For years, I prayed for the “right one” to come along. I can remember sitting across from my friend John and telling him about the other guys I really liked. Then somehow in the span of three years and in spite of my move to another country, we became best friends and realized how much we could just be “ourselves” with the each other. This blossomed into something more and I can still recall the perfect night under a full moon overlooking a harbor in Maine that we admitted our feelings had morphed into “more.” The only “hitch” I told him was that I was “called” into full-time ministry, and I felt I should marry someone who felt the same way.

Less than a year later I dressed up like Cinderella, and we made our vows before God and man. It happened all of the ways everyone says it should. Sure, we thought we were ancient (at 24) compared to our friends who married right after college, but three months later we were pregnant with baby number one. By the time we had been married three years, we were both in full time ministry with three kiddos. You swear you will not “over romanticize” how it will be once you get married, but there is really no way not to. There are hopes and dreams as he carried you over the threshold. You believe every love song and it feels like you just can’t get enough of each other. At least that is really the way it happened for me.

Until you wake up one day and realize, “This is not the way I thought life would be.” Ministry is hard…really hard, and it is constantly creeping into every corner of your life. There isn’t a vacation or day off when a deep hurt or need from someone doesn’t invite a phone call. Every week night is another activity out and weekends are never “off.” You get to an age when friends start to move away from the “Early Thriftstore” decorating and have furniture that actually matches. In other words, they start to appear to have some money, and you still are struggling. Looking in the mirror some lines begin to creep in around the eyes, and you aren’t sure if it’s caused by laughter or worry.

Then as life begins to take nibbles from you here and there you say things to your spouse like, “I have to work this many hours. This is my ministry, but it’s also my job.” Resentment begins to seep in just a little from the amount of seemingly one-sided effort put into the family, from both of you. Each of you feels neglected, because by the end of the day everyone else has gotten your energy: kids, ministry, life…and there is simply no more for each other. Then one day you look at each other and ask, “Are we going to make it?”

This is the point at which many will talk about “falling out of love,” or that the “butterflies are gone.” It’s just not that simple. It’s more that you have forgotten what your relationship looks like. Doing work FOR the Lord has replaced your relationship WITH Him.

You like the feeling that “working for good” gives you.  Being on a stage speaking, being needed by many fills a void, or so we think. It isn’t even your spouses’ fault. If you are honest, you are generally unhappy with many things and have no one to blame.

The church or ministry has leadership that are telling you all you are “not,” and you believe them. Perhaps, your spouse wants to throw in the towel, but you are “called.” They try to support you but you believe the words of the naysayers (if you are truthful). What do you do? You can’t point fingers at God, because well, He’s God. You are angry at those in the church that hurt you, but you don’t want to burn bridges. So honestly, bitterness funnels onto the only one you feel like you CAN nit-pick. So this discontent bubbles and boils right onto your other half. It’s so easy to take a first step down a slippery slope and keep walking away from your spouse in the name of “ministry.” Then before you know it, one or the other of you has a wandering eye to someone else who might care for you just a little bit better.

Truthfully, now married 17 years I keep hearing of friends and family who have gotten divorced, many of them as a result of ministry. Honestly, it is becoming rare to have peers who have “made it” past 15 -20 years together. I have had that moment when my husband called me out and told me that I was putting ministry before everything else. I have had that moment when my husband wasn’t terribly “lovable” for a period of time. We know marriage takes work. To allow true love to take it’s roots deeper takes care and tending and dealing with the pests that will cause disease. Making a marriage work in ministry takes honesty.

When things start to go wrong with our marriage where does the issue really lie?

Have we forgotten our “first love” in Jesus? Have we become driven to be seen as “successful” in ministry? Are we angry at God because well, we thought choosing ministry meant a different life than the one we got? Is our soul worn out?

My husband and I have been through bumps and bruises, and we have learned first and foremost we don’t have it all figured out. We have also seen that too many times we have lost our first love when our marriage is hurting. What we do know is our marriage is always worth it, because the Lord gave us each other on this path to be with Jesus.

Tomorrow I will tell you a couple of things we have learned to keep our marriage healthy. But today just remember to step back and put your marriage behind God and in front of your ministry. No matter what the people at church want from you.


Love and relationships are always hot topics, but especially in February.

To top it off, the Olympics are on TV right now.

Mash those two together, and you have a prime opportunity to deepen your students’ understanding of what love is.

Here’s a lesson you can utilize or tweak however you’d like.

Hope it serves you – thank you for loving students!



Explain that you’re going to begin your lesson by encouraging them to try to listen to God through two popular songs you’re going to play back to back. The goal for this time is not that they sing along or be entertained by something they may have heard on the radio, but that they try to consider the two different types of commitment being shared here. Dim the lights to minimize distraction, and play these two songs:

  • “Say Something” by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

[ Option: Combine these two into a video that guides them during this time: ]


Talk with the students about what they gained from that time.

  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’ve seen modeled growing up in our community or culture?
  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’d like to experience or give another person?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the first song?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the second song?

[ Download this Power Point slideshow for the following ]


Ask students to read the following Bible verses out loud and pause after each one to brainstorm the role that truth might play in a committed relationship, such as marriage.

  • Psalm 34:18
  • Hebrews 12:15
  • Philippians 4:12


Use the Power Point slides to cycle through these points as you share them.

Say something like:

[slide]  “The Olympics may have started recently, but reporters, athletes and tourists from around the world began checking into the Sochi hotels even before that.

[slide]  Many began describing appalling conditions in the housing there. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. This has spilled over into some of the conditions the athletes are enduring, too.

One person said it this way: ‘Almost every room is missing something: light bulbs, TVs, lamps, chairs, curtains, WiFi, heat, hot water. Shower curtains are a valuable piece of the future black market here. (One American photographer was simply told, “You will not get a shower curtain.”) In one hotel, the elevator is broken and the stairway is unlit, with stairs of varying and unpredictable heights. Outside another hotel, there is a bag of concrete in a palm tree, leaking grey down the trunk. Inside, some of the electrical outlets are just plates screwed into drywall.’

[slide]  One famous picture is of a sign outside a toilet… the person who posted it said, “People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It’s this. Without question… it’s… THIS.” A sign that says “Please do not flush toilet paper down the toilet. Put it in the bin provided.”

[slide] One person spoke about his experience with the hotel lobby… which was non-existent.

“OK, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet.”
“For those of you asking, when there’s no lobby in your hotel, you go to the owner’s bedroom to check in.”

[slide] One woman wrote, “My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

[slide] She later updated, adding, “Water restored, sorta. On the bright side, I now know what very dangerous face water looks like.”

[slide] Another woman warned, “What your step #Sochi2014 – I’ve noticed on walkway and on sidewalks that not all man holes are covered.”

[slide] A man observed, “Spa and Fitness Center at Gorki Grand Hotel… you get in shape by putting it together?”

[slide] Another guy said, “Good news. I have internet. Bad news. It’s dangling from the ceiling in my room.”

[slide] Other pictures showing the unique conditions the athletes are staying in have also been made popular.
This is certainly not the standard many people would expect of the Olympics, let alone your basic Holiday Inn Express.

[slide] So let me ask an obvious question… why would an athlete, journalist or even a visitor stick this out?

You know the answer, don’t you? It’s the Olympics… even in harsh conditions, it’s the Olympics.

Sure, things are hard. People are experiencing circumstances that would make them want to leave. Yet they aren’t leaving. They’re still there – the athletes, the reporters and the tourists.

Now… how about an honest question – how many of the marriages you know about in your family or extended family… your friend’s moms and dads… your neighbors… how many have approached their marriage realizing that they’re in an Olympic level relationship? That things may not be ideal, but there is a more important Story worth hanging in there on to enjoy?

How many of you realize what’s on the line one day if you get married… that there will be times you will say, “Yeah, these circumstances are less than ideal, but I’m in this for the gold.”

[slide] It reminds me of one more passage of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (read it)

BRAINSTORM: This is a passage about what it means to live life as a Christian, but there are some great principles here about relationships. What from this passage could you apply into what a God-honoring, Olympic-level love kind of marriage could look like?

(let students come up with ideas – affirm them, and then share this summary)

[slide] You all had great ideas. Let me sum up what I see in this passage:

  • Understand you are in a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Push yourself past your perceived limits.
  • Run toward a real goal – no “Wii” running
  • Cross the actual finish line.

Wrap Up:

Remind them of the songs from earlier, and ask them to identify how these ideals either do or don’t play into each song. Ask them to identify what (in their opinion) is the number one quality they need to actually live this out. Let them struggle with this a bit, and then guide them to the realization that they won’t be motivated to love this way until they’ve experienced love this way. This is the kind of love Jesus offers us. He sings the second song over us each day, and models what we see in 1 Corinthians.

Reread the three Bible verses from earlier. Ask students to consider how God is with us at every step of our journey in knowing His love and in how we love others. Invite students to respond to the grace and love of Jesus Christ – this is a great opportunity to help them make a decision to receive Him as Savior/Lord.

If you have time (and if it makes sense to your group), dare them right then and there pray for the relationships now and the potential future marriage they might have one day. Encourage them to even pray for their future spouse – that God would strengthen and love on that person even now.

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.30.50 AMLooking back over the last 14 years, I’ve realized I got married for the wrong reasons.  Well, not entirely, but let me briefly explain.  I was attracted to my wife and thought she was a good fit for me and thought she’d be a great mom…and I really enjoyed being around her.  Not bad things, of course.  Great things, actually.  But if I’m honest my thoughts were self focused.

I’ve since realized that self-focus doesn’t really work too well in marriage.  My wife and I had to make a decision years ago to not operate from a place of self focus if we really wanted the relationship we longed for in our marriage.  We certainly have not perfected this, but we are constantly working on it.

The same is true in our relationship with God.  If you’re like me you became a Christian because you saw it as a benefit to you.  That it is, by the way, true and beautiful.  But at some point we begin to feel like something just isn’t right in our relationship with God if we continue operating like this.  The love motivated sacrificial aspects of our relationship with God can’t just be one sided.  At some point, like in my marriage, we must work on moving away from self focus to really experience the relationship we want.

Here are 4 things I believe a follower of Jesus eventually comes to understand and because of their love for God inevitably seeks to do:

  1. Believes in the benefits of Jesus’ death (Romans 5:11; 1 Peter 3:18).  It can be boiled down to “relational reconciliation,” both in life and eternity.
  2. Embraces the call of Jesus’ death and God’s mercy (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 12:1-2).  It can be boiled down to “selflessly living for Jesus and his Kingdom.”
  3. Learns about and obeys Jesus’ commands in community with other disciples (Acts 2:44-47).  It can be boiled down to “evangelistic community.”
  4. Causes others to understand and embrace all three above (Matthew 28:18-20).  This can be boiled down to “discipleship.”

Hey Simply Insiders, we have a sweet guest post today from our friends Jake and Melissa Kircher. Read up!

Nora_newborn-18 By Jake and Melissa Kircher

Whatever you call it: volunteering, serving, a two-for-one, ministering, or just plain old helping out…the spouse of a youth pastor is often expected to jump into the ministry world with both feet. Sometimes this works well for a couple, and their marriage thrives in this type of environment. But there are also plenty of spouses who feel forced into youth ministry roles that don’t mesh with their personalities, talents, and/or spiritual gifts.

So does the spouse of a youth pastor have to serve in the youth group?

Well no. And yes. No, you don’t have to be the volunteer equivalent of your youth pastor spouse, but you do need to fully support their ministry. You’re in this marriage thing together, and so you must be in agreement about major life goals and decisions. And as any youth pastor will tell you: Youth ministry is a way of life!

What does this mean practically? It means that each spouse has unique gifts, talents, and abilities and should use them accordingly. If the non-ministry spouse doesn’t feel they are supposed to work with youth, this should be communicated to church leadership. The spouse can then integrate into the church in a different area. The church’s governing bodies must support this, or it will lead to numerous issues both in the ministry and in your marriage. Take it from us; we learned this lesson the hard way.

But the non-ministry spouse should be supportive of the youth group—even if he or she isn’t a regular volunteer. They need to be on board with the job and all of its ever-changing demands, quirky hours, and challenging students. These kids will be a part of your life as a married couple, no matter what, and just because you’re not a youth leader doesn’t mean that you can check out of church life. Figure out ways that you can interact with youth groupers and also be yourself. Maybe this means mentoring one girl or boy. Maybe it means bringing your own children with you to youth group once a month. Or simply having a teenager and his/her family over for dinner when the opportunity arises.

You have to be yourself, even if that’s not a youth worker. But you also have to love, support, and embrace the fact that youth ministry will definitely be a part of your life.

-Jake and Melissa Kircher


article.2013.06.12Yesterday we talked about the single life in ministry, so it seems fair we would share some insights with the married segment of youth workers, too. We both fall into this category ourselves—Kurt with one kid left in the house and Josh in the throes of four in elementary school. Talk about a crazy house!

Here’s what we’ve learned serving with families over the past 20 years.

Aim for health—not balance.
Speakers for years have said that you have to keep a balance in your ministry and your family, and to be honest…it just isn’t possible. You can strive for balance and keep the values front and center, but at the end of the day there will always be a tension in these areas. This competition for attention should just remind us to keep working hard as a pastor and as a spouse and parent.

The crazy world of church work really doesn’t allow a traditionally “balanced” lifestyle. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for a healthy marriage and family in the midst of the crazy. We’ve discovered that balance is elusive, but health doesn’t have to be.

Embrace seasons of ministry.
In youth ministry there are busy times and super-busy times. Typically we understand the “busy season” of ministry mentality and ask our families to endure them for the sake of the church. But rarely do we ask the same of the church and ask it to endure a season of focused ministry and attention on our families. This is SO much easier to type than communicate to a supervisor or church board—but it is better than the alternative of burnout or marital failure. Practically, it means take every vacation day you’ve got. Rest on your day of rest. Don’t be out every night of the week and certainly don’t count summer camp as vacation time.

Invest in your marriage.

Don’t just take a family vacation; make sure you plan a getaway with just your spouse as well. At some point you will make more significant investment in your marriage—when it is failing is when most people choose to jump in. Why not do some preventative work now and jump on a marriage retreat or hit up a conference to help you navigate this incredible-but-challenging life you are called to.

Over communicate to your spouse.
Another way to help keep balance in your marriage and ministry life is to communicate well about what is happening in the ministry. Don’t blindside your spouse. Talk through upcoming weeks that are rough or a particularly challenging month. Make it clear when and where the family vacation is going to happen.

Let your kids become insiders.
If you’ve got kids, let them run the place. Don’t let them run wild but give them some perks being a PK—access to the soda machine, unrestricted time on the youth room’s Xbox, or whatever can be given to them to make them feel special instead of like a nuisance to the church.

What advice would you give youth workers who are balancing youth ministry, marriage and kids?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

After a week of being laid up with the flu, we are continuing the series we started not long ago about 6 things that students need to see modelled in our lives as their leaders. You can check out the other two here and here.

As leaders there are lots of things we can preach that will get students excited, and few things bring the irregular attenders out like a series on dating a relationships save for a series on sex of course. The fact that so many students have a desire to know what the Bible says about dating and relationships means that we need to make sure that when we preach it, that our students have already seen it modelled in our lives first as married people and dating couples.

Dating: When it comes to dating I am all for members of your youth staff team dating. They are young, share similar passions, love Jesus so why not? My motivations are of course to see them find a potential mate but also that I truly believe that a student can learn so much about honour, respect and other parts of a healthy dating relationship by watching someone they respect. If those leaders maintain healthy physical boundaries with their BF/GF and keep their relationship with Christ the most important, it is an absolutely beautiful thing. The flip-side of that is that if by chance they happen to break up, the fact that they are both committed to the ministry and a small group forces their hand to pursue a healthy and honourable breakup as well. From a teachable life lesson stand-point, its a win-win for our students.

Marriage: Sadly, your students have pretty low expectations on the success and longevity of marriages, even yours. They are inundated with messages about soaring divorce rates, growing numbers of people not getting married at all and many having a lived reality of growing up in a broken home. Our job as married Pastors and youth workers to show them that a healthy God honouring marriage is possible. I follow a lot of people on Twitter and one that reminds me about this value is Carl Lentz. He is the Lead Pastor of Hillsong Church in NYC (Twitter) and he regularly tweets things to the effect of “the most important thing I can do for my kids is love their mom.” He tweets regularly about his affection and appreciation for his wife, her talent, beauty etc and I think there is something very wise about that. Celebrating marriage, monogamy and a heart to stay married is important to give young people a hope that their marriage does not have to end as a statistic.

Students need to see healthy relationships, they need to know that it is possible to date and stay pure, and that not every marriage ends in a divorce. We need to do our best to model this for our students so that when it comes time to preach it, the message will be one that they have seen a living illustration of already.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart


I love Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I usually find myself on each one of them at some point nearly every day. There’s something great about reading about our friend’s lives 1000’s of miles away or chucking at someone’s pithy observation about life. But what if our Tweets were real?

  • My senior pastor is a jerk sometimes. I want to punch him in the face
  • I’ve been married 10 years, and still don’t have sex figured out
  • I’m pretty sure my whole youth group is filled with “that one kid”
  • The last time I read the Bible was in late 2012
  • I want to quit I want to quit I want to quit
  • Things aren’t good deep inside me, but the outside is as shiny as ever
  • If I could figure out where to dispose the body, I’d take out that parent

Don’t Tweet these! We need to continue to post those stunning sunsets, epic CS Lewis quotes and pictures of our no foam latte. I would die if my real life made it was genuinely Tweeted for the world to see, or pictures of my inner world made it online. But you need to be sharing it somewhere.

You need to have someone who knows the real you, not the brand, image or “always on” youth worker. You need to be able to confess, share, process and pray through the stuff you would never Tweet.

Simple question to kick off the week: is someone reading your real Tweets?


Last week’s post You Might Be a Youth Pastor’s Wife that I linked to got a good response so I was really happy when YMJen convinced her husband to write 20 ways he knows his place as a youth ministry spouse. Here’s a few, head there for the rest:

1. You’ve ever celebrated your anniversary on Taco Tuesday.

3.You go back to work from the mission trip so you can rest.

5. All your weekend plans start on Friday night and end on Saturday night.

9. You’ve been marketed as a “2 for 1″ deal.

10. You’ve introduced yourself as the youth pastor’s wife.

15.You’ve been mistaken for a hired bus driver.

17. You’ve ever sat in the the back of an annual meeting wondering if your wife was going to leave the room with a job.

18. Your first theological question about any church is their stance on women in ministry.