PMS::boundaries in your marriage

>> September 8, 2009

Whether or not you see it, church members observe your marriage. They pick up on things like how you interact in public, whether you are affectionate or not, if you seem to be fighting (even good-naturedly), and so on.

Members get a sense of security from feeling that the pastor is happily married and that the PW is well-treated (and that she treats the pastor well in return!). There's nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it can make things delicate when you just need to fight something out!

Boundaries in the pastoral marriage are not optional. They are absolutely, 200% necessary. And they work both ways - we need boundaries about what we do and say and how we handle ourselves in public (to avoid giving people unnecessary reasons to worry about the pastor), and we also need boundaries that give us a sense of privacy and protection away from the demands of ministry.

Some boundaries that we've found essential include:

  • keep a sacred date night, preferably every week, but at least every other week - and let your church members know that barring emergencies, you are completely devoted to your spouse on that date night, no interruptions
  • don't be too free with details about your marriage, unless there's a spiritually mentoring reason to share
  • don't fight in public - no matter how tempting :)
  • don't put each other down or ridicule each other's faults or opinions in front of others
  • let church members know that you love each other in some visible, tangible way that suits your personalities and comfort zone (Sarah's PH always stops to have her join him and walk out of the church together after he preaches), find whatever works for you
  • take a full day off each week, and (just like date night) let your church members know that this is your personal day to spend with your spouse and you simply won't be taking phone calls or appointments
  • work to reconcile arguments as quickly as possible when you and your spouse disagree, instead of letting it hang over you like a cloud
  • remember, no matter how great your ministry calling is, your first ministry is your marriage. PERIOD. No mission calling is worth the deterioration or loss of your spouse and family!
That's just what we can think of... what have you discovered to keep your marriage intact and sacred while you minister to others?

Let the comments roll!


bashtree September 10, 2009 at 10:45 AM  

I could surely use some guidance in this area. I am a firm believer/placer of boundaries, and my PH is not. To me, our top priority should be our marriage. To him, the top priority is ministry, at the expense of all else. We are brand new to the ministry - he just graduated from seminary - and I am wary of what the years ahead may hold.

Melody September 10, 2009 at 5:23 PM  

My husband and I just attended a powerful marriage conference at WinShape Retreat (Truett Cathy sponsors it) and the speaker discussed the importance of making family and the marriage relationship a priority.....especially in ministry families. It is so easy to neglect the people closest to us at times...and all in the name of serving Jesus. It's just good to be reminded of what we "know" but lose sight of at times. Get this: the conference we went to was FREE for pastor's and their wives. Go check it out for next year or the next time they offer it.....they do it twice a year. WinShape Retreat Center located on Berry College Campus (Rome, GA)

Anonymous,  September 15, 2009 at 3:43 PM  

I agree with everything you've said. But, my husband is the assistant pastor. His Senior pastor doesn't set the same boundaries, especially the personal time with family. How can we uphold our sacred personal time if the boss takes it away all the time?

SKA September 15, 2009 at 3:46 PM  

@ Anonymous: This can be really tough. Has your husband tried to meet with his senior pastor and make his boundaries gently but firmly clear so that they can reach an understanding? That's definitely the first place to start.

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