BY CHARLIE AND BETTY RIVERA
It was a beautiful sunny day and we had just arrived home from Sunday morning service. Our plans were to spend Sunday afternoon together in our apartment eating sandwiches, watching a little TV, and then cozying up to take a short nap before returning to church for the evening service. However, all of this was changed by the ringing doorbell and the repeatedly loud pounding on the door. We knew immediately that some of our church youth were at the door to spend another afternoon with us.
In 1986 we entered marriage and ministry at the same time. All we wanted to do was to fulfill God’s calling on our lives. Immediately we began to work as youth leaders at our church, on a volunteer basis. At that time, full time (on salary) youth leaders were scarce. We then found ourselves holding down full-time jobs while also being (full-time) youth leaders at our church. My (Charlie’s) enthusiasm for ministry was so great that I found myself giving every available moment to our young people. Unknowingly I began to neglect my marriage, the one thing that meant so much to me.
The passion that my wife and I once felt for ministry was no longer the same. I began to sense and see my wife’s frustration and discouragement with the demands of ministry. Her passion was gone and resentment set in. She could not understand why ALL of my available time was being consumed by “ministry.” I can still hear my wife’s words, “I wish you enjoyed spending time with me like you do with the youth!”
At that moment I realized that my marriage and ministry were unbalanced! My idea of ministry was to sacrifice all in order to do God’s work. Meanwhile, without realizing it, I had placed my marriage on the back burner. My days were consumed by my job, and my evenings and weekends consumed by our youth ministry, with very little time left for our marriage.
Over the years, we have come across many couples who have found themselves in similar situations-frustrated, confused, and burned out. Fulfilling the call on your life does not mean we have to neglect other key areas. On the contrary, those areas should enhance our ministry. Balancing your marriage and ministry comes easy when you have set your priorities in order.
In Ephesians 5:25 the Lord compares His relationship with the church to the husband and wife relationship. Here are three things that helped us to balance our marriage and ministry:
Communication: Silence is not an option. We must communicate our needs, goals, and dreams.
Intimacy: Spending quality time together without the kids is a must. Have a non-negotiable date night each week.
Passion: Expressing affection toward one another (compliments, hugs, kisses, etc).
Communication: Share your ministry opportunities in advance. Give your spouse veto power over your schedule before making a ministry commitment.
Intimacy: Spending quality time praying together, sharing your dreams and what you are learning in the Word.
Passion: Express your heart for ministry and the exciting ways that you see God working.
We have realized that by working together as a team we can balance marriage and ministry by allowing each other’s gifts and talents to act as a check and balance system.
Charlie Rivera is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God , and is currently serving as District Youth Director for the Gulf Latin District. Charlie and Betty travel extensively throughout the district which includes Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma ministering the gospel to young people.