Sharing with My Spouse
As a pastor, I don’t want to keep secrets from my spouse, but I’m not always sure it’s wise to tell her every problem that’s going on in the church. Is it ever wise to guard and protect one’s spouse from certain information that would be hurtful or discouraging to her? What criteria do I use in deciding which information to share and which information to withhold?
Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN
My wife and I are in the full time ministry together. Our office is next door to each other and we have worked together for more than 33 years. We talk a lot about situations in the ministry, but we also don’t talk about things that are not beneficial to each other’s areas of responsibilities or areas we oversee. For example, Debbie or I may have an appointment with someone. We don’t tell anything unless we need to get involved to help bring healing or health to the person or persons.
We do share things that could be a hit to the ministry, or impact the ministry in a positive or negative way. There are a lot of things people say or do that are just not worth rehearsing or sharing with anyone. We never talk in depth about things at home, and we try real hard to protect our family life. When our children were home they thought everyone who attended our church was great. I learned that from Dr. Hagin, who said his kids thought everyone at the church had angel’s wings.
I guess the line is drawn by this: is it really required conversation to make me aware of a situation we both need to be aware of. If not, we go along happy to be ignorant of a lot of things that the Lord is resolving without our direct involvement.
Pastor Larry Phalen – Dickinson, ND
My practice has been to protect Sally from some information. I evaluate what this particular information has the potential of doing to her as a person and as my wife. Since Sally is known for prayer and has prayed us through many different situations, I give her what I think she needs to pray effectively.
We all should know our spouses, and they all react differently and operate in different functions and areas of responsibility. So I believe a spouse should gauge according to that also.
But for us, in some situations I will share much and other situations, very little if at all. I want Sally to enjoy the ministry as I do.
God bless you in all you do.
Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
The distinction between ‘church business’ and ‘family business’ is a very important boundary to have for the health of your marriage and family. When I started pastoring our church, I lived ministry whether on or off the premises of the church. The ministry dominated my thoughts and conversations even on ‘days off’. There are several factors to consider in determining what level of information regarding church business to share with your spouse.
1) It is important to determine what role a spouse is willing and able to take on in the ministry. Some spouses are judged as unspiritual because they have another occupation or have simply put their family’s interests before church business. If the spouse is on staff at the church in an official capacity or in a helps capacity, that helps to determine what level of church business should be shared with them.
2) It is also important not to talk church business on days off or family outings unless absolutely necessary. Most situations can wait until you get back to the office. Bro. Hagin used to say ‘I told the church that if all the deacons got into a fist fight on the front lawn of the church, don’t bother me with it. Let them fight it out and I’d pray them back into fellowship with the Lord when I got back to the office.’
3) I think the timing of sharing business from the church is an important consideration as well. It is considerate to try and be a stress buffer for your spouse in avoiding telling them about petty situations that won’t amount to anything anyhow. (As time in pastoral ministry marches on, you will readily distinguish and prioritize important from trivial matters.)
4) Ask the Lord and your spouse what is appropriate to share and what they would rather not hear about; how they can support your ministry calling without it consuming all of your time and energy.
May the Lord grant you the grace and wisdom to successfully determine what to share with your spouse regarding church business.
Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX
I think how much a pastor shares with their spouse depends on two factors: 1) Is it in the best interest of your spouse to know? Every spouse is unique; none have the same personality, maturity in the Lord or desire to know. All those factors should be considered. Then, 2) What is the person’s wishes? Most people expect personal issues they share with a pastor to be confidential. However I usually ask if I can share the information with at least one other staff pastor or elder. It isn’t healthy for people to bring repeated confidential items known only by them and their pastor.
Pastor Troy Maxwell – Charlotte, NC
This question is a tricky one. First of all, l I have been married for 20 years and know what motivates my wife and what de-motivates her. She is very sensitive to the ebb and flow of the church. I don’t immediately share everything with her about challenges in the church. Specifically, when we are facing a financial challenge, or when someone of significance leaves and I know it will hurt. Now let me clarify this. There is a time for everything. If we are heading into a weekend, I want my wife to be at her best, and hearing something negative and hurtful is not the best thing for her. She handles it better early in the week so she can process through it. I also think that sharing financial challenges will hinder her creativity. She is very involved in our church, and if she thought we couldn’t afford something, it may stop her from dreaming like I know she can.
One last area that I am careful of is when someone does something specifically against me as the leader. For example, when someone says something in the lobby, sends an email or just outright attacks me. Sadly, it does happen—people can be mean (I am being nice in my description). My wife is very protective and will take it very personally when someone attacks me. So, with that being said, I will usually process those things with another one of my staff pastors. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, and things aren’t so “hot,” I will share it with her.
Hope this helps.
Pastor Phil Edwards – Ennice, NC
Sorry guys, I don’t keep secrets from my wife. We freely speak about all church business.
Pastor Tommy FiGart – Vinton, VA
The amount of information that we share with our spouse is directly proportionate to the amount of direct involvement that our spouse may have in the leadership and direction of the church. Some spouses serve as a domestic helpmeet for their spouse and have very little involvement in the direct direction and decision-making process of the church. Others take on a more visible and direct role in leadership of a ministry. Both roles are very valid but the amount of information that should be shared varies dependent upon the role.
In response to this question though, I’d rather offer a word of caution about sharing information with our spouses. Often I find myself tempted to use my spouse as someone to whom I can complain in the spirit of “open communication.” When in reality, all I’m doing is justifying my desire to complain when someone lets me down or when something disappoints. Often in these situations the spouse to whom we’re complaining is tempted to embrace a second offense which is often the hardest to overcome. This can lead to a spouse that becomes cynical, embittered and disenchanted toward ministry.
I had the opportunity to share with other ministers recently on this particular subject. It was amazing to me how many ministers and ministers’ spouses came forward to be prayed for and healed from second offenses. Often these offenses can be avoided if we will simply take our concerns to God in prayer instead of falsely using “open communication” as an opportunity to complain to our spouses.
My advice on this subject would be to closely evaluate why you’re sharing what you’re sharing. If it’s to complain then don’t share it. If it’s for support or advice, then let the information fly. Your spouse’s input may be just the nugget you need.
Pastor Al Jennings – Fort Wayne, IN
That is a great question. The general answer is, “It all depends.” But here are my thoughts:
Since you and your wife are a team, I would share anything with her that I feel I need help with. God gave your wife to you to be your helper, so let her help! I generally like to keep her informed, but at the same time, it’s not necessary to share every single problem with her. I recommend you only share the problems that you need help with or when you need a sounding board. Sometimes, just your wife listening can help. Sometimes we can withhold information and not realize how much our wife can help us just by her listening ear and understanding because she knows and understands our heart. And because it’s also your job to protect your wife, anything that I feel that is mean or disrespectful to her, I generally will keep to myself unless I’m led by the Spirit to do otherwise.
Hope that helps.
Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX
My wife, Rose, and I have been married for 44 years and she is also my associate pastor as well, so there aren’t too many things we keep from each other. I mean little things, like a mouse in our prayer room – she doesn’t need to know that; one of our teen girls started her period – I don’t need to know that. We can deal with these situations without getting the other involved.
We both believe that communication is very important, but we discern what to keep to ourselves and so far it has worked well for us.
After 44 years we have no secrets. I hope this helps.
Pastor Joel Ziolkowski – Custer, SD
Every good pastor dies with thousands of secrets. My wife simply knows that there are things that I cannot talk about. She has learned over the last 25 years that she does not want to know everything people say. I have been in the same church of a 100+ people (small church) for 20 years and have taught very clear about not gossiping, so we have very little trouble with that.
Also I protect my wife. People will think that their opinion is so important. It is good to let them know that there are lots of different opinions and lots of different ways of doing things and we can’t do them all. My wife and I have five older children, ages 22 to 36, and the people know not to put unreal expectations on then just because they are the pastor’s children. We have spent lots of time teaching forgiveness; not throwing stones (Gal 6:1). Here is a good saying: celebrate who a person is without stumbling over who they are not.
Pastor Terry Roberts – Warrenton, MO
It is wise to make your spouse your best earthly friend. As such, it is normal to share feelings and intimate details of life and ministry. Caution must be taken to not poison their outlook or attitude toward someone we may be having issues with. David poured out his emotions and feelings to God in the Psalms even when some of those emotions were wrong and not “cleared for general consumption.” Tell God everything but use the same principle of not gossiping or tale bearing with your spouse as you would any other person.
I find it is wise to have someone to bounce things off of, as well. A Christian counselor could even be used for this. I heard of a pastor who had “lightning rod” friends he talked to about people issues and he then didn’t share those painful things with his spouse.
Biblical principles apply for your relationship with your spouse just as they do in all relationships. It is possible to dump negative emotions on them and poison them with bitterness. God is your first line of defense.
Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
My wife and I went to Rhema Bible School where we sat together through every class. We work closely together in ministry and don’t keep secrets from each other. Often we have different areas of responsibility and before we promote a volunteer to a new post, we check with each other to make sure it’s the right decision.
On the other hand, I volunteer as a community police chaplain. I’ve seen some things as a chaplain that were rough and I needed someone to talk to. My wife says, “Yuck! Not me!!!” And I completely understand and respect that. This is why police officers have debriefings after a difficult incident and these meetings help. A police sergeant I know takes officers out to lunch or dinner following a tough call so that people can process their feelings and talk it out. It’s NEEDED.
In church, tough situations must be discussed between the pastor and spouse and often with leaders and congregation members if they were involved. As much as we would like to just “move on,” many people cannot move forward until they’ve processed what has just happened. This takes time and a good facilitator or a couple with good communication skills.
Painful things happen to people and we’re in the people business. Emotionally painful things need to be talked out, processed, and given to God (1 Peter 5:7). Pastors and spouses need to be very supportive of one another in this way.
Also, I never tell someone that I will keep something secret from my spouse. Once in a while someone will want to tell us something and ask us to keep it secret. Our answer is that we tell our spouse everything. It may not be right away, but what if that person later wants to work with the Youth or date someone in the church? We may know something that would disqualify them. So we never make commitments to keep something from our spouse.
One caution: Do not discuss difficult church issues in front of your children. It can be tough not to talk about things in the car, or at a meal, but schedule meetings for this sort of thing. Kids cannot always sort out the difference between a good God and frustrated pastor-parents. Keep the work at work and become an expert at casting ALL your cares on God, because He cares for you.
Pastor Gil Zaragoza – El Paso, TX
It really depends on how involved your wife is in the local church. There are wives who are very involved in the local church and know quite a bit (both good and bad) – and there are those wives who choose to keep a distance, so to speak, concerning things that occur on a regular basis in the local church. Both are perfectly fine, provided that both of you communicated openly and honestly about the wife’s place in the local church. From there, use Proverbs 4:7 as a guide, which says, “Wisdom is the principle thing…” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom on what to share, why you feel you should share it, how to share it, and of course, what not to share. One thing that the Holy Spirit will do is give you godly wisdom to protect your wife (and family as well) from the attacks of the enemy that would cause what is precious to you to get discouraged about the very thing that the Lord has called you to do.
Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
Leading a congregation can be a fun and exciting experience. It also has the potential of being a stress-filled, exasperating exercise in the fine art of deep depression and heartbreak. I believe, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that there are many opportunities to speak “peace” to the storms without ever forcing my spouse to experience the winds at all.
Every situation is unique. One should measure the full situation before sharing the particulars with anybody—including your spouse; especially those moments when words shared and actions taken by others could be considered as personal attacks against another individual. It’s hard enough to deal with people doing and saying hurtful things against yourself, but when these negative forces come up against our spouse, things can get even tougher. I’ve found that it’s not always wise to educate my wife when people have been vicious towards me. She can handle personal attacks against herself with much greater ease than she can when she feels the need to rise up and guard her husband. It’s way too easy, for all of us, to pick up an offense for somebody else and to take a single issue and begin to multiply it into numerous issues that could have easily been avoided by simply not sharing certain information.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.” I believe this scripture is a great measuring stick to use to determine what should be shared and what would be better off kept to ourselves. A lot of the information we deal with could easily be compared to pollution. It’s just unwholesome communications that aren’t worthy of being repeated. If it isn’t beneficial to the spiritual progress of others—why share it? Does the occasion warrant repeating the news? Will it give grace to those who hear it? Can we use this information to promote a blessing? If so—then let’s go to work and make it happen. If not—let’s get our big-boy pants on and do our job of leading the people without dragging our spouse through unnecessary pain and the temptation to take on an offense that doesn’t need to experienced.
Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
It depends on the information and how trustworthy your wife is. I have a strict confidentiality policy and if anyone wants to be terminated let them violate that policy. I hold my wife to that same standard. I have seen to many ministries destroy their credibility because of gossip, and sad to say that the minister’s wife was the ring leader. So if your wife is able to keep things to herself then it is alright to discuss private matters with her as long as the person under discussion knows in advance that you will be sharing that information.
We as ministers are professionals and should conduct our ministries as professionally as possible and hold ourselves to very high standards. Unless your wife can help with the problem, it is probably better that you don’t discuss people’s personal problems with her. Sometimes I can’t believe what members of my congregation reveal to me, and because of that, I don’t want to clutter my wife’s mind with such things nor do I want it to affect her personal feelings toward that person. It is not that I am keeping secrets from her, I’m just protecting her. There are very few things that I don’t share with my wife. My wife has a proven track record and is a very capable minister in her own right. My congregation knows that and knows that she is included in most all of the decision making at the church. So the bottom line would be your wife’s ability to handle the situation and her capability of adding wisdom and insight to the matter.
Pastor Josh Payne – Troy, PA
First of all, I applaud you for your concern and covering your family. In our ministry pursuits, what does it profit a man to win the world to Christ while allowing the most important ministry God has given us to be neglected? I must shepherd my flock before I shepherd God’s flock (1 Tim 3:4-5).
Determine Your Spouse’s Level of Involvement
I think one of the greatest determining factors is your spouse’s involvement level in the church. My wife is one of the staff pastors, so it is relatively impossible to keep anything from her. Due to the consuming nature and demands ministry can place on you and your family, it is essential, no matter the spouse’s involvement level, that you establish healthy boundaries. Your home must be a sanctuary, your own daily peaceful retreat. Home for a minister is a place where you, your wife, and children can go to find peace, rest, and solace for the sake of our own sanity. That does not happen by accident. As difficult as it is, Marcia and I do our best to limit how much we discuss “church” at home.
Communication Is Critical
Keeping your spouse informed on your plan to protect your family is key. That is something she “needs to know.” If not, she may assume you were just keeping secrets and begin to wonder what other areas of your life are being lived in the shadows. Your well-intentioned act can be not so well perceived by your spouse unless clearly communicated.
The “Need to Know” Principle
There is much that goes on in a church, large or small. When it comes to meeting needs and addressing issues, only those who are immediately involved “need to know.” If your spouse is not immediately involved, it may help to ask the question, “do they need to know?”
Obviously there is no silver bullet. Each situation is different because each relationship is unique and involves many factors. Your spouse’s involvement level was just one of many factors to be considered. For example the level of your spouse’s dependence or independence, security or insecurity, maturity or immaturity, tolerance or tenderness toward adversity and opposition all play a part in making the best choice. For this reason we need wisdom and the good news is God cannot wait to pour it out abundantly, revealing His mind for your unique situation (James 1:5-6)!
Maintain Proper Perspective
Jesus said this was par for the course. To state it plain, He said, “if they talked about Me, they are going to talk about you.” (Mt 5:12) In ministry it is inevitable that we will receive or hear information that can be hurtful. The question is whether or not we will let it! We must develop tough skin and at the same time keep a tender heart. If we neglect to maintain our boundaries and do not keep our priorities in line with the Word, we will inevitably end up with thin skin and a tough heart. Neither of which lend themselves to finishing this race with joy (Heb 12:2)!
Pastor James Hosack – Carlsbad, New Mexico
Criteria for determining whether or not to share something with my wife regarding the church that may be hurtful or discouraging to her:
#1.) Be led by the Holy Spirit—when we are not exactly sure to share something with her or how to share it. Ask the Lord for wisdom pertaining what to share and what not to share with her.
#2.) Examine my motives for sharing with her – “Is this something that she really needs to know right now, or am I merely tempted to divulge information about the situation to her?”
#3.) Will she find this out eventually, and would it be easier for her to learn of not only the situation, but also of how the situation was corrected, by wise and Spirit-led counsel and strategy, also enabling me as the pastor to demonstrate my ability to handle church situations effectively without burdening her?
#4.) Do I need a sounding board to determine if I have considered all angles of the situation before responding to it? Is she the ‘right’ confidant for this situation, or is the Holy Spirit leading me to contact another outside minister to be a sounding board?
#5.) How much does my wife already have on her plate at the moment, and will this overload her when it is something that I can handle without her involvement or knowledge?
#6.) Have I accidentally offended someone that may end up resulting in their leaving the church? Would I rather have the individual or family to deal with, or compound my frustration by involving my spouse, who may tend to reach a rapid and perhaps unfounded conclusion as to why this individual or family has left the church?
There have been situations where someone left the church after I made a Freudian Slip. Even though they claim that this had nothing to do with their departure; I still had to wonder. I left a voice message for a couple since I had not seen them for a period of weeks. I intended to express how I hoped that everything was well, and wanted to see if there was anything we could do to encourage them. Instead, I accidentally left a message on their recorder that sounded more like I was correcting them for not having been in church! I called back immediately to correct my message…I thought to myself, “Why let my wife know that I may have contributed to this beloved new family’s departure? How will that bless her? How will that build her confidence in my God-given ability to build and pastor this church, which we have both worked so diligently to do? What if this couple really had left for other underlying reasons completely out of our control? She and I both were very disheartened to see this family leave the church, however, I had to trust that the sheep which the Lord has sent us will stay with us.
#7.) If my spouse has another career in addition to working with the church; can she handle this information right now, or should I wait for a more opportune time? Many times the seemingly right time to discuss this matter does not seem to arise and has helped me to develop a greater natural and spiritual sensitivity to what I need to share with her with regards to the church.
Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN
The primary guidelines for sharing information with a spouse should be based upon the maturity of the marriage relationship, and also involve the positions of responsibility each spouse may have within the church. I would also make a distinction between sharing information about a “problem person,” which could be hurtful or discouraging, as compared to a ministry “problem” that involves a program. If the spouse is not in a position of authority within the ministry, there may not be any reason to share the details of a “problem” within the church, and certainly not a reason to share information about the “personal problems” of a church member.
At the same time, a spouse should feel free to rely on their mate as a “sounding board” when considering how to handle certain problems in the ministry. Each spouse should value and esteem the diversity of giftedness in their spouse and tap into the wisdom and experience of their unique perspective. Unfortunately, the lines get crossed when the husband uses his wife (or the wife the husband!) as a place to “vent” their frustration, instead of a source of Godly counsel and practical feed-back!
However, in many situations, both husband & wife are in positions of full time ministry and have responsibilities for the specific office they hold within the church or area of ministry that they supervise. Wisdom would advise us to determine if the “problem” falls within the jurisdiction of the office, or the specific job description of each spouse. If the wife oversees an area of ministry that is dealing with a “problem” that must be addressed by leadership, then the Pastor (assuming it is the husband), should involve his wife the same way he would involve any other person in leadership. (Otherwise he may be demonstrating that he does not trust her!)
It’s never easy to communicate to a spouse the whole picture of what took place in a difficult discipleship encounter that may have lasted two hours. I have found that I may give my wife a very broad explanation of what was discussed when I’ve had to deal with one of the men in our congregation, without giving her all the details. In each situation I have to ask myself: Does she really need to know if the man has had problems with dishonesty, pornography or addiction in his life? After decades of marriage & ministry together, I trust my wife to maintain an attitude of love and openness towards anyone going through a difficult time. I believe she trusts me to deal with any “personal problems” in a discrete manner without causing her to take on a “second-hand” opinion about the person & their problem. In the same way, I trust her to deal with any of the women in the church that may need her help coping with issues in their life. There have been times that I’m glad I’m ignorant of some of these personal issues and not hindered by thoughts related to any specific person or problem while in the pulpit!
It may be a stretch, but the passage of scripture that came to mind was when Peter questioned Jesus about John’s future in the ministry. [John 21:21-22] Jesus did not give Peter the response he expected and let Peter know that some things were not within his realm of responsibility, or jurisdiction. Therefore, if it didn’t directly involve him, Peter didn’t need to know all the details, and to put it bluntly, it was none of his business! (See the Phillips Translation!)
The balance comes in knowing when to include your spouse in confronting a ministry problem, or ministering to a church member’s personal problems. I would not hesitate to involve my spouse with the everyday “problems” of the ministry, and I would not be concerned about her being hurt or offended by any one of them. By contrast, a “personal problem” by definition should stay “personal” and confidential, and handled in a case-by-case manner.
Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
Esther and I have pastored together for many years and have encountered this problem more than once. It seems to me that the worst thing that can happen is for my wife to hear about something from somebody else, after the fact, instead of hearing it from me. So we don’t keep any secrets from each other. This policy has served us well over the years. While I may not share every ugly detail of something I hear in counseling, she is aware of the counseling and the issues at hand.
One thing every pastor has to deal with is personal criticism from disgruntled people. In our earlier years we would have shielded one another from this, but now we are secure enough and strong enough to hear it, even though it is still painful.
As far as every problem in the church, I believe problems should be solved at the lowest level possible. There are some problems that should never even get to her or my desk. This is where building a great team and empowering them to make decisions is crucial.
As far as what criteria I use in deciding what information to share and what information to withhold, I pretty much share everything with her. If there are certain things she doesn’t want to hear, she will let me know. I suppose each pastor and his wife will need to find the balance that works for them. Just be careful about hearing about too many problems and not enough victories. Focus on the victories. Focus on the breakthroughs. Focus on the growth in people or you risk becoming discouraged yourself.
Pastor Phil Curtis – Franklin, IN
I don’t believe that not telling one’s spouse every problem in the church is keeping secrets from them. If something is going to affect one’s family, then I believe sharing is needed.
As a pastor, sometimes it’s possible to be so consumed by things that we’re not able to see what God is trying to tell us to do in order to fix it. Thank God for a spouse that prays. If I know that a situation isn’t as big as it looks, then I take care of it and don’t bother my spouse with details. Sometimes being a pastor is not allowing the devil to make a mountain out of a mole hill. My advice is to be sure that one protects their marriage, sometimes “silence is golden,” and sometimes things need to be shared.