I’m currently on vacation with my wife (Catherine) and our three little girls, and in the middle of a wonderful interim time between ministry positions (with my next one starting in August). After blogging here for five years, I thought you might like to hear from someone else, so I asked Catherine a few questions. I come off looking awfully good, but I promise I let her answer these however she wanted!
I hope it’s helpful to hear from someone who’s been on the other side of a worship leader’s ministry, in the hopes that this encourages other spouses out there, and worship leaders too.
1. What has it been like being married to someone in worship ministry?
For the most part, its been great. I grew up in a ministry family so the challenges aren’t new to me and I hoped I could marry someone in the ministry even before I met Jamie. But I will say that it hasn’t been like it expected it to be. I hoped that I would be able to be in ministry with my husband, volunteer at church etc. In reality, I am able to do LESS on a Sunday morning than some of my non-church-staff peers. They can trade off taking care of kids with their husbands. Sunday morning is the one time when my husband can’t do anything to help out with the kids. Its worth it to me and it is only a season, but its not what I expected. One of the major perks is that I always get to be a part of a church where I know the music will be great (or getting better!) and the worship ministry will be focused on God, not the worship leader.
2. What’s been hard about it?
There are always the challenging times when Jamie has to work a lot. When a CD is being produced or a retreat is being planned, there are definitely days/weeks when he works almost every waking hour…and doesn’t have enough sleeping hours! That obviously brings challenges because I miss him, his company, and his help with the kids and around the house. But that doesn’t happen often, especially when compared with the travel schedules and work hours of others I see in the DC area. I’m thankful that Jamie actively works to avoid travel without us and to keep his work hours manageable. Even when he has to work almost every available minute, I can count on him being around from dinner time to bed time. He very rarely misses singing his little girls to sleep.
The most difficult thing for me has been when people in the congregation or leadership of the church have been unreasonably critical towards Jamie. Its one thing for someone to give constructive criticism that can sting for a time but be effective in the end. But just because its the church doesn’t mean that all the feedback is well-meaning and constructive. Jamie has had his share of cruelty from others in the church. The most difficult thing for me is to hear about the cruelty and then to see those who have so harshly hurt my husband when I go to church. There have been several Sundays when I’ve had to bite my tongue or hide away in Jamie’s office to avoid saying some equally mean things back. I think this is harder for me because I want to be in right relationship with everyone, but in this kind of situation it is just not appropriate for me to approach someone who has hurt my husband and try to work it out with them. In the end I’ve had to remember that, just like us, everyone in the church comes with baggage and weaknesses and sin. Jamie and I hurt people in our sin and brokenness. And we will be hurt by others. If I can remember that, it helps me to forgive.
3. What are some practical/spiritual ways you’ve found effective to support me?
I try to know the people Jamie works with. That has become less possible now that I have kids and am less able to be at everything the worship team does, but I still do what I can to be around. The girls and I make banana bread or cookies and “surprise” Jamie (after texting to find out if its a good time) at work with them. Then we walk around the offices and offer them to the church staff. I sometimes bring the girls to rehearsal and let them dance up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
I also try to be aware of what is going on in Jamie’s work life and respond accordingly. I’m (slowly) learning that, during and after a stressful situation, he needs space to process. When he goes out on to the porch after the girls are in bed, I don’t assume that he wants me to follow him… and I try not to get hurt when he wants to be alone. (Normally after the girls are in bed we would spend that time together.) Basically I try to be aware of how he responds to stress and make room for that when necessary.
I really love what Jamie does. I think he’s good at it. I love that he’s not self-promoting. I’m proud of his wisdom and skill and talent. And I try to tell him that and encourage him in it.
In that same vein, I try to notice at least one positive thing about the music every Sunday. Its not always easy because, honestly, its usually all great so the bad things are the things that stand out. And I have 3 kids under 5 with me, so noticing anything can be challenging. 🙂 After the service I try to avoid criticism and focus on the good. Anything that needs to be corrected either isn’t important or can be talked about on Monday.
4. How can worship leaders support their spouses at home?
One of my favorite things that Jamie does is not exclusive to worship leaders. Throughout the day he texts me 2-3 times to say, “What’s up?” or “How are things?” That’s my opportunity to write back about how the baby has a runny nose and both big girls have been arguing all day. He normally writes back with something like, “I’m sorry”, but he also sometimes has ideas or just encouragements like, “why don’t you turn on some music and dance with them to change the atmosphere?” or “I’ll be home in 2 hours to help”. He also texts me about any major things that happen while he’s at work. That way, when he gets home, we both have a general idea of how each others’ days have gone.
Second, take advantage of any freedom you have with your job. Jamie works many, many hours a week, but a lot of what he does can be done at home (especially if the kids are asleep!) If I’ve had a rough night being up several times with the baby, Jamie will feed the kids breakfast while I sleep a little longer. Sometimes that means that he gets into the office a bit later, but he can make up those hours in the evening. When our first two were very young (19 months and 1 month) and I hadn’t slept through the night even once since the first was born, Jamie would come home at the drop of a hat because I was overwhelmed. He always got his work done, but was able to help me out if needed. There are enough evenings where you have to be gone, nights spent trying to perfect a song list, and Sunday mornings that your spouse spends alone. When you do have flexibility, take advantage of it.
Third, take your vacation time! You and your spouse, your kids, and your church will benefit from it. You will find out that the world doesn’t end even if the music is absolutely terrible for a couple weeks a year. (And it probably won’t be that bad.) Your church will realize that you are human and need time off. And your spouse will enjoy being together for an entire Sunday morning!
5. Anything else you want to say?
I can’t think of anything, and I’m not really an expert in all of this, but I’m open to questions.