? After over 40 years of marriage he still does! I thought I could change him but, so far, I have not been successful. Therefore, I’ve just decided to accept him for who he is and have learned, especially during the middle of the night, to check to make sure the toilet seat is down before I go to sit on it! Nobody has the perfect husband or the perfect marriage. Remember that another woman’s cast off may be another woman’s prize. Realistically, just like sailing, there will be those wonderful days when the seas are smooth and the wind is behind you as well as those days when things are rough and the marriage is tough.

Allow me to be your cruise director as we sail the four “C’s” of marriage. Our voyage must begin on the sea of COMMITMENT. When Jim and I were first married, we raced a 24 ft. sailboat as a team. However, I really didn’t like racing and I wasn’t committed to it so I quit. Since Jim couldn’t race by himself he had to quit too. Marriage can be the same way. If you and your mate aren’t both totally committed you can’t have a successful marriage. In a survey done by Better Homes and Gardens, 53% of the divorced people polled said their marriage failed due to a lack of commitment. When the seas are calm it’s pretty easy to be committed. However, when they get rough it becomes a lot harder. It’s when things get rough we may be tempted to run back to the safety of our parent’s home or just plain old “abandon ship!” God must have known this because he says in Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Sometimes it may seem easier to jump ship than to stick it out. But remember when you made those wedding vows: “For better, for worse, for richer for poorer. In sickness and in health.”

My mother was a great example for me because she was totally committed to be the best wife she could be to my father. We always knew that my dad was her top priority. She also tried to look her best for my dad. In the early 60’s there was a song called “Wives and Lovers” by Jack Jones that she used to play over and over. Part of the song goes like this; “Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers; you may not see him again. Hey little girl there are girls at the office and men will always be men.” Thank goodness we don’t wear curlers anymore but the point is: many men spend the day with women who are groomed beautifully.

Remember that the image he sees when he leaves in the morning is the image he carries throughout the day. I’m not saying to get up at 4:30AM so you look like a model when he leaves. Luckily most men like the natural look. In fact Jim actually prefers I don’t wear make-up. Therefore, when I get up, the first thing I do is put on a nice, clean robe, brush my hair and my teeth. This makes Jim is very happy. If you’re pregnant or just had a baby, you’re probably not feeling like a model but you can still try and look your best. So go home get out the tooth brush, brush your hair, wash your robe or go out and buy a new one, so you can look good as you kiss your husband goodbye in the morning. If you’re working too don’t forget to kiss him goodbye as you leave the house. Husbands hate to be neglected. They have egos that really need to be stroked.

I also remember seeing my mom brush her hair and put on lipstick right before my dad got home so she’d look good when he arrived. My mom also taught me to learn my husbands likes and his dislikes. She told me to be a student of my mate. In other words to understand what makes him tick and ticked! As I mentioned, Jim likes the natural look so I wear minimum make-up. Jim hates the house to be messy so I would always try to pick up the kids toys right before he got home. He hates to be late so I make an effort to be on time though I don’t always succeed. We go into marriage thinking it is going to be a 50% – 50% deal. Actually it has to be 100% -100% to make it work. All marriages take total commitment to make them successful. I really think a successful marriage must start on the sea of commitment. If commitment is not part of a marriage your voyage is sure to end up in a shipwreck.

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Standing Stone Ministry cares for ministry couples one couple at a time by offering to form a lasting mentoring relationship, beginning with one week away in a beautiful serene location, where they are hosted with excellence and mentored with love. Learn more about Standing Stone Ministry can help your ministry marriage.

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