A Guide for Couples Doing Ministry Together
(Thomas Nelson, 2018)
WHO: Sherry Surratt, former CEO of MOPS International and executive director of parenting strategy at the Rethink Group, and Geoff Surratt, who has served in ministry for more than 35 years.
THEY SAY: “We are writing for couples in ministry. The thing we all have in common is we are deeply invested in being faithful in ministry and fruitful in marriage, and we all know how challenging both can be.”
BIG IDEA: Ministry can be hard on a marriage. It’s a unique calling with unique pressures. This book encourages couples to continue serving together and draw closer to God.
THE PROGRESSION: The authors share their story—as do several other ministry couples—to help readers deal with the pressures and responsibilities couples in ministry face.
The book covers subjects such as how to thrive in ministry—and in the relationship—and what to do when couples face changes, have to live in a fishbowl, struggle to maintain balance and have trouble prioritizing their spouse.
“Ministry is fun. Your marriage is worth it. Fight for both.”
A CONVERSATION WITH GEOFF AND SHERRY
What is something new about your spouse that you learned in the process of writing this book?
We joked with each other at the beginning that with two strong-minded people, it would be a miracle if we could write a book on marriage and stay married though the process. The fusing together of our different writing styles in one project was challenging and caused us to recognize and lean into each other’s strengths. Geoff has a great ability to see how pieces work together to create the whole. He can see past the frustrating details to create something that flows together. I (Sherry) like to focus on the details but can get overwhelmed when I look at the big picture. The process of writing this book highlighted these differences and provided a great opportunity to make them work for us, instead of against. A great parallel to what a marriage partnership looks like.
What is the No. 1 challenge couples in ministry should be on the watch for?
Ministry can be such a demanding, intoxicating and fulfilling pursuit that it is easy to allow ministry to overshadow your relationship as a couple. When we talked to a young couple recently that shared that all they talked about was the church they were planting, it set off alarm bells for both of us. There was a time in our marriage when all of our time, energy and passion were focused on ministry, leaving very little leftover for marriage. We eventually set up “No Church Talk Zones,” forcing us to put the church aside and focus on each other. A couple of nights ago we had to again remind ourselves that more than being great partners in ministry we are a couple madly in love. When we meet Jesus he will never say, “Sorry the marriage didn’t work out but awesome job building a great ministry.”
What would you recommend couples in ministry guard their children against?
My (Geoff’s) biggest fear was that our kids would turn out to be Dallas Cowboy fans (Go Broncos!). Actually the thing we guarded against with our kids was letting the congregation, the elders or the church leaders define the path our children should take. Unlike most careers, in ministry you are raising your children in a fishbowl and many of the onlookers have strong opinions about how you should do your job. It is important to remember that your children are not “pastor’s kids”—they are kids who happen to have a parent in ministry. We didn’t hold our children up to a standard of how pastor’s kids should act; we emphasized our family identity and the responsibility that went along with being a Surratt. Today both of our adult children love God and love his church even though several elders believed we “were doing it wrong.”