Marriage isn’t easy. Ministry isn’t easy. And when you put the two together, it can make for a pressure like no other.

At a conference for the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (February 2019) held at Cornerstone Church (Pastor Brian Moore) in Anaheim (CA) I got to hear Doug Fields. The theme for the week is “Under Pressure” and Doug talked about marriage pressure.

Doug has been in ministry for over 30 years. He was the youth pastor at Saddleback Community Church (Rick Warren) and has written several books on ministry and family. I jotted down a few things he said that may help your marriage. These are great ideas for every marriage, not just ministry marriage.

You might think that pastors don’t have marriage pressure. After all, they are doing God’s work, right? Doesn’t this somehow exempt them from some of the marriage problems?

Church leaders look better from a distance. You might think that people in ministry are above the pressures of life. But leaders struggle. Because of their position, they often hide their struggles. Pastor’s struggle with envy, pride, lust, compassion, and many other issues. Public leaders tend to ignore the private side of their life – until it’s too late. 

A pastor’s family is under pressure all the time. They are always ‘on’ and people are watching with high expectations. Ministry never ends. Stress in any arena can diminish human capacity. You can’t sustain high pressure without relational turmoil. 

3 things to improve your marriage.

1 – Day Off

People in ministry are very bad at taking a day off. There are some lazy pastors; but most of the pastors I know are hard working, very busy people. They are running all the time.

There is too much work left to be done saving the world to take time to rest, right? Some rationalize that the devil doesn’t take a day off so neither should I. But the devil isn’t our role model. 

If God took a day off of creation, people should too. If you don’t take a day off you develop an affection for speed. Busy people get addicted to the fast pace of their life. 

Church leaders are bad at saying NO. They are often people pleasers. Busy leaders are often broken leaders. There is a price to pay for busyness. Pastors need to learn how to take a sabbath day – a day of rest to renew their spirit, soul, body, and relationships.

People want their pastor to stay healthy but they often don’t want them to say NO. Pastors must ask themselves: 1- Why am I really saying yes? 2 – What is the worst that could happen if I say NO?

There are other people who can do your job and maybe even better than you. But nobody can be the spouse to your spouse and parent to your children (grandchildren). So schedule your day off and use your full vacation days.

2 – Dating (your spouse)

Dating is not about romance; it’s about connection. It’s intentional time together. You dated before you got married. Then the marriage and routines of life happened and it’s easy to simply become roommates. 

One of the problems is that dating your spouse is important but not urgent. Nobody would say we shouldn’t keep dating after marriage, but more urgent things take priority. The really important things in life often don’t demand our attention. We must choose and make them a priority. You don’t make time for your family – you must take time for it.

How you use your time reveals your values. Is your marriage worth 1% of your time? Nobody would say no to that. 1% of one week is about 100 minutes. Isn’t your marriage worth about 1 hour and 40 minutes each week?

A University of Virginia study discovered:

  1. Dating keeps lines of communication open. On a date, don’t talk calendar, kids, or finances. Do that another time.
  2. Dating is a perfect time to do something new. 
  3. Dating rediscovers passion and sparks sexual intimacy.
  4. Dating shows commitment to marriage. The greatest gift you can give your children is to know you’re committed to your marriage.
  5. Dating gives couples extended periods to de-stress.

Doug added one… 6. Dating creates anticipation. It gives you something good to look forward to.

You might struggle with what to do on a date. Doug had an Idea:

  • Date #1 – you plan
  • Date #2 – spouse plans
  • Date #3 – routine/favorite
  • Date #4 – home date
  • Repeat

3 – Dependence on Phone – Get off your phone

Most everyone has a cell phone. Cell phones have improved ministry and life. We don’t give our phone a lot of thought but we do give it a lot of time and power. Cell phones have changed relationships. 

Phone usage strains existing tensions of feeling unwanted.  Many couples spend more time on their phone than with each other. When we are on our phone we are connected to the world while we ignore ‘our world’ sitting right next to us.

What we do with our phones?

  1. Obsess over it (addicted)
  2. Touch it constantly
  3. Take it into private locations
  4. Keep it charged up
  5. Spend money on it
  6. Wake up to it
  7. Make memories with it. Instead of making memories with archive memories.

Some people are having an affair with their phone. 

At the least, couples should outlaw phones: in bed, at the table, in the car, and leisure together time. These should be places of connection with each other.

If phone usage is an issue in your marriage, two questions might hep bring up the subject with your spouse:

  1. Can we talk about our phone use?
  2. When you are on your phone I feel _________.

What if you treated your spouse like you treat your phone (remember the list earlier)?

  1. Obsess over it
  2. Touch it constantly
  3. Take it into private locations
  4. Keep it charged up
  5. Spend money on it
  6. Wake up to it
  7. Make memories with it. Instead of making memories with archive memories.

Our phone is robbing us of time with our spouse. So does not taking a day off. Dating will enhance your marriage. 

Thanks Doug for these tips to improve marriages.

Do you have another tips?