Have you ever prayed about—and then set out to discover—just what your unique calling as husband and wife is? I mean besides raising your own pack of kiddos to grow up loving and serving Jesus. Although being parents is your first and greatest ministry, there is more to the story than that. God has a unique ministry for the two of you, tailor-made to your combined distinctive personalities, gifts, passions, and talents.
Your husband-wife dynamic duo is a ministry force to be reckoned with, a tool God can use to reach out to others, bettering their lives and improving your communities. I know there have been many famous husband-wife pairs where it seemed only one person was actually doing ministry. For example, when you think of the late Billy Graham, you may think of a preacher sharing the gospel all over the world. But his wife, Ruth, played an important part of the pairing that God used here in ministry on earth.
Ruth counseled people at Billy’s crusades, wrote books and poetry, and became a Bible study partner and confidant to many in their wide circle of friends, including a few first ladies. Billy himself said about her, in a statement announcing her death in 2007, “Ruth was my life partner. We were called by God as a team. No one else could have borne the load that she carried.”
I can think of other couples who formed a team and discovered their own specific ministry as they did. Some were more public. Others seemed to meld quietly in the background but had a great and lasting impact nonetheless.
One “Ministry Team Us” may feel called to ministry in the local school, encouraging teachers and helping with the activities. Another may teach a group of toddlers every Sunday morning while their parents attend the worship service, so they show up each week ready to read stories, gives snacks, and change diapers, even though their own kids no longer are this small. (Now, that is a calling—wielding baby wipes when you don’t have to! Major props to those peeps.) In each ministry team scenario, each spouse is afforded the opportunity to not only forge an effective team but to grow in maturity in their relationship with, and in their affection for, each other.
As a team, you will see up close each other’s strengths and weaknesses (my husband and I prefer to call them non-strengths.) This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite! It can lead to you becoming skilled at how to play to each other’s strengths and to work on your own areas that need improvement. And, all the while, you will discover how your differences as individuals weave nicely together, covering over each other’s flaws and forming the strong fabric of your marital team. You will also come to see your spouse’s differences as assets.
The possibilities are endless for what mission God has in mind for you and your spouse. Unearthing this mission is an elating venture. If you have kids, it only adds to the excitement as they too can be in on the action. (During a season when Todd and I volunteered at a homeless shelter for abused women, our young kids were able to come help serve food at suppertime, and then play with the children too.)
Your call as a couple may be opening your home to foster children. Or simply opening your home to your neighbors. It might be performing physical work together at a nonprofit organization in your area. Or how about working locally and lovingly to bring about justice for, and inclusion of, those who are marginalized in your community? You might feel called to work with youth at church or the elderly at a nearby nursing home.
But just how do you decide what your mission is? Here are two simple suggestions to help you recognize your call.
1. Look for the pain.
Our ears are often shut to the heart cries and heartache of others; our eyes do not perceive their pain. We go about our days flitting from task to task, often dragging our children along for the ride. But who are we walking past in our quest to get life done? We are often passing people in pain.
I was once told by a Bible study leader that if I ever felt purpose was missing from my life—or when I sized up my existence, even as a Christian, and it seemed rather boring—that it probably was due in part to the fact that I was not involved in the lives of people in pain.
Pain doesn’t always mean something grave like sex trafficking, abuse, or the sting of racism or discrimination. It can be so much subtler.
The pain of loneliness felt by single people who have recently moved to your area because they lack any real connection with others beyond coworkers.
The pain of dashed hopes experienced by young couples facing infertility.
The pain of isolation felt by parents who are raising children with special needs.
The pain of feeling forgotten experienced by those who are elderly and live alone.
Looking for people in pain may prompt you and your husband to begin brainstorming ways to reach out to them, lessening their sorrow, disappointment, or isolation.
2. Look for your old self.
The second thing that can be a great starting point in unearthing your mission as a couple is for both of you to look back over your life at what challenges and struggles you personally faced. Then, go find your old self—reach out to them and spread a little kindness their way, living out the gospel as you do.
Could your calling be to spend time with singles, remembering back to what you would have loved to have done for you during that season of life? Maybe there is a younger single you know from work or church who lives in an apartment without a laundry facility so she has to use a local—and lonely—laundromat. Allow her to come over and use your washer and dryer once a week while you share a cup of coffee with her or while she brings her laptop to catch up on email—something she can’t do at the laundromat because it doesn’t have wifi. But don’t stop there. Fold her into your family. Invite her for Sunday suppers or a barbecue in the backyard. Remember her on her birthday with a phone call or even a home-baked cake.
This “look for your old self” mission of kindness will send the blessings flying in both directions and you’ll make new friends in the process.
When you and your spouse unearth your unique calling as a couple, it will add a whole new layer of purpose and joy as together you serve Jesus and others.
Here’s to your unique “Ministry Team Us!”
P.S. In my new book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy, I share a couples questionnaire to help you drill down deep and zero in on your calling as a couple. And to celebrate the release of Keep Showing Up, I’m giving away a $500 Date Night Prize Pack HERE on my blog.