3 Ways to love your spouse well on the church planting journey

What’s at stake if we plant a successful church, but fail in our marriage?

There’s no way around it. Church planting is hard. Some say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

If you’re currently planting a church or are part of a church planting team, then you’re probably already nodding your head in agreement.

There are countless reasons planting a church puts a strain on planters, their spouses and sometimes the entire family. These reasons are as diverse as the planters and planting wives themselves. Stressors vary based on season of life, family temperament, geographic location, etc.

And while there’s no escaping the grueling nature of the task, there is a way to navigate the hard seasons with grace and steadfastness. You don’t have to plant a church at the expense of your marriage.

While the joys of birthing a church are many, so are the responsibilities for the planter and his whole family. The labor of nurturing a new church is inevitably filled with unexpected beauty —like seeing new people come to faith — and unimaginable sadness. And while the spotlight often shines on the planter in his unique role, his wife often labors alongside him in equal measure of effort, time and ministry impact.

What’s at stake if we plant a successful church, but fail in our marriage?

Prioritizing your family on the church planting journey is easy to say, but it’s immensely hard to do.

Most church planters and their wives are under a lot of stress. They’re tending to a lot of needs in their church and their home.

And most church planters are visionary and apostolic in their giftings and temperament. They enjoy new ventures and moving forward. They have a high capacity and generous spirit. They are necessary and good for the Church.

But it’s easy to get wrapped up in the grind and forget to minister to the people you see each day in your own home. If we’re not careful, our hard work and long hours can put long-term strain and fractures on our family.

A pastor’s family can suffer so much under the weight of ministry that they never come to know Christ — whom they’ve heard so much about — for themselves.

Church planting doesn’t have to mess up our kids. And it doesn’t have to put a damaging strain on our marriage. If we’re intentional, it can enhance the family’s holistic health, driving them to an even deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ.

Church planters, here are a few ways you can be intentional and mindful in loving your spouse in this unique season of church planting.

  1. Prioritize your marriage.

So many things fight for center stage when you’re planting a church. Whether you’re praying for a member, setting up chairs or prepping for a sermon, in one day, a planter can wear so many hats, functioning as a jack of all trades. But to love your spouse well on the planting journey, you must be a master of one — your marriage.

The vast majority of planters love, cherish and value their wives. In their minds and their hearts, they make her a priority. They truly believe she is the greatest person they know, and they often feel like they don’t deserve her. Their affection for their spouse is deep.

But what is felt in the heart and head sometimes neglects to be transferred to the hands. In other words, a planter may acknowledge a deep love and affection for his wife internally, but it doesn’t also get expressed externally. Or, put another way, the way this gets played out is not always evident to his wife.

One way to love your spouse well on the planting journey is to prioritize your marriage. Prioritizing your marriage must be done in an observable way that lands for your wife. What she receives as prioritization may be different than what would make you feel prioritized.

For example, what lands for her — and what’s realistic for the season you’re in — may not be a weekly date night. What really resonates as prioritizing care may be a 30-minute connection time every morning. What lands for her may be a monthly, daylong date. Talk to your wife. Ask her what would make her feel like a priority to you, and follow through on the conversation.

  1. Honor her gifts, sacrifices and investment in the planting journey.

No one plants a church alone. And if they do, it’s probably not a thriving church.

Everyone involved in starting a church sacrifices something — including planting wives. For the planting spouse, this often looks like moving to a new city, beginning the unique endeavor of making friends as “a pastor’s wife,” juggling work-life, home-life, carpool, the list goes on.

The “Help Wanted” image on the right is (sadly) funny because it has a kernel of truth and is perhaps uncomfortably relatable to many ministry wives.

Planters and pastors’ wives do a lot. And they’re good at a lot. And most of them likely don’t say much about it. In fact, they may make it look effortless. But the investment is sizeable.

It’s easy to assume that when someone is good at something, or they keep going like the Energizer bunny, that it’s easy for them. But even when we’re good at something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t require effort, energy and planning.

Don’t allow your spouse’s sacrifice, gifts and investment in the church go unnoticed. Consistently affirm her in private and public ways. Reminder her often that what she does matters. It matters to your family. It matters to your church. It matters to your city. And it matters for the kingdom.

Her work is sacred. Love her well in the planting journey by reminding her — in creative ways — again, and again and again. At the end of the day, a simple and genuine “thank you” goes a long way, too.

  1. Monitor her soul

It’s impossible for the church planting journey to not require a lot of its planters, their families and the team at large. In the non-church-planting context, the boundaries that would likely protect believers from a speedy burnout are more fluid or relatively nonexistent for church planting teams and families.

So many boundaries are lost in the process, including spatial ones. For six months to a year, your home may function as your office, your sanctuary and your place of residence. The lines of personal and professional are blurred that much more as you plant a church.

Perhaps of equal weight is the boundary of our time, our emotional energy and our spiritual fervor. Each, in various ways, goes to the people you and your family serve each day.

Without proper care, her soul can wither under the weight of the responsibility of caring for others. To love your spouse well on the planting journey, monitor her soul. Pay attention to where she is, how she’s doing, what she’s saying and, more importantly, what she’s not saying.

Planters, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

    • Is your wife moving toward health and wholeness?
    • Does she have a support system?
    • Has she been consistently doing things that give her life?
    • Does she have margin (or is she making space) to commune with God in a way that resonates with her?

Soul care questions to ask your wife:

    • What has caused you unrest lately?
    • What has brought you joy?
    • What can you delegate?
    • What would you change about our lives right now?

One way to monitor her soul is to protect her from over-functioning. Church planters and their spouse are prone to overwork out of place of lack. They face deficiencies of team members, support and other resources. Sometimes, loving her may look like telling her when it’s time for her to take a break. Offer to give her the evening or the weekend away to spend time with friends or be alone.

As any pastor knows, monitoring anyone’s soul requires paying compassionate attention. This rarely happens when we’re in a hurry. It happens in the sacred pause of each day.

Your intentional care, generous appreciation and active concern and protection for her health and well-being is a profound gesture of your love for her. Don’t miss the opportunity to love her in this way.

Published February 8, 2022