Seven Things to Consider If Your Spouse Is Not Supportive of Your Ministry

In the past few months, I’ve had two conversations where persons serving on a church staff were struggling with their spouses’ lack of support. One was a pastor whose wife was worn out with a constant stream of criticisms directed at her husband and her family. She was pushing her husband to leave the church and find secular employment.

The other situation involved a children’s minister whose husband was angry because she was gone so many nights. He felt the church was taking advantage of her and pushing her to work too many hours to the neglect of her family.

Both of these ministers were truly struggling. They did not know what steps to take. They were uncertain how to respond to their spouses.

Unfortunately, these situations are not unique. They are too common, and they often do not end well. More than one couple has divorced over this issue.

So what is a pastor or staff person to do in such difficult situations? While I don’t pretend to have specific solutions for every case, I would like to suggest seven things to consider for those who find themselves in struggling marriages because of this issue.

  1. Listen to your spouse. Give him or her the freedom to open up completely with you. See if there are some mediating solutions to the problem. For many pastors particularly, the local church can be a demanding mistress who takes pastors away from their families.
  2. Express your unconditional love to your spouse. Let your spouse know that you love him or her without conditions. Express that love clearly and with conviction. Be clear that your marriage comes first regardless of the cost.
  3. Pray with your spouse. Pray with your spouse every day about this issue. Be unified spiritually as you come before the Lord. Pray specifically about the struggles related to the church.
  4. Seek counsel for you and your spouse. That counsel may be the same person, or there may be the need for each of you to have a different counselor. The counselor may be a professional, or he or she could be someone who has walked a similar path.
  5. Consider taking a break. See if it is possible for you and your spouse to get away several days. I know one ministry couple that took two full weeks of vacation to relax, pray, and gain perspective. They came back to serve in the church with a new commitment and vigor.
  6. Look in the mirror closely and honestly. Is it something you are doing that is bringing pain to your spouse? Perhaps the change needed for your spouse is a change in you, your attitudes, and your priorities.
  7. Be willing to leave the church. Do not sacrifice your marriage and your family. We sometimes like to gloss over 1 Timothy 3:5: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (HCSB). Our families must come first. Our marriages must come first.

It is indeed a difficult situation. Local church ministry can be tough. But it can be especially tough if our spouses are not supportive.

Let me hear from you. Have you ever been in this situation? Do you know how others have handled this situation?

Posted on March 4, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Dennis John Mentor says on

    Hi I’m currently in this difficult situation we approached by the pastor to become elders in our church I’m willing to but my decline what do I do

  • I am a Pastor. My wife only comes to church on Sunday. She will not come to Bible Study class. She does not read her bible. She will not come to outreach events or the prayer service we have once a month. This is a church I planted 8 years ago. It’s very frustrating to see how other Pastor wives support the church and my wife doesn’t. She rarely goes with me when I go to other churches to fellowship. I stopped asking her to come to Bible Study. She was not very active from day 1. It’s frustrating but I pray for her. It’s very difficult to grow a church when the wife is not involved. If a married couple wanted counseling, we could not do it because there is nothing spiritually my wife could tell them.

  • Rev Onyekachi Mejens says on

    I need a counselor. I want privacy

  • David Edward Froman says on

    Thom thank you for this article. I completely resonate with this. My poor wife inherited ministry, the same time we got married, and left her parents and her state in the same month several years ago. She has struggled with being in ministry, and living in a fish bowl. We unfortunately inherited a revitalization church, already unhealthy and I faced much opposition. She has wished I would do something else, however I am not good at other things. My degree and experience is ministry, and so it has put a strain on our marriage. Appreciate your advice. We are looking at these options and are in fact going on vacation very soon for a week for clarity and prayer.

  • Sir, this has been my position. After struggling with an unsupportive wife for years in ministry, I moved to a different ministry to begin afresh. This helped improve relations.
    While in the new ministry, I have just declined a leadership position that she has not been involved and felt left out.
    Yes, I took these two positions but it is very painful and calls for spiritual maturity and dependence on the Lord to take care of His bride as I take care of mine.
    Some times one would feel like they made a mistake from the word go on the choice of their spouse but the question is, why did the Lord let it happen?
    I still believe that all things happen for the good of those that have been called according to His purpose. Amen.

  • Thank you, but can I sacrifice the church just because of my or husband. Yes family first but I think if she or he is not changing better to leave her

    • tendo ruth says on

      no my dear never leave but keep in prayer for him proverbs 21 says that hearts of kings are n Gods hands,u can’t change yo husband
      but God can.pray about everything u hate in him and u build what u want in him spiritually and wait upon God to your responsibilities as a woman. never quit but press on.we can do all things through Christ who empowers us.

    • David Edward Froman says on

      Rockie, I understand where you are coming from. However, remember marriage is a covenant that you both have committed. Your spouse is your first ministry before your church. My wife has shared this insight with me as well. However we made a covenant and commitment to witnessed and to God. It would be wrong to up and leave your spouse.

  • What do i do sir if my new husband doesnt want to contribute to missions or go on a mission trip

    • Tendo Ruth says on

      my dear just give him time,he will catchup with your hobby of missions tell him the good things in it and show him that he can trust you.never go when he has denied u to go.pray about it tell God what you want.He will make your husband to come in agreement with you.with God all things are possible

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