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

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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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155 Comments

  • I don’t much agree your points. When call us in ministry, how can we sacrifice easily God ministry, if your spouse not supporting. Some time, Satan use wife and husband for stoping God’s work.

  • My husband and I are co founders of a church in Las Vegas Nevada that we started with another couple. My husband served as Co Pastor of the church and is no longer associated with the church due to disagreements and other issues I with the Senior Pastor that didn’t end well. I’m still involved actively in the church and serve as the church secretary, teacher, financial board, Evangelist, intercessory prayer and on the financial board. My husband is upset with me and recently and said that he couldn’t live like this anymore and threatened a divorce if I didn’t leave the church. This has all gone on within the course of 5 years and within the 7 years that we’ve been in ministry I have gone through breakthroughs and deliverance from my past physical abuse (rap/step brothers) & verbal abuse (my mind) and now I have a close relationship with God. I have grown spiritually and now have a relationship with God that I cherish. I don’t want to leave my church. I don’t think that it’s fare that I have to choose between God and my marriage. I have supported everyone and all I’m asking is for the same support, love and understanding. I’m certain that I want to stay and serve God, however it may result in loosing my spouse. My husband is clear that he doesn’t want counciling. I’ve suggested That we visit other churches while I still attend my other church and if we find another church that we both like I will leave the church so we can be together at one church. But then the pandemic hit. My husband is not studying the Word and his views of Bible has changed. We are not on the same accord when it comes to Bible views. Please advise of your thoughts. I am so frustrated.

  • I am not in the ministry but feel a calling to minister to homeless, battered women and children, Nursing homes, and prisons. I watch a lot of sermons, read Bible, pray, praise, and go to Bible studies on Sundays. My husband has been saved, but not actively seeking the Lord or has a desire to grow spiritually..he has been to Bible Studies in the past but makes fun of them and says we talk about the same things over and over which mostly comes down to growing spiritually and furthering God’s Kingdom. He seems resentful every Sunday and says I should be home with my family. He puts a guilt trip on me just for going a couple hours on Sunday. It’s been difficult and I feel God should be our priority and together each other a priority. If u love God and serve him it makes you love your spouse. Sometimes I feel I would get a long better with him if I wasn’t a believer but then I would be lost for sure. I keep praying one day we will be united on this. I don’t want to take steps back I’m reaching out for him to take steps forward and standing still in the process.

    • David Edward Froman says on

      Keep praying for him Charolette. Scripture says it is good to stay married to your unbelieving spouse to be a light and witness to them. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:13-14
      I can’t imagine how difficult it has been. But I am praying for endurance for you and God’s supernatural love to care for him as Christ would.

  • Am having my own ministry of God but my wife she not supportive in prayer or any other purpose

  • I don’t know if anyone has addressed it or not in regards to “be willing to leave the church”, but before even considering leaving the church one must really execute a level of wisdom before making a decision to leave the church. When considering leaving the church there is a lot of “grey” area to consider rather than the black and white of “my spouse doesn’t support it therefore I’m going to leave the church”. If Job would have done what his wife asked of him he not have received the blessing that God had in store for him and her. If you spouse is consumed by a “Jezebel” spirit then her lack of support and distaste for your role in the ministry is the intent of the devil to separate you from God or from His people that He has called the church leader to minister to. I can agree with taking time off from church, but the total abandonment of church I do not agree with at all. Both spouse and church leader are going to have to make sacrifices for the growth of His kingdom. If your spouse isn’t willing to make the necessary sacrifice for the kingdom then there is an adjustment that needs to take place within the spouse. Luke 10: 2 says, “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”, would you allow an unreasonable person to cause you to stop laboring, thus preventing you from reaching (harvesting) those to lead to Christ. If the church leader is laboring too much, okay, take a break, but “leaving the church” should never be a consideration.

  • Well I’m the wife who does not feel in the least bit called to be a pastor’s wife. We have served as youth minister and wife several yrs. and our marriage had issues due to other things, I did support him in that ministry. This new adventure he is set on doing makes me ill. I do not feel called and have a feeling of eminent doom. We said he wouldn’t take the position if I wasn’t 100% sure, but he has taken it temporarily in hopes i will feel differently. He said yesterday that he saw no reason biblically not to take the position. I’m at a loss, I’m sinking, I fear our marriage will not survive this.

  • Rosemarie Karlebach says on

    These articles are all very educating and interesting. Can we all consider that the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit would not ask us to choose between fulfilling ministry and a happy marriage? Why can’t you have both? I had an opportunity to be in a full-time ministry at one point in my life, but it meant that I would be spending a lot of time away from my husband. I was married way before I ever even thought of being in ministry. So, I decided to step away from that ministry and spend time with my husband and family. I love my husband. He is my best friend. And my children are a joy to me. At present, my husband and I are both involved in a small ministry at church. No, it’s not glamorous, but it’s fun. But if it ever got more time-consuming, where it took away from my family, or if one of us decided we didn’t feel led to do it anymore, I would have no problem stepping away. I guess what I’ve come to realize is that MY LIFE IS A MINISTRY to everyone I come in contact with, starting with my family, and ending with new people I meet out in the world and at church. I think we’ve been taught in the church that being in full-time ministry is more important than being a lay person, but that is not true. It is our lives that matter, and Jesus can work through us, no matter where we work or what we do.

    I believe part of the problem is that the church does not really address where most people live and work, which is at home and in the marketplace. The pulpit is often used as a marketing tool to get people into the ministry (or to get them to volunteer at the church). The emphasis usually is that ministry is more important than a regular life. But Jesus spent most of his life out of the synogogue and out in the fields with the people. He did not preach from a pulpit, he used life situations to demonstrate the love of God.

    I personally think being in full-time ministry is a little bit overrated. You can minister right where you are, starting with loving your family. Mother Teresa said “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family,” and “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.” I think that’s what Jesus came to earth to tell us. That family is important. We are part of God’s family and He came to earth to love on us. After all, God is the Father of all families on earth. Let’s love our families first, and then ministry will flow from that.

    Jesus said, “I came that you would have life and more abundantly.” The 5-fold ministry is for the purpose of equipping the saints. Equipping them for what? For having an abundant life! A life that someone else might actually want to have! When our lives are full of love, people want to know what that’s about and you won’t have to have an evangelistic program to get them to be interested in what is motivating you. You won’t be able to keep them out of the church, when they see all the happy people! They’ll want in on that. To me, that’s what ministry is all about.

  • CHUKS CP says on

    I have a calling but have being shying away until God forced me to accept the call.I was happily married for twelve years now.For two years now my wife had not being supportive of my ministry and always accuses mo of infidelity.If it is not against Mrs “A’,today,it will be against Mrs ‘B’ tomorrow.I tried severely to express my clean attitude towards those women she accuses of but to no avail.It has even gotten to a point where i contemplate giving up my calling or give away the marriage.This whole scenario is making me spiritually cold .
    How do i handle this challenge?

  • Christia says on

    Hi,
    I read all the commends. My English is not so God, but I will try to answer.
    Please let us show above the problems in a different way. I was married over 21 years. We attend both a church and had served there. At the beginning he was a good husband, but later he changed and he gived up to attend the church. I attend further the church alone. I served with leading a evangelistic group. People come to Jesus,during I was alone. Later he l
    he was leaving me. I was not sorrow about, that I had attend further the church. But I think it is important, th at I had spend much time with my husband. I was only 1 evening and 1 time during the Sunday service in the church. But I can t fix up the broken heard of my husband, because of his very angry abusive father. Now Jesus healed my inner wounds a I lead a whorship group and serve in counseling. Jesus take my experience to serve other to encouraging here to get love for the heart only from Jesus. Daily to sit on the feet of Jesus. God bless you. Go further with the lord.

  • Good choices . But what to do? it doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried all those options. I think the good way is that God can take away the spouse.

  • So much pain and no easy answers. Clearly you’ve hit a topic that needs addressed early and often. My story is a mix of all above. The oversimplistic answers that quote scripture add to the pain. Both spouses in this situation are hurting. Churches often never know. The silence we keep is deafening and destroying both family and the kingdom. It’s time to speak up. Please keep writing on this topic and may we all be deeply compassionate toward each other.

  • Wife Minister says on

    Brother Rainer, God Bless. I am in a dire situation. I am a minister in our local church but my husband is not, he was a minister overseas where he spent most of his time working abroad, he has recently relocated home and slowly finding his way back to settle in church, but he is not consistent. Over the years, I have sensed his lack of support but don’t quite understand why he would not want to support me in ministry. I never stopped him serving. I know God has called me and if am frustrated that my progress for my next journey in ministry is being slowed down because of my husband’s lukewarmness, attitude, commitment, unemployment and ill health which I fully understand. My struggle is that I feel I might be robbed off because of my husband. How can I go about it honourably to make my husband understand my call and have his full support?
    Thanks

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