Ministry in Marriage
When I was still a single girl, one of my biggest prayers was that I wanted my husband to be my partner in ministry. Now that I am married and serving Jesus with Justin, we love to learn from other couples who do life, marriage and ministry well. I want to personally welcome Brett and Jenna Bishop. Together, they love Jesus, college students and live life on mission …as husband and wife. Thank you Brett and Jenna for modeling ministry in marriage for all of us! —Marian Jordan Ellis
I (Brett) fell in love with Jenna over a decade ago, and this January we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. That's an amazing sentence to me so I'm mentally writing it again. There are few fighters that can boast of a greater prize. I just couldn't give up on her, and I can tell you today, as I'm sitting right next to her on the couch with her cute little belly that's 25 weeks pregnant with our first baby, it was worth the wait and the effort.
TThroughout our six years together, five of them were spent in full-time youth ministry at a church in San Antonio, Texas. Today, we aren’t full time at a church but see life as full-time ministry no matter where or what we’re doing.
Our lives don't always scream ministry. We both have normal jobs with bills to pay, along with selfish desires, leftover meals at 10pm. Our calendars don't always match up for that perfect Thursday night date, and even though she's a 10 out of 10 on the Juliette scale, I don't always qualify as Romeo.
Each morning we like to share coffee and talk to God together. We realize the beauty in God’s design in marriage and rarely have more to say to him than "thank you." It's simple. I think simple is key for us. While the Pauline expression may be that of “running a race” and some may view marriage as “ministry partnership,” we just had good examples of parents that showed us love in a steady, kind, laughing, godly way.
1. Boundaries in Ministry - Ministry can be exhausting!
To keep healthy boundaries, we discovered some good, daily stop signs:
- When we were in youth ministry, Brett wouldn’t answer his phone after 8 p.m. unless it was an emergency.
- We had a date night every week.
- We tried very hard to make Saturdays student-free. :)
- We learned to tell students, “No.” That was a biggie, especially for me (Jenna). You feel as if their worlds depend on you. Very far from the truth. The truth is that saying “no” keeps what’s important, important. It can also set a healthy example for the students. They need to learn boundaries as well.
2. Unity in Ministry -
Expectation and envy. Two BIG enemies to unity in ministry. And I (Jenna) have experienced both, even in marriage. Wanting Brett to minister a certain way, or envying the way he connects with students in a way I cannot…that kind of thinking is poisonous.
Here are some lessons we learned about unity while ministering together:
- Support one another’s strengths. My strengths are not Brett’s and vice versa. Verbally encourage and affirm each other’s strengths daily. Ministry can be a beat down, so communicating consistent support out loud has been crucial for us.
- Extend grace in weakness. Some nights I feel emotionally drained. And instead of getting on to me, Brett will just say, “Honey, skip small group tonight. Turn on one of your favorite shows and go to bed early.” I need to know he is still on my side even on those tired nights. And I need to extend the same kind of grace to him.
- Don’t expect; balance! Unity means celebrating our differences, so instead of expecting Brett to want, envision, or do things just like me, I learned to love his different ideas, his different perspective.
- Pray together. This always builds unity, focusing you on what really matters.
3. Enjoying Ministry - We saved the best for last. It seems so simple, yet why do we so often forget it? Ministry should be … well … fun!
Even while going through the death of Brett’s dad, job transitions, miscarriages, the unknown future … students have been and will always be a joy for us to love on and serve. And when ministry is NOT a joy, then we’ve learned to ask ourselves some questions.
- “Am I serving out of God’s strength or my own?”
- “Am I trying to control these students or remembering that they are God’s?”
- “How are God and I doing?”
Ministry is a gift! So when it stops feeling like a gift and starts feeling like a heavy load, then step back. Ask some questions, talk with God.
“For the JOY set before Him” Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Ministry, even death, was always a JOY for Jesus.
And it’s our prayer that Jesus daily gives us HIS joy, working in us and through us so that ministry is always FROM Him and FOR Him.
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