Yoked: Ministry Together {Stories from the Lives of Clergy Couples}

We’re an interesting breed. Well, maybe interesting is too strong a word. Not sure being a minister is really viewed ever as “interesting” by mainstream culture. But, it never fails, whenever I would meet a stranger – whether on an airplane row or back-in-the-day at a bar – and shared what I did for a living, it would illicit two responses: A quick and awkward end to the conversation or an awkward, confession-style explanation of why he/she didn’t attend church anymore. That’s certainly note-worthy. Still, in those rare moments when Andy and I introduced ourselves together at a social event or whatnot, and explained our professions, usually it was met with raised eyebrows and fascination.

Do you work at the same church?
Do you both like to preach?
Do you ever see each other on Sundays?
Do you like sharing the same work?

And then, How do you do it?
How will you have children? Where will they attend?
How do you do Christmas and Easter?

And from Christians – Don’t you feel like you miss out on being in worship together on Sundays?

No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Barely. Who knows? Tired. Sometimes.

There are just so many different ministry possibilities for this species of clergy – clergy couples. I feel like I hear about more and more every week. Some work together. Some work in different denominations. Some arrange it so that one works full-time, and the other part-time. Some work in churches while their spouses work at hospitals or schools.

There are also crazy challenges. Like figuring out work schedules. And more importantly, vacation schedules. Boundaries with one church. Boundaries with two churches. Juggling children and Sunday school…at two churches? Dealing with a manse. That doesn’t belong to your church but to your spouse’s church. Night time meetings and who’s going to cook dinner on Sunday afternoons? Running back and forth between churches to be in each other’s services on Christmas Eve. Sitting in the pews as the junior pastor while the spouse plays Varsity every Sunday (oops, mixing metaphors a bit). Salaries. Retreat weekends. Study leave.

As Andy and I consider this new season of children and family, and our vocations, I felt like I needed to seek out the wisdom in the stories of those who:

  1. Have done it.
  2. Are doing it, too.
  3. Will do it someday, and what they are dreaming up.

I hope this to be an ongoing and periodic series, and namely, a chance to offer a little glimpse into the strange world of calling and marriage/family in the lives of clergy couples. Not too unlike Real Housewives of [fill in the blank city]. Or that Preachers’ Wives series coming on TLC. No, no. Seriously, there probably will be some compelling drama here, but hopefully a little encouragement…maybe a little help along the way for those in a similar situation. Because you know the odds aren’t good for us clergy couples making it. Especially if both are older siblings. Especially if both are bossy and bull-headed. Especially if both have completely different personalities in almost every way possible. But, I think there’s a lot of grace to be had in this situation. Hopefully, we can help each other to see and hear it, and not only survive this but really thrive in our ministries and families.

Check back here for updates on the couples’ who will be sharing their stories.

Mark Elsdon and Erica Liu Elsdon on Sabbath.
Ben and Sarah Robinson on Witness (Part 1 and Part 2).

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