Marriage and Ministry – What I learned from Doug Fields.

I wrote a few weeks ago about what I learned from Marko at the National Youth Workers Convention in Dallas. Another incredible class that I took at the conference was Marriage and Ministry by Doug and Cathy Fields. This was an incredibly practical and insightful class. Here is some background:
You probably know Doug Fields. If you don’t, check out thisthis, this, and this. The class was team taught between him and his incredible supportive wife. She’s a volunteer, partner, and introvert. I immediately identified with her. While I’m in ministry, my husband is also in ministry. Doug and Cathy represented two different sides of the same coin and talked a lot about their experiences.
Being the spouse of a (youth) minister is a difficult role. Cathy said that everyone thinks Doug is perfect and no one knows she’s awesome too. If you are married and are in youth ministry, especially if you are married to an introvert or someone who isn’t up front all the time, chances are your spouse feels this way too! To help with this, Doug talks very highly of Cathy when he’s up front!
They reiterated over and over again that the greatest strength is your marriage. Great seminars won’t help your ministry if your marriage is hurting. We get caught up in being busy and forget to put emphasis on a healthy marriage. The going all the time makes your spouse feel less important than the ministry.
Doug and Cathy suggest meeting weekly to talk calendar/work/business life. In their early years Cathy wouldn’t find our about youth events (like weekends away, trips, evening meetings, etc) until she received the youth calendar in the mail! Don’t let this happen to you! Then give your spouse veto power over your calendar. If they have veto power over whether somethings is added to the calendar or not, they will fully support you when the event occurs. This means minimizing your nights out during the week. (you should do this if you are single too!)
Along the same lines, remember that the Sabbath is not a suggestion it’s a commandment. Taking Sabbath is the only way you will run the marathon. Let your spouse help you find Sabbath. Cathy and Doug described this in short term and longer terms – have Sabbath in your day, your week, and then have lights at the end of the tunnel. If you are going through an especially busy time (like the summer) it’s good to set a light at the end of a tunnel – a family vacation, a few days off with your spouse, etc. You and your spouse will need to build those pieces in the calendar to make it through the tough times.
Set special time with your spouse without the TV, ministry talk, or other things going on. Do this regularly…like weekly!! Remember the church hired one of you (usually…). Be careful to protect your spouse’s time at church, but also be mindful not to create separate worlds! You don’t want it to be your spouse vs. the church. You don’t want your spouse to ever feel like it is a competition. If you are in a position where you’re being hired, find out what the expectation is of your spouse at the onset. If the pastor’s wife is 50ish with no kids at home and comes to everything, that’s fine, but the church cannot expect your wife who works full time and has 3 kids at home to do the same.
They suggested reading books about marriage and talking about them together. This would probably even be a good idea if the books aren’t about marriage! If you’re looking for a place to start – read any book together! Or read the Bible together. My husband and I are reading the Bible in a year following a reading program through YouVersion.com. We use this one in the CEB version.
Children, marriage, and ministry
I paid very close attention during this section. My husband is a music minister but has started the ordination process and by the time Wesley is in Kindergarten (God willing!) Jarrod will be ordained. We want to raise our boy right and I know the Fields have raised 3 well-adjusted kids and I want to know how!
  • At all costs make sure your child wins with you working at church. Play favorites with your (own) kids…they get the best small group leaders, cabin, attend fun events, etc. raise your kids around the coolest people. It’s a privilege to raise your kids in ministry.
  • Ask their permission before using them as an illustration.
  • The children-raising season requires an adaptation to raise healthy kids. You may need to have an adjusted schedule to be there for them when they need you.
  • Take advantage of family perks at the church. If someone offers you their cabin, take it! 🙂

Doug and Cathy talked a lot about allowing their children to come first. They emphasized this a lot, but made me fearful that if I do that, my kid will be a brat! They clarified – Let them be first but also disciplined them. They set very high expectations of their children not because people were watching, but because they are a Christ-following family. They want their kids to follow Jesus, not just be well-behaved because it reflects well on them. Put them first but raise them right. Raise them to live like Christ. To do this, you must be authentic with your kids. They need to see YOU living a life like Christ.

How do you put your spouse and your children first? How are you keeping your marriage healthy while you’re serving in ministry?