99 Thoughts on Marriage and Ministry – Prioritizing the “Holymess” of Matrimony – a Book Review

99 Thoughts on Marriage and MinistryLike most life lessons, sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. But what if there was a way to learn things without all of the pain?

My husband says there are two types of people in the world – “stove-touchers” and “not-stove-touchers”. If you have a hot stove and tell someone not to touch it, some people will listen, others have to touch the stove themselves. There is wisdom in listening to good advice before you get burned.

What about you?  Are you more of a stove-toucher in life or not?  Either way you learn life lessons…but why would you want to learn things the hard way when it comes to your marriage and ministry?

Jake and Melissa Kircher’s new book, “99 Thoughts on Marriage and Ministry – Prioritizing the ‘Holymess’ of Matrimony,” is full of sound advice for youth workers who are trying to achieve balance between church work and married life.  The book covers five areas: Marriage Basics, Balancing Marriage and Ministry, Finances, The Church Versus Your Family, and The Darker Side of the Church.

I realize after reading the section on “The Darker Side of the Church,” that I was a “stove toucher” myself when it came to surviving my own youth ministry struggles.  When you leave a youth ministry position, it’s easy to get in a trap of “if only’s,” ruminating on things that have gone badly.  As Jake and Melissa point out, this leads to hurt and bitterness more than healing and forgiveness. I learned this the hard way as I spent way too much time trying to figure out how I could have done things differently to make other people happy.  Sometimes in ministry, we can get overwhelmed with the pressure to meet the stated and unstated expectations of others.  It’s heartbreaking.  If I had heard Jake and Melissa’s advice earlier to “expect to fail,” and advice on how to handle that pressure, I imagine I could have avoided a lot of pain.

I have to confess, I picked up this book with an unintended arrogance.  My husband and I have been married for over 15 years and have been involved in youth ministry the entire time.  I started the book thinking there wasn’t much new I could learn, but I was pleasantly surprised with not only Jake and Melissa’s candor and openness, but also their sound advice.  We forget the valuable marriage life lessons learned along the way, this book does a good job of articulating important points to consider about work-life balance and the idiosyncrasies specific to church work.  Whether it’s advice basic marriage happiness or finances or whatever you need most, it’s comforting to know you are not alone in your struggles.

Good advice doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to be valuable.  For example, Jake and Melissa advise youth workers to have a day completely off from work each week plus a “flex day” for getting errands done.  The concept of a day of rest is not new, yet how many youth workers neglect Sabbath?  When you keep telling yourself you’ll take a day off later, or keep putting off time with your spouse because you have just “one more thing” to do for work, it doesn’t take long until find yourself exhausted and on the road to burnout.  Neglect taking days off and you suffer, your spiritual life suffers, your marriage and your ministry suffers, too.

It’s as painful an experience as touching a stove when you find yourself at a point of spiritual dryness or hurt in youth ministry.  While it is reassuring to know that you are not alone and you can survive these experiences, wouldn’t it be easier to avoid some of the pain by following sound advice in the first place?  Your marriage and family life should take precedence over your work life – read this book for advice and practical on how to make your own family and spiritual life a priority.

Who should read this book: If you are newly married, thinking about marriage, or if you just never really given any thought to how ministry effects your marriage, I would say this book should be required reading for you.  But even if feel like you have your act together, there are elements in this book that are healthy reminders about how to find work and life balance.   To the happily married, read it for a brush up, then pass the book on to your favorite newlyweds.

About Erin Sloan Jackson

Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson is a lifelong United Methodist, happily married to Dennis, and mom to four incredible kids. Erin is passionate about pastoral self-care, creating art, and coaching youth ministers. She is a certified youth minister, serves in young adult ministry, and will be commissioned as a Deacon this June.