Ministry Life

Ministry Life

By Jill Briscoe

Have you ever realized that ministry is something you do primarily at night? I don’t understand how a couple can go all the way through seminary and not have that figured out. But I do know that once you get out of seminary and into the ministry life, stress and problems between couples erupt, often because of the time the wife spends alone in the evenings. I hear it all the time: “He’s out every night of the week.”

“But what did you expect?” I ask. “after all, you’re dealing with volunteers—with lay people.  When are they going to be there for your husband? At night. So the very nature of the job requires that there will be a good amount of evening work.” You can get very frustrated about that, and the tensions can spill over into bad attitudes toward the church, towards those who are keeping your husband away from you or the family.

Eventually, you will have to temper such demands. I have had young women say, “We need him home at six or seven in the evening to help put the children to bed.” Or, “Since he’s a pastor, maybe one night or even two nights a week are all right, but absolutely no more.” As ministry wives, we need to be very flexible. There are some very practical things that go along with being called into Christian partnership, and one of them is a schedule that has to be regularly reorganized. Priorities will need to constantly re-evaluated.

Another special challenge to the vocation of ministry life is the emotional investment necessary.  There is an enormous energy drain as you give to others. Other professionals, such as psychologists, doctors, teachers, and counselors, also have a lot of emotional investment in the people they serve. But most of those professional go home at night, leaving their clients behind them. There is a separation between work and home for them, however fine the line. I know that some of these good people put in plenty of overtime, and many, in fact, care much more than their professions require, but it is never really “expected” of them to be on call day and night, all hours, indefinitely. In the ministry, it is expected. Why? One reason is that the church is a family.  Your relationships are more or less permanent. Let me clarify that. As far as God is concerned, the people to whom you have gone to minister to are a permanent part of your life, sort of like your spiritual family members. You never get away from them completely. You can take vacations and put a little distance between you, get away to clear your head and your heart, but until you move away to the next full-time, all-hours, all-days ministry, these people consider themselves closely related to you. In their minds your own family is just part and parcel of the bigger extended group you all belong to.

The best advice I ever got on this point came from Ruth Graham. I asked her how she had balanced family and ministry life. She thought for a moment and then said, “The problem, Jill, is that we have two families! God’s family—the church family—and our own.” Jesus experienced the struggle too. Shortly after going into ministry after staying home with His earthly family for 30 years, He began working so hard He didn’t have time to eat! His mother and brothers came to take Him home by force! When someone told Jesus they had come and couldn’t get near Him for the crowds, He said, “Who are My family?” Jesus then looked at those around Him and said, “Here are My mother and brothers and sisters” (se Mark 3:33-34). How hurt His earthly family must have been! Yet Jesus showed us we need to listen to God, who will tell us on a daily basis which family must come first that day!

Before you get too discouraged over this and decide that life in ministry is not for you, or that you don’t know if you even like this family that God has foisted on you, let’s remember that God promises you that His strength will always match any responsibility, however overwhelming it might seem. He says, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24), and he encourages Paul by saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul adds, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

God’s faithfulness will uphold you in the best and worst times of your ministry. He’ll never let you go. Sometimes I think he wants us to feel inadequate so He can show us how steady and strong He is. One of the circumstances he has used most in my ministry life to keep me dependent is change, and there’s always plenty of that in ministry.

Just Between Us (JBU) is privileged to have listened to the hearts of many women in Christian ministry.  We invite you to spend time reading these articles as women, just like you, share their experiences, advice and encouragement for a life in ministry.  Our prayer is that God will use the sharing of these women’s experiences to strengthen your faith and deepen your trust in Him as you continue in your own ministry journey.

You may have never met a pastor’s kid who applied for the position, but you’ve met plenty who could use a little help and encouragement in living that role. Read more


Many ministry wives are gifted, but better camouflaged and lesser acknowledged than their ministry spouses. This is the dynamic of the female cardinal syndrome. Read more

Pastors' Wives

Being a parent in ministry is challenging. Here are nine ways to help your child thrive. Read more


We all want to be a “somebody”. But, when we constantly to try measure up to that perfect ideal of self, we condemn ourselves to a life of disappointment. Read more


Even though, as pastors’ wives, we face great trials and times of testing, we also enjoy a life of bounty and blessings. It’s just a matter of perspective. Read more


Do you struggle with setting ministry boundaries? God gifts us with compassion for others, but we can only be fruitful in the exact places He directs us. Read more


The glorious reward of belonging to Christ will always add up to more than whatever we’ve had to sacrifice. He has proven to be enough. You can count on it! Read more


Are you trying to win the approval of God or men? Only one glance counts for eternity. There is no greater personal reward than catching the look of the Master. Read more

Finding Purpose

God has designed life and ministry to be beyond us. Know the costs, be wise, be realistic, but be ready to be stretched and spent beyond what you expect. Read more

Ministry Life

Missionaries need more than just a place to stay when they are on furlough. Here are some practical ideas on how to minister to them while they are home. Read more

Christian Missions

In church leadership, can you balance ministry and family? Applying this one principle makes it possible. Read more

Ministry Life

By serving those outside our families, Jill Briscoe talks about how Christmas on the go can be a perfect time to share the gospel. Read more


In obedience to God, Susy McNally exchanged her white picket fence for the streets of Puebla, Mexico - bringing hope and healing to hundreds of children. Read more

Inspirational Stories

Coping strategies for when unemployment in ministry hits home. Read more

Ministry Stress

How do we decide what needs our attention most? Ministry leaders talk candidly about family vs. ministry needs. Read more

Leadership Advice

Advice for ministry kids...Learn to celebrate the benefits of being a "pastor's kid". Read more

Ministry Life

Jackie Oesch treasures the stories, application and insights discovered in the Bible and using her gifts to help connect women with Christ. Read more

Inspirational Stories

We were never intended to find fulfillment in people or circumstances. Learn to surrender your plans, your dreams, your desires to God and find true fulfillment in God alone. Read more

Spiritual Growth

Learn what to look forward to in the second half of life after retirement from ministry. Read more

Leadership Advice

You can’t live the Christian life without Christ. Live in intimacy with Christ, who can only do through you what you have allowed Him to do to you. Read more

Inspirational Stories