Why Talk About Marriage in the Context of Church Planting?

By Dave Harvey

We need to hear about marriage and church planting because a planter’s ministry is only as strong as his marriage – and solid marriages provide the groundwork for the leader’s fruitfulness and longevity in ministry.

Do you wonder why you need to hear about marriage in church planting? Or more specifically: What makes marriage so essential to the topic of church planting?

Four things jump immediately to mind:

1. Your call to plant makes a claim upon your marriage.
One of the most striking things about the biblical prerequisites for an elder (which, by the way, represent the overwhelming majority of prerequisites for the planter) is how much the marriage and home are in view.

  • “Husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
  • “Hospitable” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) – Just imagine a planter with a commitment to hospitality who doesn’t anticipate involving his wife or counting the cost of it upon their time together or as a family!
  • “Must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive” (1 Tim. 3:4). It’s really difficult to aim for those goals with a decaying marriage or an unaligned couple.

Church planting is a team effort. This is why a wife needs her own faith for the planting. For a church plant to take root, both the planter and his wife need to stand convinced that God has called them to “spend and be spent” for the gospel.

If you’re single, I’ll spare you the customary comments to single guys that Jesus was single and Paul was single, merely to justify that you can be single and plant a church. But I’m also adding that it’s likely you’ll eventually be married. So, if you want to plant a church, you better make the claim a part of the courtship.

2. Church planting will test your marriage.
Church planting becomes a form of marriage formation. Like the velociraptor in “Jurassic Park,” the church planting process will systematically test the fences of your unity and agreement. The pressures and complexities and complicated people can sometimes tear at the “one flesh.” In the process, however, God strengthens and deepens the marriage.

You see, it’s a sacred thing for a couple to give their lives to create for others what they believe and love about the church. God wants to bless you as you sacrifice for Him. To do so, He will use the site of church planting to mine the soul of your marriage. And the results can be pure gold.

3. The planter’s work becomes the wife’s church.
This one seems pretty self-evident, but it’s worth unpacking. Most jobs don’t require the wife to invest so much time within the culture and among the people from their husband’s work. But it’s different for the planter’s wife. Her husband’s work becomes the church she attends, the place where she worships, the people with whom she unites in membership, the small group where she connects – or perhaps does not connect! And that’s not to even mention the effect of all he brings home and unpacks with her regarding situations, complexities or blessings.

Let’s face it: The wife is rarely able (nor does she desire) to disengage from the husband’s world. The planter’s work becomes an essential part of the wife’s world. Their marriage must absorb the ministry without the ministry overshadowing the marriage. Sometimes it’s more art than science. But it illustrates another reason why marriage training must be a vital part of church planter training.

4. The enemy often attacks the marriage to strike the shepherd.
Zechariah 13 drops this observation: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” After 35 years in ministry, I’ve noticed that shepherds get “struck” most often through either marriage or family. In marriage, the enemy strikes, suffering strikes, conflict strikes, disillusionment strikes – it seems the assault is endless. And unlike most other vocations, if the marriage fails, the shepherd falls. And scattered sheep also pay the price.

This passage reminds us that the stakes in church planting are high. This means we must invest on the front end in the church planter’s marriage, anticipating that the enemy wants to exploit our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

To the question of why we need to hear about marriage and church planting together, the answer is because a planter’s ministry is only as strong as his marriage. At the same time, solid marriages provide the groundwork for the leader’s fruitfulness and longevity in ministry.

So let me invite you into the next step of this journey as we look at a fascinating diagram that will help church planters and their wives understand each other better – so they can love each other more deeply.

Adapted from the Defining Moments in a Church Planter’s Marriage course. Take the course here for free!


Published December 14, 2022

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Dave Harvey

Dave Harvey (D. Min – Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Great Commission Collective, a church planting ministry in the US, Canada, and abroad. Dave pastored for 33 years, founded AmICalled.com, and travels widely across networks and denominations as a popular conference speaker. He is the author of When Sinners Say “I Do”Am I Called, Rescuing Ambition, I Still Do! Growing Closer and Stronger Through Life’s Defining Moments, The Plurality Principle: How To Build and Maintain a Thriving Church Leadership Team, and Stronger Together: Seven Partnership Virtues and the Vices That Subvert Them. Dave and his wife, Kimm, live in southwest Florida. For videos or articles, visit revdaveharvey.com