Getting Real in Marriage & Ministry : Trevor Hislop
If you’re married and in ministry, how can a better understanding of emotional safety improve both your marriage and your ministry? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Dr. Trevor Hislop, counselor, marriage and family therapist, and ministry coach at Pastor Serve. Trevor brings a unique perspective because not only is he a certified Marriage and Family Therapist, he’s also served in pastoral ministry in the local church for 20 years. Together, Trevor and Jason explore how some of the tendencies we have around vulnerability and risk in ministry settings can unknowingly transfer into the relationship we have with our spouses. Trevor helps us identify and address some of these challenges so that we can have healthier marriages and healthier ministries.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
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- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
www.pastorserve.org/staff/dr-trevor-hislop – For more detailed information about Trevor’s inspiring ministry journey and impactful work, please visit his bio section on our website.
www.livewellbehavioralhealth.com/trevor-hislop – Trevor is the Chief Development Officer (CDO) and founding member of LiveWell Behavioral Health. At LiveWell Behavioral Health, we are passionate about helping people get healthy, stay healthy, and live well!
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Ministry challenges for pastors and ministry leaders will often show up in their marriages, as well.
- Pastors and ministry leaders are often very guarded and may believe others cannot be trusted, often because of past experiences. Many ministry leaders have been advised by ministry mentors to guard themselves from being too vulnerable with those they serve.
- There is an often unspoken but felt belief that a ministry marriage needs to be perfect in order to be a good example of Christian marriage for the local congregation and the world.
- Marriages will never be perfect, there will always be gaps that can only be filled by Christ.
- Emotional safety needs to be felt in a marriage, and other important relationships, in order for there to be vulnerability, openness, and health.
- Criticism, defensiveness, belittling, and reactiveness can lead to decreased emotional safety in a relationship.
- Active listening, asking questions, and being present are ways to increase emotional safety in a relationship.
- Pastors and ministry leaders often feel they must keep a guard up and be less vulnerable with their congregation, which can lead to the same tendencies with their spouses in their marriages.
- Change should start with a reflection and assessment of the self and inviting God to be part of that in order to take the initial step.
- If a ministry couple is seeking more safety and trust in their marriage, they can take the intentional step of seeking help from a third party, such as a therapist, coach or counselor.
- It is easy to become complacent with the current dynamics of one’s marriage. Pastors and ministry leaders can utilize their gift of vision casting to picture how things could change for the better in their marriage.
- The work of marriage for ministry couples looks like sharing a vision and taking steps toward that vision together.
Questions for Reflection
- How have challenges in my ministry role affected the dynamics of my important relationships, specifically my marriage?
- Can I identify specific instances where my guarded nature has influenced my perception of trustworthiness in others? How has this affected my relationships and marriage?
- Do I feel pressure to present a perfect marriage as a model for others? How does this impact my authenticity in my relationships?
- Reflecting on my marriage, how do I experience emotional safety, vulnerability, and openness? In what ways can this be improved?
- Have I noticed any patterns of criticism, defensiveness, belittling, reactiveness, or any other patterns of demoting emotional safety in my interactions? How might these behaviors be affecting my relationship with my spouse?
- What are some ways I can prioritize emotional safety and trust in my interactions with my spouse? What changes can I make to improve these aspects?
- Do I observe similarities between how I interact with my congregation and how I interact with my spouse? How does this impact our emotional connection?
- How can I embrace the idea that my marriage will never be perfect? What aspects do I need to better entrust to Christ to fill the gaps?
- Am I willing to undergo self-reflection and self-assessment in the area of my marriage? How can I intentionally invite God into this process? When will I begin?
- Do I feel it would be beneficial to seek help from a third party, like a therapist, coach or counselor, to strengthen the safety and trust in my marriage? What reservations do I have about taking this step? How can I overcome these? (If you would like to speak with a trusted ministry coach, visit http://PastorServe.org/freesession to learn more about receiving a complimentary coaching session available to pastors and spouses.)
- What feelings am I accepting about my marriage right now? Am I hopeful for positive changes, content with the status quo, resigned to life as it is, or…?
- How might my gift of vision casting as a ministry leader be utilized to envision positive changes in my marriage? Is this something I feel I can partner with my spouse in doing?
- What steps can my spouse and I take together to share a common vision for our marriage’s growth and navigate the challenges as a united team?
If you’re married and in ministry, how can a better understanding of emotional safety improve both your marriage and your ministry?
In this episode, I’m joined by Dr. Trevor Hislop, counselor, marriage and family therapist, and ministry coach at Pastor Serve. Trevor brings a unique perspective because not only is he a certified Marriage and Family Therapist, he’s also served in pastoral ministry in the local church for 20 years. Together, Trevor and I explore how some of the tendencies we have around vulnerability and risk in ministry settings can unknowingly transfer into the relationship we have with our spouses. Trevor helps us identify and address some of these challenges so that we can have healthier marriages and healthier ministries. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host, Jason Daye. And if you’ve been with us, you know that every single week I get the distinct privilege, the honor really to sit down with a trusted ministry leader, and dive into a conversation, all in an effort to help you and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy sustainable rhythm for both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we have a conversation, do we release an episode every single week. But our team also creates an entire toolkit that complements this conversation. And in that toolkit, you will find a lot of additional resources, including a Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide. And this is designed to help you and the leadership at your local church to grow more deeply. And so we encourage you to take your team through that toolkit, watch the video, listen to the podcast, and then meet together and work through that growth guide. It’s a great tool, it’s free. And we just provide this for our audience. So be sure to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. And then also at Pastor Serve we love to come alongside of pastors and ministry leaders and walk with you to help you navigate some of the challenges you might be facing in life and ministry. And we’re offering a complimentary coaching session. And you can find out more details about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. So be sure to check that out. Now if you’re following us and watching along on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We absolutely love getting to know our audience better. And our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Now, whether you’re joining us on YouTube or Apple podcast, Spotify, whatever podcast platform you might be listening along on, please take time to follow and subscribe so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And today we have a wonderful conversation for you. At this time. I’d like to welcome Trevor Hislop to the show. Trevor, welcome!
Thank you, Jason, it is a privilege to be with you today.
Yeah, it’s awesome. What’s cool, for everyone who doesn’t know, Trevor is not just a trusted ministry leader and an expert in the field of marriage and family therapy but he’s also a friend and he’s also a team member of mine at Pastor Serve. And so it’s always awesome to hang out with you, brother. And thank you for making time to talk about a really important topic that many of us in ministry are very familiar with. You and I both having served in pastoral ministry for two decades, at least, ourselves. And then we also both happen to be married, right? Now, not everyone in ministry is married and we understand that. And we don’t think that you have to be married, obviously, to be in ministry. There are lots of amazing single people who are serving in the kingdom, very grateful for all of them. But today, we’re going to be tackling this topic of marriage and ministry. There’s a lot that we experience in marriage, whether you’re in ministry or not. There’s a lot that you experienced in ministry, whether you’re married or not. You put those two together and there’s some unique things that we have the opportunity to address. And, Trevor, you and your work at Pastor Serve and even beyond Pastor Serve, you work with married couples often as a counselor or as a therapist. And you spend a lot of time, you do some intensive time with married couples who are in ministry. And so you have seen firsthand, not only have you experienced them yourselves, but you have the opportunity in a setting, a therapy setting as a counselor, to really engage with couples and so you’ve seen a lot. One of the things, I think, that all of us in ministry can say is that in ministry oftentimes we feel like we’re living in a glass house. You know, this has been talked about often, right? Because we are in ministry, we’re preaching, we’re teaching, we’re serving, and we’re trying to encourage people. And so oftentimes we feel like we are always on, right? And we always have to have everything dialed in and figured out to encourage others. And so that presents some challenges in ministry. That specifically presents some challenges in our marriages as well because of some of those feelings that we might have. So, Trevor, can you help us out? Let’s dive in there because I think that’s a topic we all would resonate with. Help us kind of process through how that oftentimes shows up as a challenge in our marriages.
Yeah, thanks, Jason. You mentioned we live in this glass house, we see that in the realm and the role of ministry leader. And as you shared all the years you did, all the years that I’ve done in that role of ministry leader. We experienced that firsthand, just like those who are watching or listening to this podcast. So as you talk about the idea of challenges to ministry leaders, there are many things I want to just maybe start with talking about, like the individual challenges. And then talk about or identify that within that specific relationship of a couple who’s doing ministry as a married couple. So when we think about like, I know, I’ve heard this many times, like I remember hearing this in grad school, the statement, never let them see you sweat, right? You ever heard that before? Yeah, never let them see you sweat. Right? It’s this idea of what’s happening on the outside needs to be different than what’s happening on the inside. You’re freaking out on the inside, right? Like, I remember the first time I had to preach, I was freaking out. I remember this idea of like, don’t let them see you sweat, right? And that’s like a belief or a mantra that we carry around as ministry leaders. As you mentioned, a little bit in my work as a marriage and family therapist I’ve worked with a lot of individuals at Pastor Serve and also working in private practice in the state of Florida. And what I often see with pastors, when they step into my office, here locally, or when I’m on video calls with them, is they’re very, very guarded. They find it very, very difficult to be real and open and honest. And somewhere along the way, they started to believe some other mantra. A belief like, my job is to care for other people. My job is to carry their burdens. It’s not their job to carry mine. But it’s my job to carry theirs. Or beliefs like nobody would ever understand what I’m going through. Nobody knows what it’s like to be me. Nobody knows the burdens that I carry as a pastor in the local church. They ultimately get to a place of belief in the idea that people are just not trustworthy. Right, this mantra of don’t trust anyone. So we get into this realm of so how do you take that into the marriage. How do you take that into the couple who’s doing ministry? And we have other beliefs, other mantras. Like there’s this idea that healthy marriages require perfection. Like in healthy marriages, there’s no argument, there’s no fighting. We’re always smiling. We’re always happy. We’re living the fairytale, right? And so then married couples who are in ministry, they buy into that. This idea, this need of like, we need to be perfect. It’s this belief that it’s our job to model for everybody what it’s like to be good Christians in a good marriage. And it increases this guardedness back to this idea of never let them see you sweat, always present on the outside. In fact, one of the things I love about this podcast, FrontStage BackStage. It’s this tension that we experience. And you’ve talked about it many times on this podcast. Couples challenged with this idea of disbelief of like, hey, if I ever had to admit marital struggles with my spouse, it would somehow be dishonoring to God. It might actually be dishonoring to my spouse. Right? So the idea of like, Hey, don’t talk about it. Don’t admit it. Because if you admit it somehow might be unhelpful. There’s another mantra, I remember hearing this, probably you have, too. The “fake it till you make it”. This is so common. In fact, just last week, I sat with a ministry couple here in Florida, in my office, and they said I am so sick of faking it. And it comes from that fake it till you make it. And what we recognize is, well, first of all, the reality is that marriage is hard right? Across the board. Anybody who’s married or ever been married, you know, marriage is, hard, right? We also recognize that we don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the reality is, we’re not perfect. We’ll never be perfect. Ministry couples struggle like every other couple. And there’s no exception to that rule. I don’t know how many couples have sat in my office and told me they never fight, they never argue, they always get along. And then I asked them, What are you doing here? Why are you in my office? Something’s going on. But there’s this incredible resistance to talk about these things in ministry couples. I’ll get to that in just a little bit. The reality is that ministry couples are not immune to marriage challenges.
Yeah. So Trevor, how do we, when we’re in ministry, again, feeling in this glass house, feeling as if we have to put on appearances in a way, right? Don’t show any cracks, right? Because we’re trying to encourage people to love each other deeply. We’re trying to I mean, I’m sure both you’ve preached, I’ve preached many, many marriage sermon series, right? Or sermons on marriage and encouragement? Why is it that we wrestle so deeply with this belief that we need to present ourselves like we have it all figured out? As opposed to more of an openness. Not that we’re airing all the dirty laundry and just using our congregation as our therapy session. Why do we wrestle with that? And what’s kind of the balance there, you know? This idea of transparency and this idea of protection? And because we wrestle through all of that, you know? And sometimes I think that it’s like, well, we feel like we’re doing the right thing. We feel like we’re protecting our spouse, we feel like we’re protecting our family, we feel like we’re somehow, I know we get mixed up with this, feel like we’re protecting God in some way, right? God doesn’t need our protection, but all of those things kind of mix and mash into this, Trevor. So how do we kind of navigate some of those thoughts, some of those feelings?
Sure, yeah. So let me start with the kind of the foundation and all of this. It’s built around the idea of trust and of safety. Like one of the things that I talk frequently about with couples, ministry couples, any couples that come into my office, or I have conversations with, we’re talking about the idea of what’s referred to as emotional safety. Now, it’s also often referred to as emotional intimacy. And I’ll reference that in just a moment. But emotional safety is simply our felt sense of trust, our felt sense of safety with another person. And so somewhere along the way, for pastors, for ministry couples, we’ve had experiences that tell us people are not safe. Like people are not safe. And whether that’s been taught to us, whether we were interns, or we started out young in ministry, or later in life, or we went to school, whatever that is, somewhere along the way we learned through experience, and through the influence of others that people are just not trustworthy. But it’s built on this idea of emotional safety. So let me just kind of dig a little bit deeper into what emotional safety is. It means when we have it, it’s being able to be your true self with another person. It’s the feeling that we can express who we are, from our hurts, our fears, our dreams, without being judged or punished for doing so. So it’s establishing trust with another person and feeling safe enough to be open and vulnerable with them. So we see this, not just in marriages, we just see this in relationships in general. And so for ministry leaders, even outside of the marriage, we have found it to be difficult to find people in our lives who are trustworthy and safe. And I’ll share in just a moment how that actually ties into and how that actually influences the way that we interact within our marriage. But let me just say a little bit more on this idea of emotional safety. So there are certain things that promote emotional safety. And then there are certain things that demote emotional safety. So let me start with the things that maybe are unhelpful or demote this idea of emotional safety. So if somebody were to share something with you, Jason, or with me, and if we were to respond in such a way that was defensive about something they said to us, we were emotionally reactive is another way to say that. We might have minimized what they had to say or been dismissive. If we were judgmental, condescending, if we were criticizing, if we were belittling, any of those things could be received as oh, this person isn’t safe. Like I tried to share something with them and it didn’t feel safe. So the opposite, you know, the idea of what are the things we can do to promote emotional safety? So the idea of being able to sit with somebody and practice what we call active listening, to be able to be present with them, to paraphrase, repeat back to them what we think we hear them say, to be curious, to start asking questions, to be able to sit with them and create a space for them where they can be vulnerable and open and honest. Where they feel like we, on the receiving side of that, can be safe people. That they can share these things that they might not share with others, again, because of that idea of emotional safety. So I referenced emotional intimacy. And then when we think about it, it’s usually in the context of marriages, but in this idea of which, marital intimacy is the term we often use. And there’s actually six categories to that. So there’s physical intimacy, that’s the intimacy we usually think of when you say, I was intimate with somebody, right? So even within physical, there’s sexual and non-sexual intimacy. So there’s a difference between we had a sexual experience versus we held hands and we cuddled on the couch, right? So within marriages, where that’s appropriate, right, there’s physical intimacy. There’s emotional intimacy, which is the same idea as emotional safety, which is what we’re talking about today. This ability to feel like I can really share who I am and you can really share who you are, I can really get to know you, and you can get to really know me, and it’s safe on that emotional level. There’s relational intimacy. Relational intimacy is this, have you ever heard the phrase, Hey, that’s my person? It’s this idea that we relationally, you kind of socially identify and connect with another person. That’s that idea of relational intimacy. Spiritual intimacy is the ability to have meaningful conversations about the bigger questions of life and the way that we integrate our spirituality into their relationship. Which ties to another one, emotional intimacy. Like having real conversations about real things. Or we can interact in a way that feels intimate. And then the last is aspirational. Aspirational is like being able to share your hopes and your dreams with that other person. And ideally, as a couple, you share some of those hopes and dreams, right? It’s aspirational in nature. And so the idea in all of this, when we’re talking about intimacy, it’s about being close. And it’s about feeling connected. And so if we tie this back to emotional intimacy, I was using the term earlier, emotional safety. Like it is an incredible part of we just would call marital satisfaction, right? The ability to feel like I feel satisfied and I feel close and connected in my marriage. When I feel like I can trust the other person, I can share with him, what I really want, how I really feel, and what I really think. In fact, one of our teammates at Pastor Serve, Rick Pierce, uses what he calls the emotional funnel. So, Jason, I think we’ve had a chance together to experience that with Rick. And if Rick were here, he could share that. But what I love about this kind of framework of the emotional funnel, in very, very simple terms. It’s this idea that at the top of the funnel that we have conversations we can have with just about anybody, like they’re very activity-based conversations. And why do we have those conversations with anybody, with acquaintances, maybe even strangers, we can talk about the weather, we dug about sports, we can talk about where we went on vacation. Why can we do that with just about anybody? Because those are safe conversations to have. But if we start to come down this funnel, the idea is at the bottom of the funnel is safety and security, at the bottom of the funnel is intimacy, at the bottom of the funnel is vulnerability. And ultimately, it’s this idea of it’s the real me. Like if you really really want to know me and me to know you we have to come down this this idea of what Rick refers to as the emotional funnel. And so I love that visual, right that we have to come down. And so what is required is, for us to get to that place, is increased safety. For us to feel vulnerable enough to keep going down this funnel, we have to increase the amount of safety that we have with this other person in order for us to do that.
So real quickly, and this may be where you’re going. But as you’re talking, I was thinking, in ministry, as you said, one of the neat things about ministry is that oftentimes we don’t go as deeply, we’re not as vulnerable, right? Because we’re in ministry. So we’re not as vulnerable with our flock, you know, or those people God’s entrusted to us, perhaps. And so we’re practicing, subconsciously, perhaps, we’re practicing keeping our guard up to some degree as part of our regular life and ministry. So can that then easily bleed over into our marriage where we’re so accustomed to kind of keeping our guard up that now we’re keeping our guard up with our spouse? Is that what you see and experience?
Yes, absolutely that happens. And we see that all the time. And so I love how just even with how you describe, we keep our guard up. Like we’re a little bit defensive and we’re guarded with those other people in our lives, whether that is, as ministry leaders, whether that is the congregation, whether that’s the community, or our staff members, whether it’s our board members, right? We’re constantly on guard. And again, back to why are we on guard? Because it doesn’t feel safe. Like, think of a boxer in a ring, right? They’re gonna put their guard up. Why would they put their guard up? Because they don’t want to get hit, right? It’s just part of human nature. It makes sense. And so you’re right in that that carries over into the way that we experience our marriage. So we’re already at this posture, right? So it’s not like we just flip a switch when we get home and the guard comes down. We become so familiar and so comfortable with that guardedness, with putting our guard up. Like, therapeutically, we call those walled boundaries, like we set these boundaries where people are just not able to, we’re not able to get to them, and them get to us. Why? The reason we put walls up is the need for safety. So one of the things we find in how it carries over into marriages within ministry is the way that we experience, as I mentioned earlier, this idea of this need to be perfect. And the reality is we know that we’re not perfect, we’ll never be perfect, right? There’s always gonna be some gap between perfection and us, right? And that is the gospel. We know how that works, right? We know the gap is Christ. He has built a bridge, right? He has filled the gap for us. But there’s something that happens in us, just in our humanity, but specifically for us as ministry leaders. So there’s this clinical term called cognitive dissonance. And it’s this idea of essentially, it’s this gap between what we believe in and how we behave. It was first developed in the 1950s and it’s caught on over the last number of decades. A similar concept, and often using the same line of thinking is what’s called the action value gap. Which all of this is around this idea of dissonance. And there’s this gap between what we believe and how we behave. And the dissonance is the pressure between the two, right? So we even know in the New Testament where Paul says I don’t do what I know I should do and I do what I know I shouldn’t do. Way before the science of psychology, right? That’s what he’s talking about. He’s like, I feel this tension. I feel this dissonance between what I know I’m called to do, I know what I’m supposed to do and yet I don’t, right? It’s just it’s in nature, right? It’s just the narrative of humankind. But we carry that and so for us as ministry leaders, the way that that ties in and I’ll connect this to the idea of marriage, but as you talk about the way that we’re guarded with other people, it’s back to this idea of we can’t let them see us sweat, right? We can’t let them in to know that we’re not perfect. We can’t let them know that there’s some disconnect between the things that we stand on stage and preach and the way that we live those out, right? This idea, this ability to practice what we preach. There’s this friction of inconsistency, hypocrisy that shows up in our lives. So rather than often, confess those things, find somebody to sit down and talk about those things with, process those things as part of our guardedness, it’s not only to keep others out, it’s to keep what’s in from getting out. So we have this part of us that is constantly guarding. Guarding ourselves inside of ourselves around this idea of dissonance. So, like, clinically, I see this all the time, like pastors who walk into my office and wouldn’t dare to tell anyone except for somebody who’s bound by law for confidentiality to talk about their porn addiction, or talk about their relationship with alcohol, or whatever it might be. And they carry this incredible weight. So let me tie this back into the idea of what happens in marriage. So what happens when we bring this into the marriage? And, Jason, you were absolutely right. Can we see the way that we’re guarded with other people carry over into our marriage? And as I already referenced, yes, we see that all the time. Like our our posture doesn’t change when we get home. But we don’t only have it externally. We also have it internally. We also have these parts of being able to say, hey, if I’m a ministry leader, and I’m supposed to be living out biblical life every day, I’m scared to death to tell my spouse the things I feel that are misaligned with God’s word. Like I don’t know how many times I sit with ministry leaders and they reference the verse, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything in prayer and petition submit your request to God. It’s a really difficult verse to absorb when you’re anxious, right? It’s back to this idea, Well, what do I believe? I believe that I shouldn’t be anxious about anything. But I am. So think about that with a spouse, right? Is it safe for me to come and talk to you about how I really feel to be able to be open and honest with you, whatever’s happening relationally and dynamically? What we see in ministry spouses is it’s not just one member of the spouse, it’s oftentimes both members of the spouse they have, internally, their own staff they’re dealing with, their guardedness about, you know, back to Paul, like, I don’t do what I know I should do, and I do what I know I shouldn’t do. And I have that all swirling around inside of me. And then, you know, knowing this external stuff that’s coming at me as a leader or us as a couple. What we find is, rather than finding safety in our spouse, rather than finding this respite place to be able to say, hey, can we just be open and honest? Can we just be vulnerable? Can we just be real just to be able to say, Hey, I’m struggling, I’m freaking out, I’m having a hard time, whatever it might be. We find, oftentimes, the opposite. We find it difficult for us to be able to open up with our spouses in ministry, because of again, what’s happening to us internally and our own ability to hear what somebody else might have to say, while we’re processing our own stuff. And then the externalized, a lot of times it’s expectation, isn’t it? Sitting with a pastor who’s struggling with alcohol, to be able to say hey, I need to have a conversation with my spouse, you can feel very unsafe with that with your partner, particularly when we know for many, many ministry couples, some of these things can be detrimental. They can be detrimental, not just in the marriage, but it can be detrimental to a vocation.
Right, livelihood. Yeah, exactly.
Right, yeah. To be able to tell my spouse I’m struggling. And what do they do with that information? And then who else gets involved with this information can be very, very challenging.
So, Trevor, I mean, this is fascinating to think, kind of, it’s like layers, right? And some of these things, I think most of us watching right now or listening along probably resonate with some of these things. And we recognize Yeah, that we do, even though we may not want to, we are guarded more than perhaps maybe we should be. That vulnerability factor exists when it comes to ministry, but we may not always think about well that same guardedness happens in the home even, right? Because that just kind of bleeds over. So I think that’s helpful. But the question is if someone resonates with this, if someone is listening to Trevor share, and they’re like, this is exactly what I’m feeling. I do feel like I don’t have that emotional safety with my spouse, right? I’m living that right now. What can you do with that? I mean, it almost feels like, Oh, I’ve gone this far. This is where we’ve been in ministry and in marriage this far, this is kind of the reality. This is just what life is or, you know, whatever. But talk to us a little bit about the kind of hope side of this, like what are some things, practical things, that we can do to help process or navigate this in a healthier way?
Yeah, there are many things you can do to take healthy steps toward establishing emotional safety. So at the foundation of it, we want to think about this from the internal first. So if you’ve ever, Jason, or those who are watching, have ever studied or looked at the emotional intelligence model. Emotionally intelligent. So there’s four kind of quadrants in that. Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and then relational management. Now, it’s interesting, it starts with self-awareness. It’s this ability to be able to just start with self, right? Now, we might tie this to say God as well, this ability to individually to be able to say, What am I experiencing? What am I feeling? What am I going through? The ability to take inventory of that, assess that, you know, invite God into that process, pray about that, right? There’s always this need to start with self. And then from that, as we think about the context of ministry and marriage within ministry, think about how we might build emotional safety with our spouse. One of the first things we can do is, when we’ve probably been doing this all along, the reality is we’ve never stopped going it, is we’re constantly taking assessment. Is my spouse safe? Am I feeling safe? My emotions, you know, is it safe to be able to share these things with my spouse? So we have to be able to take that inventory or take assessment of that. We also then have to be able to say, it’s another mantra, but if we’re going to see change, we have to be the change, right? Somebody in the marriage has to be able to take that first step. And so if you’ve done the work of self, and you’re saying, Hey, this is not working for me, like I have some things that I need to process, I need to increase some safety, I need to be able to lean into my spouse through this thing. And after you’ve taken assessment, how it’s safe, where it’s safe, what is safe. There’s a benefit of taking those initial steps, by being that change. Take the risk. Sometimes it’s calculated risk, but take the risk. Yeah, oftentimes, what we find a next step is to find a third person, whether that is a mentor, whether that’s a marriage coach, ministry coach, somebody like me, a marriage and family therapist. At some point, invite somebody else into the process. Somebody to be able to help a couple walk through and work through increasing these levels of emotional safety. As a part of that, and this is a question I never quite gave you an answer to earlier, was around how do we navigate? How do we navigate safety with other people in our lives? That includes the work of boundaries. I mean, we could have a whole other conversation about boundaries, right? But simply put, boundaries help us establish what’s safe and what’s not safe. What’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. What’s healthy and what’s not healthy. So work on our own, work with a mentor or a coach, and study. There’s, of course, the book Boundaries and others like it. Create the ability to be able to set healthy boundaries. So you kind of reference you know, you’ve preached many times, as have I, you know, there are certain things we’re not going to say from the stage in front of our entire congregation about this sin that we might be experiencing or the argument our spouse and I had last night, or the thing that happened in our family last week, right? There are appropriate levels to set boundaries within that as well. So maybe back to the first part in this, is it has to start with self.
Yeah, that’s good. So, Trevor, let’s say someone says, you know, they’re in ministry, they’re in marriage, they’ve been doing this for a long time. And they’re like, it kind of is what it is at this point, right? Like, we’ve learned to live this way. It may not be the most fulfilling that it could possibly be. But you know, lots of people have problems, lots of people have issues. I guess I’m just trying to find out, is there a place that people step back and say, Hey, listen, this is something that we really need to lean into. Or, because I find this, you know, just as we’re coaching pastors, not just around marriage, but around anything, there are times and places where ministry leaders were like, you know what, we’ve learned to manage life like this. Why dig into it? It could make it, you know, there’s a risk almost, you know. We feel like there might be a risk. Like, I figured out how to cope with this. I mean, like, if we open up this Pandora’s Box, perhaps, then we’ve got to work through a whole nother thing. So talk to us a little bit about that. Because in ministry, oftentimes, that’s a struggle, because we figure out how to manage. You know what I mean? And you’re like, hey, this is the best for our family right now, this is the best for the church. You know, in our mind this is what we’re telling ourselves. We’re not making any waves, right? We’re just moving things along. So talk to us a little bit about that, and how do we really assess that? Because I was thinking about self-assessment and those types of things. And you’ve probably had plenty of conversations with ministry leaders as well, where it’s kind of like, well, I’ve learned how to cope this way. Why dig more deeply? Right?
Right, right. Yeah. So I referenced earlier self-management, or you just added the terminology coping, right? So essentially, it is coping strategies, coping mechanisms, for whatever the situation you said, there could be a number of them. And sometimes it’s within marriage, sometimes it’s just within our role as a leader in ministry, where we do get to that place where I’ve learned to manage, or I’ve learned to cope. And so with that, as a part of the assessment, part of the inventory, there’s a few things we have to be able to identify. The first is, is that a place that we want to stay or not stay? You know, there are many people who just said, Hey, I’m just settling in. And I have no desire for change. Right? So ultimately, that has to come from the person. If change is gonna happen in our lives, it has to be our idea. Right, Jason? You can’t make me change, I can’t make you change. You know, I’m not going to change my wife, Mindy, you’re not going to change your wife. And anybody listening, right? Like, we know that if change is gonna happen in our lives, it has to be our idea. And so with it, first of all, okay, we’ve settled in, again, like you said, all the risks. What if? What if we take risks? What if there’s challenges? So again, we have to be able to calculate are those risks we are willing to take. As a part of that, and through that, really, we have to be able to envision what life will look like differently. Like, you know, as ministry leaders, we’ve become experts at vision casting for everybody else. I mean, we’ve learned the art of vision casting. So, if we could just apply those same skills to our own life, right? What would life look like? I mean, vision casting, you know, vision requires risk, requires sacrifice, compromise, right? So, if we can start to apply that to our own situation in our own lives, as a significant piece of that as a part of our assessment. If we do determine that we are just we are settling, that there is more for us out there, then we start to take active steps towards change. You know, if we can see the possibility of a preferred future, we will work towards change. And I often hear this with couples of hey, well, doesn’t it take two? And that’s kind of an interesting question. Right? Because the answer is both yes and no. Because the answer of the no, it doesn’t take two is again, if I want change in my life, it’s got to be my idea. Right? I can become a better husband. I can do the work for me. I can become more insightful, more understanding, more empathetic, more trustworthy, right? I can do that work for me. And the marriage can see the benefit of it. For my wife or for your wife, right? The same is true for a woman in the marriage, the same would be true, right? So on one hand, it doesn’t take two. But where we see the most benefit is when the couple can unite, right? When there is a common goal. When there’s shared experience. And that’s what we see in marriage, the marriage ministry. The work of marriage in ministry is when a couple is able to share that vision and is able to take active steps towards it together. So I talked about earlier the idea of aspirational intimacy. I mean, that would be a function of that.
Yeah, that’s good. That’s super helpful. Man, this conversation has been so helpful, Trevor. As we’re kind of winding down, I would love to give you the opportunity, you have the eyes and ears of a bunch of ministry leaders right now. And a bunch in all different places in life, and ministry, and marriage for many. I just want to give you the opportunity to speak some words of encouragement into the lives of those who are serving and into their marriages, perhaps.
Yeah. So first, I would say, and this is oftentimes from having been in ministry myself, and Jason, you referenced this, my experience was just I didn’t often get exactly what you’re suggesting, Jason. You’re right that this idea of affirmation and encouragement, in a place that isn’t tied to performance. Right? Like, how many times we’ve gotten like, hey, good message this morning, Pastor. But for those of you watching, those of you listening, I think as an extension of our team at Pastor Serve, we are just grateful for the work that you do. That you stand on the front lines. That you love, and care for, and carry the burden of those who walk through your doors, who are there with you, who are serving alongside you. It is an incredible gift. And yes, it’s an incredible burden. And so I think first, I would just say, thank you. Yeah, as we think about our conversation today about getting real in marriage and ministry, my encouragement to you is a fewfold. First of all, challenge those beliefs that I talked about earlier, that belief of never let them see you sweat, the belief of we have to be perfect. The belief that if our marriage was ever imperfect, that somehow it would be dishonoring to God or to each other. This mantra of We got to fake it till we make it and all the others that were referenced. I would challenge you to question those beliefs. And then I would encourage you, encourage you to start small. In fact, there’s a phrase we use in therapy is small steps make big progress. Start small. And that first small step is the self-assessment we discussed. Just start with some internal self-assessment. What am I feeling? Why am I feeling it? Are there people in my life that I feel that are safe? What steps might I be willing to take to work toward safety? If there are people in my life or aren’t yet people in my life? Work towards steps of safety with your spouse, being the one who’s willing to model it first. Take active steps towards building support systems of trusted friends and trusted advisors. In fact, just to speak about that. Jason, I know for our team at Pastor Serve we do a lot of this work. Caring for those who are caring for others. I mean, Pastor Serve, it’s caring for pastors, walking alongside. And if we can be a support to you as trusted people in your life, creating a safe space whether it’s for you as an individual, whether that is for you and your spouse as a couple, there are many opportunities within the work that we do at Pastor Serve to come alongside and walk with you. And so in that part of inviting other people into the process, it’s a critical piece. We can’t do life alone, right? In fact, we talk about that no pastor should walk alone. And this is no different, right? No ministry couple should go it alone. And so we would love to be a part of that for care and support.
Yeah, we have lots of opportunities. For those who are watching or listening, we have lots of opportunities. This is what we do week in, week out, is come alongside, as Trevor said, pastors and ministry leaders, and we have different opportunities for ministry couples, as well. And we would love to engage with you, if you’re listening, you’re watching and some of this stuff is resonating with you and you’d like to talk more deeply with Trevor or someone on our team, you can jump on for a free session. There’s a complimentary coaching session at PastorServe.org/freesession, you can learn more details there. And you can just reference this podcast with Trevor, and we’ll do what we can to get you connected there. And that way, it’s a great kind of first step, if you want to have a conversation with someone and just kind of explore some of these things, go ahead and check that out. And then as I said, we have other opportunities at Pastor Serve to serve ministry couples. And again, you can just reach out to us directly, we can share with you some of those different opportunities, whether intensives, or kind of retreats, marriage, almost enrichment and encouragement type retreats, those types of things, whatever it might be. We’re here for you. And we love and appreciate you. And I echo the words that Trevor shared, as far as encouragement for you and for your ministry. So be sure to check that out. And then don’t forget the Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide, which will give you some questions for reflection, some different insights, different resources that were birthed from this conversation Trevor and I have had with you today. And you can find that PastorServe.org/network. So be sure to check that out. Trevor, it is an absolute joy, brother, to talk about these things. I know these things matter deeply to you. You’ve devoted your life to this, to serving in this way. And we appreciate you and you’re an incredible member of our team. And I’m glad you could carve out some time today to hang out with us on FrontStage BackStage. So, thank you.
Jason, thanks for the invitation to be with you today. And it’s an honor to be a part of the team at Pastor Serve, and a joy to walk alongside pastors.
Amen, brother. Appreciate it. God bless you.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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