- Together: A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together
- Sherry Surratt on Twitter
- Geoff Surratt on Twitter
Sherry and her husband Geoff wrote the book Together: A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together. There are surprisingly few resources for couples doing ministry together, so this is the kind of book that Sherry and Geoff wished they had!
- Tell us a little about you and Geoff’s journey in ministry and family
Geoff comes from a ministry background—most of his family is in ministry. The transition of going from not being in ministry to being married to a pastor was a big change for me. People expected me to be doing things because I was a pastor’s wife and I had no idea what those things were! It took me a while to find my way.
- You guys have been across the board – from doing ministry together to separately. What are some unique challenges for couples in ministry?
One of the unique challenges is to figure out what your expectations are. I had expectations, and Geoff did as well. We didn’t have the good sense to even talk about it together. We have learned that you need to talk about what you expect marriage and ministry to be – we’ve learned to get honest.
- Can you give me an example in those first few years of when you got your feelings hurt?
Right after our first child was born we were still youth pastors. We were having overnight parties with the youth and Geoff expected me to come to all those things. I was exhausted and didn’t want to leave my baby. I mentioned it but instead of talking it out I just came and it was a disaster.
I didn’t have the words to tell Geoff about it until years later and he was amazed—he just had no idea. I felt that if I told him what I was thinking and feeling it would pile on to all the other things he was bearing from the church, so I kept a lot to myself and that was mistake.
- How does someone do that well? What’s the best way to share those things without piling on?
You learn the rhythm of ministry when you’re in it for a while. Right after they give a big message or there’s a big event is not a great time for a big conversation. Pick your time well. I started setting up a time to talk about things with Geoff and I had to plan ahead about what I wanted to say and accomplish with the conversation.
Ministry is so vulnerable; it can be tempting to turn that off for your spouse. That is really something to notice about yourself and talk to your spouse about.
- Ministry can be exhausting. What’s the wisdom there, how do you handle that so you don’t give your spouse what’s left?
That’s a great thing to do some thinking on. I had to learn quick ways to refresh myself and recollect my thoughts/emotions so I can give Geoff my best. It was as simple as me getting home and wanting to go change into something comfortable.
Geoff needs a few minutes alone when he gets home. You need to find those things that both of you need, and spend some time talking through the upcoming season and what it will look like. When we learned to do that, it really helped.
It’s also helpful to widen the circle of your marriage – have someone outside your home that will speak into it. It’s good for both spouses to have an accountability partner who will call them on these things.
- Talk a little bit to people who are overwhelmed in ministry and know they need to change but they’re afraid for what that could mean for their job. How do they approach leadership?
One of your responsibilities as a husband or a wife is to fight for your marriage – which means having the courage to speak up. This means you may have to speak up and go to your lead pastor to let them know you need to protect your marriage and take your day off.
Other than an emergency, you let your team know that you spend your day off with your family. You are a model for the other families in your church and they are watching!
- Church leaders and especially youth pastors are often shocked by the idea of boundaries. I’ve had a lot of pushback that it doesn’t feel ‘Christian’. What would you say to that?
I would say that we have lost our way in that extent. One of the things that breaks our heart is when we see couples in ministry whose marriage suddenly falls into a ditch. Our ministry will only be as strong as our family life. If we are married and a parent, those are our first ministries. Cheat on the work side—don’t cheat your family.
- You mentioned that you and Geoff hit a point where your marriage was in a ditch. Would you share a little about that season?
It came out of the very things we were just mentioning. We were planting a church and we were literally driving ourselves crazy. Our kids were young and the church started growing quickly. We were like passing ships in the night, like roommates working on a project together.
I reached a point where I wondered why even be married anymore and I wanted to pack up the kids and leave. Thankfully God intervened at a marriage retreat we were leading and God got ahold of my heart. We started praying together and apologized. We started doing marriage counseling and asked God to rebuild. My advice is don’t quit—God can rebuild anything.
- You and Geoff have a ritual every day before work. Want to talk about that?
One of the things we realized in our intimacy was praying together over each other does more for our intimacy than anything else. Geoff wraps his arms around me and prays over me every day. That makes him so attractive to me! Every morning we ask each other “What do you have ahead in your day and how can I pray for you?”
- When you tell a man to pray out loud with his wife, that’s scary. Is that true for women?
I think so. It may be a little harder for guys as they feel all this pressure to be the spiritual leader. But I think it’s practice.
Your one simple thing for this week: Find a time to get with your spouse and ask each other “How are we doing in our marriage?”
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Check out Geoff and Sherry’s book, Together: A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together.
If you want more resources, check out Your Best Us. Finally, we hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode!