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Welcome back, friend!

What’s the longest time you and your husband have served at one church?

Some pastors leave after a brief time, while other pastors enjoy lengthy tenures at one church, retiring after years of shepherding the same congregation. One ministry friend recently told me her husband just celebrated 10 years in their church. How wonderful for a pastor-congregation relationship to last beyond a decade! For us, seven years has been our longest time serving one church family.

When Greg and I left Adrian Rogers’ church staff for our first pastorate, Pastor told us that so many young pastors don’t stay at their churches very long. “Two or three years and they’re gone,” he said. Then he turned to me and shared some words of advice I’ve never forgotten:

When you get there, Janet, unpack your bags and put down roots, but keep the suitcases in your closet. God moves His soldiers around on the battlefield, so be ready to go when He tells you it’s time.

–Adrian Rogers

Greg and I listened to that wisdom, but sometimes those words have been tough to follow! Not long after we’d moved away to that first church, we were surprised at how quickly other churches started calling. How confusing and stressful that was–

I just learned my way around this town!

Did we misunderstand God’s will in coming here?

I just finished unpacking the moving boxes!

Is this not a good place to raise our kids after all?

We discovered that ministry couples might need to consider the question of “Do we stay or do we go?” sooner than expected and more often than we’d like. And honestly, it’s an unsettling aspect of ministry life.

For one thing, fielding calls from pulpit committees totally distracts you from the mission you’re currently called to.

Then there’s the emotional upheaval caused by the thought of moving–what about the kids? what about my job–will I be able to find another place to work? who’s going to box all this stuff up again?

And, on a spiritual level, how do you explain to a group of people who have been diligently praying for God to lead them to the right man for their church–that your husband is not that man?

Over 25 years of serving in ministry together, Greg and I have faced this type of decision many times. Sometimes God clearly told us to stay, and sometimes He called us to go.

So, what’s the secret to staying in one place of ministry for a long time?

Let me introduce you to my friend Gayle Clutts, who has been married to the ministry for 46 years! Her husband Keith recently served our church as interim Worship Pastor. This ministry couple shares a love of music and church, even in retirement. But the remarkable thing about them is that Keith served as Worship Pastor for 27 years at their last church. Gayle and I talked about how to how to stay where you are in ministry. [Click HERE to listen to our conversation in Episode 3 of the Married to the Ministry Podcast.] After pondering the question of how a minister can sustain a lasting ministry with one congregation, Gayle mentioned several things her husband did that led to a long season of ministry at their last church.

  • Be flexible.
  • Realize the Pastor is the boss. A staff pastor may be able to discuss options or offer alternatives, but if the lead pastor says, “This is what we’re going to do,” then that’s what you do. This attitude builds loyalty.
  • Grow your ministry. A growing choir and orchestra can help the church family grow loyal to you.
  • Work through the tough times. Staying with the church during storms and leadership transitions builds stability.
  • Love people. Talk to them. Minister to them.
  • Rely on God’s confirmation for when to go or stay.

Are you facing a “do we go or do we stay” season?

Goodness, I know what that feels like! Struggling with decisions, trying to hear the voice of the Lord when your heart is in turmoil. Would you please leave a comment below so I can pray for you? You may also want to check out this booklet entitled “How to Know the Will of God” by Pastor Rogers. Click HERE for the free download. And before you run off, how about scrolling down through the comments other readers have shared? Lift these ministry wives up in prayer or leave someone a word of encouragement.

Thanks for hanging out with me, sister! Keep persevering where you are until God leads you somewhere else.

And until next time, let’s keep loving Jesus, loving our husbands, and loving our people!