This is a follow-up post to the previous one on partnering together in ministry, which you can read here if you haven’t already. This a nuts and bolts post on how to work through the practicalities of partnering in ministry together, particularly when one spouse is in a paid or primary church role, and the other isn’t. Within all this it’s helpful to keep in mind that we try to lead with a mind-set of “family” rather than “function”.
So here are 8 practical ways for couples to partner together in ministry:
1) Pray together
It seems so obvious to pray together, but with the busyness and pressures of life it can also be something that gets forgotten. When we pray together as a couple it unites us as one flesh before God. We can hear what He wants to say to us together. And as we pray together about the ministry that we’re involved in we’re inviting God to be central, and also hearing from Him how He wants us to partner together with Him.
2) Define, own and know the vision together
We both need to define, own, know and understand the vision for the role and calling of the work. If we haven’t been part of developing the vision, or if we don’t understand or appreciate the vision, or maybe even if we resent the vision, then partnering together can feel like it’s all cost and no prize. Sitting down and defining the vision together is an important starting place for partnering together. We’ve found it helpful to sit down over a meal or a coffee and work on this together, roughly once every 6 months.
3) Know that there’s always a choice
Spouses of church workers need to feel like there’s choice in terms of how much they actually “do” with their partner in the ministry. There should be no assumptions made by anyone of what this looks like. As soon as guilt or “shoulds” jump into the equation then our involvement usually becomes counter-productive. You can spot a disgruntled, “I’m-here-but-only-because-I-feel-I-have to-be” spouse a mile away. It’s not pretty. I know, because I’ve been that person. Together we need to ask God what our involvement should be, and then act accordingly rather than in response to need, guilt or any other determining factor.
Often the best way to feel like we’re partnering together is just to get involved in serving some way. In some ways it doesn’t really matter what we do, or how seemingly small our service is. When our youngest started nursery I made a choice to spend one day a week in the 3DM office. It felt costly at first as I had so much else I wanted to do with my time. But as I started to work in the office and get to know people, understand the vision more, and work out where I could lead and fit I started to increasingly love and appreciate both the team and the vision.
Sometimes I’ve observed a vicious circle as we’ve tried to partner together. If I haven’t felt part of things, or if I haven’t felt like I’ve got good relationships with the team, I haven’t known how to get involved. And then because I’m not involved I feel less part of things and the vicious circle continues. So sometimes just making a choice to get involved is the best thing we can do. Remember think “family” rather than function. Try to look for the simple, light-weight points of accessibility. Getting to know and discipling the people we naturally connect with on the team is an easy starting point and a great way to start building extended family.
5) Communicate well with each other and with the team
Good communication between spouses really helps us to feel involved. If everyone on team has more information than a spouse then it’s hard to feel valued or part of it. Rich and I try to set aside a few minutes each day to talk about the day, what’s going on with 3DM, and how different members of the team are doing. Even just a quick communication of headlines really helps. It means that we’re up to date with what’s happening with different people and circumstances and can invest our energy and time well into those people. With good information (even if I’ve not been present) I can send people on the team a quick text to encourage them for a job well done, or encourage and pray for someone who’s had a hard day or is struggling with something. Good communication brings good information which can then lead to good investment and discipleship.
It’s also important to communicate to those that we’re leading that we lead together so that the message is clear to everyone, even if one spouse is primarily more physically present. Rich will always try to communicate in terms of “Anna and I” so that if I’m not present or not talking, everyone is clear that what he communicates represents both of us, rather than just him.
6) Model what you value
Because we have an appreciation and understanding of couples partnering together in ministry we try to tangibly model this by always huddling couples together, even if one has a primary focus elsewhere. For example we’ve had two women on team whose husbands’ primary visions were in the workplace. But because we try to think in terms of family, and partnering together, we wanted to invest in the husbands as well as the wives. When we gather together socially we obviously always invite spouses as well.
7) Look for what fits with natural gifting as well as embracing a stretch
As we partner together it’s good to think about what our gifts and abilities are and how they can be best utilised. For example, in the five-fold ministry I’m a prophet so I love to go along to the 3DM learning communities and do the prophetic appointments. It fits in with my gifting and is also a great way of connecting and meeting everyone attending the learning community. For other people it may be taking on one-to-one mentoring, or leading huddles. And then if we want to grow in partnering together it’s also good to think about what will stretch us, and to ask what will take us out of our comfort zone. For me this is invariably public speaking and I try to obedient when God-given opportunities arise.
8) Decide what you won’t be involved in as much as what you will be
Partnering together doesn’t mean we have to do everything together. Just as parents take on different responsibilities with the kids and the home it’s the same as we partner together in ministry. It’s good to take into account what our values and other life-commitments are as we make these decisions. This will vary from season to season. Our kids are still quite young so we make sure that there are good boundaries on how much I will and won’t do so that I’m still highly available for them.
Please do add a comment in the section below if you have anything to add, ask, or if you’ve found other great ways of learning how to partner together – we’d love to hear from you!
Anna is married to Rich and together the Robinsons lead the 3dm UK team in Sheffield. They have 3 children; Josiah, Esther and Samuel. You can read lots of Anna’s thoughts, reflections and stories on family life by visiting here