Happily married for 7 years, Kelly and Amy Dolan live and volunteer in the suburbs of Chicago. They like to tweet (@KellyDolan, @adolan) and blog (iblogo.com, lemonlimekids.com) and enjoy lazy Friday nights together.
My husband Kelly and I met while working on staff at Willow Creek Church. It was a fairy tale match made in heaven: he noticed me teaching the children with all of my passion and talent, and immediately knew I was the one for him. Not really. We were set up on a blind date by a friend! But, either way, it worked out and almost seven years later – we’re happier than ever to be married.
For the first 5 years that Kelly and I knew each other, we worked in full time ministry together: he in student ministry and me in children’s ministry. And even though we didn’t work on the same team – our offices were just down the hall from each other, and we had plenty in common for the experience to be both great and at times, challenging.
Since leaving our staff positions, we’ve been volunteering together at our new church: he in student ministry and me in children’s ministry (shocking, right?!). We figured that volunteering at church together would naturally be easier to navigate than all of the complexities that came with being on a church staff together. Truth is, it’s been a mixed bag of benefits and challenges. Volunteering with your spouse can be both life-giving and terribly challenging. Here are a few things we’ve observed:
· Common Language: When volunteering with your spouse at church, you share a common language – you generally know the same people, and the church culture, and are able to easily relate with the other’s experience. The challenge for us has been knowing how not to corrupt each other’s experience with common language. When I come home from a difficult volunteer experience, and share all of the nasty details with Kelly, he then takes that with him into his own volunteer experience. We’ve had to learn how to honestly share both our good and bad experiences, while still protecting each other. It’s not easy. Especially for me.
· Seeing Each Other’s Gifts in Action: I know what Kelly is good at, and he knows what I’m good at, but there’s something about seeing each other’s best talents in action at church that draws us even closer together. Recently, Kelly taught a Facebook class for parents at church. Several Sundays, I sat in the back row listening to him teach, and answer questions, and envision parents. It was amazing! I already knew he was great at those things, but actually watching him made me more grateful, and more connected to Kelly.
· Find a New Hobby: We found, especially while on church staff, that conversation about church can become your only hobby. It’s easy to talk church with your spouse over dinner, at the movies, and while grocery shopping. It’s great to have a common interest, but we discovered that we also needed to find hobbies that had nothing to do with church, or talking about church. Like visiting museums, and trying new restaurants, and spending time at the beach. And, we had to push ourselves to not discuss church while participating in these activities!
For Kelly and me, most of our lives together have been working or volunteering in ministry, it’s always been, and surely always will be a part of our connection to each other.
We’re curious to hear observations from other couples who serve in ministry together. What have been your observations?