Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dinner and a Movie?

Most marriage experts, including counselors and pastors will give any couple getting married this advice, “Don’t ever stop dating your spouse.”

Dating is essential for a healthy marriage. It provides the opportunity to connect to one another. It is even more necessary after a couple has children or when both spouses have demanding, high stress jobs. It is an opportunity to rekindle romance, to talk about serious issues, or just to spend time laughing and enjoying one another. The problem is often that the more a couple needs this precious time, the less likely they are to have, unless they have help. Ministers are no exception to the need for this intimate time or to the difficulty in finding it. In fact, often we have the most difficulty with this essential element of a healthy marriage.
As a minister who is also married to a minister, my husband and I are great examples of this struggle. As ministers and, before that, divinity students, money to pay a baby sitter is hard to come by. On top of that, we often find that since we need to find sitters for work related tasks, finding someone to keep the kids for a night out proves even more difficult. Sometimes we have to improvise and turn work into a date. Here are just a few of the most unique dating venues that we have utilized as a ministry couple.

Worship Services

Believe it or not, for us at least, attending worship together, without the kids, in a place where neither of us has the responsibility to lead, makes a great date. This is especially true when the service includes communion or some other form of congregational participation.
Recently we had a friend offer to keep our children overnight on the first night of a denominational conference. Even though they joined us at the hotel the next day, having the opportunity to attend the worship service on the opening night and then get a late night snack afterwards was priceless. 
I remember one particularly stressful semester of Divinity School. Brian and I were both doing our Supervised Ministry in two different churches and taking full time classes in addition to homeschooling our three kids. Chapel worship followed by a quick lunch in the cafeteria at school was our only chance to connect as husband and wife during the week.
The most unique “worship date” as a ministry couple was also while we were Divinity Students. As a requirement for a World Religions class, we attended the worship service at a Jewish Synagogue. We got a sitter for the occasion and following the service went to a nearby restaurant to get a bite to eat. What was on the menu? Pork of course! We still laugh when we think about our very un-Kosher meal following the Jewish service.
Hospital Visits and Funerals
Imagine your spouse coming and telling you he has found a baby sitter for a wonderful surprise date. You get showered and dressed and he even blindfolds you so that you will be completely surprised by the mystery destination. When you finally arrive and he removes the blindfold, you find yourself in a hospital parking lot, or, better yet, outside the funeral home! Romantic right?

Well, maybe not, but the fact is that sometimes we have to make a date out of whatever circumstances present themselves. It is easy for ministers to take on the hurts of others as their own, but it is not healthy. Taking time as a ministry couple to debrief over French fries and a frosty, or even a simple cup of Starbucks coffee, after an emotional task can make for a good opportunity to lighten the mood, maybe even find a way to laugh before returning home to our children. It also gives a much needed moment to connect as a couple.


While such joyful occasions may seem like “no-brainers” as romantic occasions and ideal dates, often church members do not realize that, for the minister, weddings are still work. Pastors are responsible for premarital counseling, planning the ceremony, leading the rehearsal, performing the ceremony, and sometimes helping to calm the fears of the nervous bride and groom. On top of that, while most people can blend in to the crowd and enjoy the wedding reception, that is difficult to do for the ministers, who constantly have guests recognize them and compliment them on the “beautiful service.” Imagine the scandal in some churches if the minister were caught dancing, or heaven forbid, sipping champagne!
For us as a clergy couple, taking the time to drive over early in the day to an out of town wedding gives us the opportunity to remember our own vows so that we can truly help the newlywed couple make their vows meaningful. Even though technically “on the job” we sometimes have no other opportunity, we have to take dates where we can get them!

Trainings and Other Community Events

As clergy, we are often invited to special community events and whenever possible we try to attend. While most couples go to dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day, my husband and I had a most romantic afternoon! We attended a minister’s training on soldiers with PTSD. We felt privileged to attend and the event was most helpful and informative, however, it required a sitter for the day, leaving us unable to have a traditional Valentine’s date.
Another community event that was turned in to a date happened while we were still Divinity Students. As guests of one of our professors, we were invited, along with several other students, to attend a dinner honoring leaders in the community. The dinner, held in early December, was a lovely event. The two of us were surrounded by school principals, mayors, and even representatives from the governor’s office. It was indeed an honor. The gathering, however, was in a most unusual location for two Baptist ministers. The venue, beautifully decorated with hundreds of Nativity sets from all over the world, was a Mormon church.

Minister to Your Minister

I say all of this to say this. Your Pastor needs those who are willing to minister to them too. One of the best ways to minister is to volunteer to give them an evening out. It is good for their marriage. It is good for their children. It is good for their ability to do their job and minister to you without burning out! It is great to find unique ways to work in family time while “on the job” at a convention or conference, or work in a “date” after a hospital visit. But sometimes ministers just need to have a normal date. Give them dinner and movie once in a while. I promise, they will appreciate it.

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