The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 10 Comments

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

I like to encourage pastors and other leaders to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition.

When I ask the question I often hear a short pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I have even heard something like, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as it did for the pastor/leader. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

Well, consider it from the spouse’s position. (This is always a good practice in any relationship issue.) The pastor/leader who moved to a new opportunity came with their center of gravity and purpose defined. You know what you are going to be doing with your time and energy. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. That takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share about the day. Whether the day is good or bad things are moving, changing, and challenging them daily. So, even on days things aren’t going well they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which basically look the same.

Since a majority of my readers are in vocational ministry, let me say a word to the new pastor. This is just a typical scenario I have heard many times.

You arrive at your new position, come home at the end of the day pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse likely moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times the spouse may have taken a step backward. Or, at least, seems to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition.

7 Suggestions for the First 7 Years of Marriage

By | Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 5 Comments

I’ve written previously about the first seven years of marriage. We don’t know why necessarily — I have some theories — but the years between 6 and 8 of marriage are often the most difficult. It seems so many marriages fail in the 7th year.

It makes sense then that protecting the marriage during those years is critical. And it doesn’t take 7 years. I have lost count of the couples who are struggling — and ready to call it quits — just a few years into the marriage.

The way a marriage starts helps to protect the long-term health of the marriage. I believe the attention we place on new marriages in our churches is critically important.

Based on my experience, I have some specific advice for new marriages. Our first 7 years of marriage are long past, but if we had it to do over, there are some things I’d make sure we did as a couple to get a good, solid start.

Here are 7 things we would do in our first 7 years of marriage:

Recruit a mentoring couple. We would find a couple further along in years of experience and who seem to have a marriage like we wanted and ask to spend time with them. We tend to become like the people we hang around most. All couples could use mentors who can talk them through the rough patches that all marriages face.

Invest financially in the marriage. Keep dating. It could be a sack lunch at the park or a 5-Star steak dinner or a weekend in Paris depending on your income level, but we would just do fun stuff. Stay active. Boredom is one of the leading causes of marriage failure.

Protect your budget. The last one is important, but so is this one. You’ll need to balance the two. Debt causes huge problems in a marriage. And it’s easier to avoid as you build than after you’ve accumulated it. You don’t have to have everything now. (Let me say that again.) You don’t have to have everything now. It’s not the key to a happy marriage. But eliminating the major distractions is a key to a strong marriage. Money problems are a leading cause of marriage trouble. We would get an agreed upon budget (and that’s key), and discipline ourself to live it.

Set a schedule. Life has a way of sucking time from us. It becomes very difficult for busy couples, especially once children come along, to find time to be together. Yet it’s critical. Don’t neglect your time together. We would set a routine of intentional weekly time for just the two of us.

Limit outside interruptions. In-laws. Friends. Work. They can all get in the way. Sure, they love you. They want their time with you. Let’s be honest, though, some of them also want to control your life. Don’t believe that other people will work to protect your marriage as much as you will. They won’t. The two of you are creating one unit. If we were starting over we would guard our marriage from any undue pressure.

Be active in church. Sounds selfish. I admit that. But it’s also being strategic. You need community and especially a healthy community that can be there for you when things go wrong. And things will go wrong. You’ll need a community of faith around you. And you won’t know how much you need them until you need them. We would — and we did — commit to a strong church community.

Talk. Lots. Many times couples become so comfortable with one another that they fail to communicate at deeper levels. This becomes very common in the first years of a marriage. Routines and familiarity set in and the couple assumes they already know all there is to know about each other. I have talked to so many couples who just don’t communicate anymore. Or one spouse thinks they do and the other spouse thinks they don’t. They don’t share the details of each other’s day and life — their deeper, unspoken thoughts. The better you learn to communicate — the stronger the marriage will be. The best way to improve communication is with practice. We would practice this one a lot.

Of course, I’m pretty sure it’s not too late on any of these — even if you’re past the first seven years.

Those are just a few suggestions. Do you have more?

A Principle That Changes Every Relationship

By | Children, Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 6 Comments

It’s a simple principle, but oh so important to remember.

It’s a principle true in leadership and life.

When you don’t remember it you fail to get the results you expect as a leader and people are frustrated with your leadership.

But the same is true in so many other relationships.

Here’s the principle. Write this one down.

People only know what they know.

It’s unfair to hold an employee accountable for something they never knew.

You can’t expect your spouse to remember things you never told him or her.

It’s hard to be disappointed no one comforted you in your pain if they didn’t know you were hurting.

Your child can’t live up to a standard you never set.

People only know what they know.

And the solution is simple. If you want them to know -‘don’t assume they do -‘tell them.

Who are you holding to an expectation you’ve never shared with them?

7 Ways to Protect Your PK – Pastor’s Kid – in Ministry

By | Children, Church, Family, Marriage | 14 Comments

I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. My wife has occasionally guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife on this blog. Some of the comments I receive are well taken. I am basically asked “What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I hear you. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t written extensively about protecting children in ministry.

I am aware, however, the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One works for a private company, but mostly in the Christian sector, and the other is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, this is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church – actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church – and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry – if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm for the pastor’s children to not be active in church. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children who have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics – please share them in the comments if you do – but if we could avoid damaging any child growing up in the ministry world I think we should.

That’s the purpose of this post. And it’s addressed to the pastor and the church.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are – or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are – SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent – on certain days. And then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you, the pastor, as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week. And the more they respect you – the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home – be home. This is HUGE! Let voicemail and email inbox do their thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor – not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully this is understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course. Consider it understood this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively. Your children will likely never grow stronger in their faith than you are modeling for them.

Pastors – or even better – PK’s – anything else you’d recommend?

The WHAT Test – A Simple Strategy to Think Through Level of Commitment

By | Business, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage | One Comment

The WHAT Test.

Over the years, I have found numerous uses for this simple strategy of thought. The WHAT Test is an acronym of steps to force you to think through how committed everyone involved actually is to a project, relationship or goal. It doesn’t ensure success, but it can help you avoid the disappointment of not having thoroughly thought about the agreed upon direction and level of commitment before you begin.

This is a framework I personally use, often verbally and sometimes just in my own mind of discovery working with a team. Through experience I have learned the hard way what happens if I don’t filter something through The WHAT Test.

Here’s The WHAT Test:

Where

Where do you/we want to go?

It sounds simple, but it’s really not. Many times when one person is ready to celebrate success another thinks you’re just getting started.

Talk through the end goal. What do you/we want to accomplish? Let’s collectively define a win. Make sure it is very clear up front where you/we want to go and how you/we will know when we’ve “arrived” at our intended destination.

Sadly I have many times come to what I thought was completion on something I was asked to do, but I didn’t live up to the expectations of others on the team or in the relationship.

How?

How will you get there?

What’s the plan? What are the action steps to get us to our goal? If we are going to be successful, what will it take to get us there?

Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge of what? Who is going to hold us accountable?

This is where you ensure there is adequate strategy in place to accomplish the goal.

Agreement

Are all parties in complete agreement with the previous two questions?

This is critical. Unfortunately, I think we often neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without knowing everyone is on board.

What happens many times is we agree to an overall vision on the front end, but then as the process continues and everyone has their assignment there are reservations by someone and we didn’t take the time to understand them.

Once the actual strategy is in place it’s good to renew agreement before proceeding. Make sure everyone is fully on board before you press the “Go” button.

Tenacity

Will you everyone see it through?

This may be the most important one. I often ask: Are you willing to pay the price to see it through?

This is almost a covenant agreement type step – and may, at times, even involve an actual covenant or contract. Most great ideas fail – not because they weren’t great ideas, but because no one had the commitment to see them through. This frequently happens to teams. It can be especially true when relationships are involved.

Decide on the front end all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.

Obviously, each of these have multiple layers to them, but this exercise always seems to shake out some of the initial reservations, which may not have been spoken. It helps to expose and hopefully avoid on the front end some of the personal obstacles there may be.

Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve used this:

  • Working with a couple trying to rebuild their relationship – could be after an affair or serious breach in trust has occurred.
  • Prior to attempting a difficult project or assignment as a team.
  • Before a business partnership is formed.

At the beginning of an important venture – Take the WHAT Test

WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can easily pass the The WHAT Test.

There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is strategically thinking through these steps will help protect, build or rebuild relationships – plus help all parties avoid disappointment.

As I said in the opening of this post, sometimes I do this openly with all parties involved and sometimes I simply force the questions in an informal way, but I have actually called off a project because The WHAT Test revealed I didn’t have the full support of the team. And, when counseling a couple in their marriage, to use that example, if one spouse is not willing to move forward, couple counseling is not going to be very effective. It helps to know where people are in their commitment level.

7 Ways I Protected My Family Life as a Pastor

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Marriage | 49 Comments

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of his immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. There have been seasons of my ministry where this is the case, especially on abnormally stressful days.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry.

Read More

7 Things I Love About My Wife

By | Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 12 Comments

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

I posted this over 6 years ago, but things have changed. My wife is a different person. She’s a grandmother (Granna). We are more seasoned as empty-nesters. She has found some new rhythms in ministry and new opportunities to invest in others and serve.

But, many things remain the same.

Here are 7 reasons I love my wife:

She loves God more than she loves me – I love her faith and commitment to Christ. She challenges me in my spiritual walk. She consistently shares her faith with others and her prayer life is so much stronger than mine.

She knows how to love – No one loves people like Cheryl loves people. I’d bet money on it if I were a betting person. The odds are out of this world. Cheryl especially loves her family and friends. You’re blessed if she’s in your life and, even more so, if she gives you one of her famous hugs.

She laughs when no one else laughs – She still gets my jokes and thinks I’m funny. Girls, you have no idea how important that is to a man.

She invests her everything into everything – Cheryl is a giver. She gives her entire heart and being to others. (I often think she still works part-time just because we couldn’t afford her level of giving otherwise.) If you’re in her life, you’ve most likely been a reciprocate of her generosity and thoughtfulness.

She is my partner – Cheryl loves doing anything with me. Anything. I don’t always understand it, because her mother or friends would probably be better at picking out the home decor, but she would always choose me even for things like this. One reason I reserve Saturdays for her – whenever possible – is she fuels on time together. It’s her love language.

She’s got my back – If you want to see the sweet, gentle, kind Cheryl get upset, just say something negative about me (or our boys). She has a strong side and it’s seen best with her defending someone she loves. It’s comforting knowing, regardless of how difficult my life and ministry might be, Cheryl is always in my corner.

She respects me – In marriage counseling and teaching, I always share this as a man’s greatest need. It’s even commanded in Ephesians 5. Cheryl does this like a pro. I can honestly encourage the women in our church to follow her example here.

These are 7 things I love my wife. There are many others. I’ll start with these.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Cheryl!

(Feel free in the comments to tell me why you love your spouse.)

7 Christmas Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Culture, Encouragement, Marriage | No Comments

Im going on a wild hunch there are some men who haven’t even thought about what theyll get their wife for Christmas yet. I understand. It probably still seems early to Christmas Eve shoppers. (I used to be one of those who loved to shop Christmas Eve – now its one of my busiest work days.)

Maybe you’ve thought about what youd get your wife, but the problem is you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but youve just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks Im told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe its a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing youll give her more of your free time. Maybe its access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This isnt for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, shes just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it doesnt have to be May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon. In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

12 Ways to Make Marriage Fun (Again)

By | Family, Marriage | 10 Comments

Sadly, as someone who works with a lot of marriages, I see more and more of them going through the routines of marriage without really enjoying the journey. At the same time, I do know couples who have learned how to make their marriage work for the good of both spouses and are truly enjoying life together.

Cheryl and I want to be included in the latter group.

What does it take to put or keep fun in a marriage? How does a couple keep the spark alive. I’m not pretending every day will be a romantic sitcom, but I do believe we can keep enjoying life together – through the good and more difficult seasons of life.

Let me explain this is not intended to be a theological discussion of the purpose of marriage. I could – and have – talk more about the way a marriage is to glorify God and how two imperfect people become one (Ephesians 5). The point of this is more on the practical side. I have in mind as I write this marriages which have grown stale. They aren’t necessarily in trouble, but one or both spouses just isn’t experiencing the joy in marriage they once had.

The original audience for these suggestions were when I shared them at a pastor’s retreat years ago, but I believe they work for all of us.

Here are a 12 ways to make marriage fun (again):

Prioritize your marriage

If you want to have fun in your marriage, you have to make your marriage a priority in your life – above your hobbies, work and even your children. All of us would say our marriage is a priority, but do we practice what we say we believe? Our marriage should take precedence over every other human relationship and every other activity. My wife knows when I am putting her first and when something else has my greatest attention. (And, as the pastor of a large, growing church there are plenty of other things to grab my attention. I have to discipline myself.)

Schedule time for fun

Couples need to schedule time to simply enjoy life with our spouse. Everyone I know is busy, but we should make sure our schedule never gets so crowded we cannot enjoy time with the love of our life. As a pastor, I am never really off from work, but I try to be home when I am home. Candidly, I have heard my wife (and my boys when they were home) ask me something like, “Are you really listening to me” They knew my mind was wandering to my next appointment. We must set boundaries between our home and our work or other activities. I try to add to your calendar opportunities to have fun together. (When our boys were home and we were pulled in so many directions – this went on the calendar first.) When is the last time you and your spouse went on a date? (By the way – You can be wise with your expenses and still plan for date nights. Read HERE about some ways to intentionally date.)

As much as possible – Let worry go

Worry is like a cancer to ourselves and our relationships. When worry abounds we begin to see everything around us in a more negative light – including our marriage. We often hurt most those we love most. The reality is struggles will never completely disappear, so we should learn how to balance the need for control in our lives and the desire to live at peace and trust God through the hard times of life. It is important we not allow struggles which come into the marriage to tear the marriage apart. Instead we should let our trials draw us closer to each other.

Expect surprises

Stuff happens! We know it – we see bad things happen everyday, but for some reason we are often caught off guard when they happen to us. We should not be surprised when our marriage needs a little extra help because of the struggles of life. Cheryl and I have discovered the tough times bring us closer together if we don’t act as surprised when they come and, from the beginning, commit to working through them together and not allowing them to distract us from us.

Celebrate along the way

I have been told it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then we need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life – as much as possible. When times are especially stressful, Cheryl and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. We count our blessings – even name them one by one. The blessings are always there, but sometimes we have to look harder for them than other times. Have you ever just taken time to reflect together how many things you have for which you are thankful? At times we have a better life than we think we do – once we take time to celebrate.

Enjoy each other’s interests

It’s okay to have outside interests, but one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy life together. This usually involves enjoying each others activities together. I don’t like to shop necessarily, and there are certain stores where I sit on a bench as Cheryl shops, but I go shopping regularly with Cheryl. I go, because I love her, want to spend time with her – and she loves shopping. It has always amazed me when I invest the time to shop with Cheryl she always tries to give back to me by allowing me to enjoy one of my interests – with no guilt.

Get away together (alone)

We all need time away from the demands of life. On a pastor’s income, I can’t always take fancy vacations, but I am not afraid to invest in my marriage. My wife and I love to travel. One of our more fun things to do together is to plan inexpensive day trips. There is something about physically leaving the environment, in which we are comfortable, that pushes us closer to the ones we love. For years, while my boys were younger, I gave Cheryl a trip for Christmas to be used sometime during the year. She looked forward to the gift and the trip every year. On bad days during the year, the thoughts of the gift or trip to come fueled her positive emotions.

Serve together

We have discovered the more we serve other people together the more fun we have in our marriage. It gives us more common ground with each other. Taking mission trips have become a fun way to spend time together. Serving our church together brings us closer to each other. Sharing ministry stories and experiences helps us draw from each others strength.

Realize little things matter

Moments in a marriage, which may seem to be minor details, have the potential for major impact on the marriage relationship. It is important to handle little issues or conflict before they become big things. If a husband and wife have a minor disagreement it can easily escalate into a major division in the relationship if left unattended. Keep the relationship fresh and free from minor drama.

We should also allow little pleasures to bring happiness to the marriage. One of my favorite times of day is the walk Cheryl and I take at night. These few minutes each day keep us close relationally, allow us to catch up on our individual days, and help me enjoy Cheryl in a fun setting.

Laugh at life

I read a statistic once that preschoolers laugh an average of 300 times a laugh an average of 17 times a day. I don’t know if that’s statistically accurate, but it sounds about right. I can certainly view life and see the older we get the less we tend laugh. (We have lots of senior citizens and preschoolers in our church. There is a difference.) Laughter is good for our health and laughing together builds stronger relationships. Couples need to learn to laugh through life together. Cheryl and I laugh much – and often!

Keep dreaming together

When couples are dating they seem to have fun discussing their future plans. Once we get married we tend to lose the art of dreaming. Dreaming inspires and encourages the heart. Dreaming together as a couple keeps the relationship fueled with new passions and desires.

Spread the pain

I try to model my pastoral responsibilities like the Acts 6 model in the Bible. I have learned I cannot do everything. I must be a good at delegation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in order to protect your marriage. (I wrote about the tension of being accessible and available HERE recently.) Many couples I know are so busy they never have time just for the two of them.

It is also important, however, to have some close friends with whom we can share life’s burdens. None of us were meant to live on an island to ourselves and the same is true for married couples. Cheryl and I intentionally build relationships with other couples we can trust. (Yes, pastors, you can do this too – and should.)

Try these suggestions, practice them for a while, and see if more fun comes back into your marriage. Marriage can continue to be fun!

What tips do you have for making marriage fun again?

5 Reasons Your Dream Life Never Came True

By | Call to Ministry, Innovation, Life Plan, Marriage | 6 Comments

Many of us start out with better dreams than we are currently living.

The fact is I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet people frequently who are always chasing after something – trying to realize their dream – yet they never seem to catch what they are chasing.

Many times – and we are all prone to doing this occasionally – we make excuses better than we make progress.

I think there may be simple reasons some people never realize their dreams.

Here are 5 of the real reasons many dreams never come true:

People quit trying.

They gave up. They may have tried before and it didn’t work, so now they don’t try at all. Seldom is a dream – a worthy, God-given dream – realized on the first attempt or without a lot of effort. The greatest discoveries are seldom found along the path of least resistance. Dreams are realized with prayer, persistence and perseverance. The best dreams are usually achieved just past the point where average effort stops.

People aren’t willing to work hard enough.

I think sometimes we expect dreams “just to happen”, because we had the dream. But, dreams don’t happen by chance. Being lucky isn’t usually a required skill in achieving dreams. You might occasionally be “in the right place at the right time”, but those opportunities are rare. If you have a dream it will be difficult to achieve. Should I say it again? It will be difficult. There will likely be lots of long days, sleepless nights and sweat equity. Otherwise it’s not much of a dream.

People put too much hope in others and not enough confidence in themselves.

Others don’t put as much energy or thought into your dream as you do. Many people never realize a dream because they expected something from others they never agreed to do. If you want your dream to come true you will have to go for it even when others aren’t as supportive as you would like them to be.

I should not here – this doesn’t mean we discount the voices of others completely. For example, I don’t believe God calls a married couple to competing dreams. He may lay a dream on one heart before he does the other – and one person may be more adventurous than the other – but, in the end God will bring the two together on the same dream if it is His will for the couple. Sometimes we need others to help us discern what God is calling us to do and what he is not.

People have unrealistic dreams.

This may be where other people help us discern our dreams. Some dreams simply aren’t realistic. If the dream is for a trouble-free, perfect life – that’s probably not going to become a reality. Winning the lottery as a retirement plan – statistically speaking – may not be a realistic dream. Expecting your family to always be “drama free” – well, best wishes on that dream. Learning to navigate an excellent dream in the midst of a world full of sorrow is a key to discovering the greatest and most achievable dreams in life.

People devalue the dreams already realized.

This is a biggie. What if you are already “living the dream”? Right now you may not have all you want, but considering the fallen world around us many of us have pretty good lives comparatively. Sometimes contentment is our problem more than not achieving the next great dream. If we always live thinking the “grass is greener” with the “next big thing” we never fully appreciate the dreams God has already given us. In fact, I believe God may often wait to give us what’s next until we learn how to be satisfied (in Him) where He currently has allowed us to be.

I am a proponent of dreaming! I think it can be healthy for us personally and even for couples. I am more of a dreamer than my wife, but dreaming together has been a part of keeping our marriage strong over the years. We’ve loved dreaming ahead, watching, waiting, and working for what is next. Here’s to better dreaming in your world!