It’s the proverbial “chicken or the egg” conundrum—which comes first?

Messy marriage, therefore, messy ministry?


Messy ministry, therefore, messy marriage?

Well, in my household, it’s been both/and. There were times when the messiness of my marriage made our ministry messier. And there were times when the messiness of our ministry made our marriage messier.

How marriage made the ministry messier …

• I can remember having to be “on” and smiling bright when we opened the doors of our house to the members of the church we’d planted more than twenty years ago. We had to do this even if we were feeling burned-out, uninspired, stretched-thin, or stressed-out—which seemed to be most of the time in those early and challenging days of marriage and parenthood.

• I can remember my husband’s difficulty in conducting any ministry business in his basement office, because it happened to be below our kitchen floor where our toddlers shouted, ran and even rode happily above—oblivious to their daddy’s predicament beneath them.

• I can remember how “daddy” made it everyone’s predicament, when he came storming up the stairs, yelling at our busy boys to use their “inside voices!”

• I can remember, on more than one occasion, my husband and I getting into an argument in the middle of a small group meeting in our home. Talk about making everyone feel awk-ward! Yikes! I’d never seen so many of our members burying their heads in their Bibles before! I would have been inspired, had I not been so irritated with our Bible teacher!

How the ministry may have made the marriage messier …

• I can remember the stresses of barely scraping by on an uncertain and meager church planter’s salary. Naturally, that gave us plenty of exciting and new topics to argue discuss when bill-paying time rolled around.

• I can remember the long and on-call hours that our fledgling church required. Boundaries, shm-oundries!

• I can remember the resistance and general bad attitudes that some of the church members brought with them to our meager mission church—often after being disgruntled with the church they just left. Those other churches might have kindly held the door wide open for these folks as they exited. But we thought we needed warm bodies to fill our vacant chairs—no matter how cantankerous that body was!

• I can remember the pressures from those same church members for us to know how to do something God-sized with our little bit of 20-something knowledge hopefulness.

• I can remember the back-biting and gossip that stung like a dagger in our hearts when our little church was rocked by difficult times and even more difficult attitudes.

Ministry requires a lot of a couple—especially a young couple that’s just trying to figure out marriage, much less ministry. I think we often forget that Satan wants to destroy anything of any power or significance to the kingdom of God. But even more often, we forget that our own fears and insecurities blind us to the many ways God wants to use us—imperfect and messy men and women.

I say all this just so that those of you who are on the frontlines and in the trenches of ministry know that you are not crazy, weird, failures, and most importantly, … you’re not alone. If you’re discouraged or simply worn-out, take heart that God does not waver in His call to you. And let these words resonate in your ears, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” 1 Peter 2:20b (NIV)

Question: In what ways has ministry made your marriage messier or vice versa? Share your thoughts here

Guest Post: Beth Steffaniak is a pastor’s wife, counselor, life-coach and mom to three budding young men. She blogs at, where her heart is to be “Real, Raw and Redemptive” about the messiness of life and marriage. She believes that God calls us to see the ugly, broken, desperate mess from His perspective—the eternal, unseen, redemptive side.

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