Finding Support in Youth Ministry: How Much Should I Tell My Spouse?

This week we continue our  series of posts about the importance of finding support in youth ministry. If we want to hang in for the long haul, it’s essential to find the right people and practices to avoid painful pitfalls:

Youth Ministry Spouse

“How Much Should I Tell My Spouse?”

Wow.  If I had a dime for every answer I had gotten to this question, I wouldn’t have to tell her anything…because I’d be retired!!

I believe the answer to this question is something you should negotiate at home – because every family is different.  Some spouses don’t want to know anything.  Some better know everything.  And some only want to know the majors.

Consider your household and see what applies to you:

  1. Don’t ask, don’t tell.  Your spouse only wants to know if they ask you something.  Otherwise, keep a lid on it.
  2. Plausible deniability.  Keep everything secret so your spouse never has to lie about what they do or do not know.
  3. Total transparency.  Tell everything, big or small, so your spouse is never caught off guard.
  4. Lie and avert the eyes.  If you don’t look them in the eyes, they’ll never know.
  5. Diagnose and prescribe.  Assess the situation and decide if specific knowledge will benefit your spouse.

I Tell My Spouse Everything

Partly because I process things aloud and my spouse helps me stay on track.  Partly because we decided early on it was healthier for us to know and share everything.

Some pastors I know tell their spouses nothing.  It simply affects their spouse’s worship and faith walk to know all the nitty-gritty from church.

Some of my colleagues share stuff only when it looks like drama is about to ensue –so their spouses are spared the daily grind, but aren’t caught off guard when something massive is coming down the pike.

Regardless of where you land on the ‘how much is too much’ debate, just be sure you and your spouse are on the same page with the answer to that question.

So, how much is too much? How much is too little? What is your current ‘policy’? What needs to change to help / protect your spouse?



photo credit: via

  • Christopher Wesley

    Darren, great post and awesome thoughts. I’m definitely on the side of telling my spouse everything; however, I caution when it comes to how it is presented. I want to make sure I’m not bashing my pastor or the church to the point where she builds resentment. It doesn’t mean hiding anything, just making sure she isn’t my only sounding board.

  • Wayne Yeager

    Great post and great topic Darren. Superb job as usual. I just have one comment/addition. You have to know what your spouse can handle. When I ask my wife want do you want to know, she would tell me to tell her everything. She gets mad when I don’t. However, I have learned that if I tell her everything it does effect her worship and feelings about the church and ministry. So I have to evaluate what she needs to know even though she would not agree with that approach.

  • philbell

    Darren, I am at the other end of the spectrum. I tend to tell my wife what she REALLY needs to know, but try to keep it at a minimum. Every church has challenges and every staff team will not always get along. I want my wife to be somewhat protected from the ‘junk’ of ministry and be able to look at others without having any bias. My past experience has taught to filter what my wife hears from me.

    That’s just what works for us. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, (so to speak), but it’s what works for us.

  • philbell

    I agree Chris, we need a few sounding boards! Great feedback.

  • philbell

    Wayne, I am with you in this approach. It’s important that we know what our spouse can handle, you are right on.

  • Darren Sutton

    I’m fortunate that Katie is pretty good at applying her own filter – so I can spew and she can still walk in and worship…sometimes I have trouble with it, but she never does. :)

    One time I decided to try to ‘only tell her what she needed to know’. I almost had a stroke — and she knew anyway. :)

  • philbell

    Brilliant! I am not much of a ‘hider’ too. If I can offload to someone else, it helps to avoid avoiding my wife :0)

  • Shawn Harrison

    This is a question I’ve been wrestling with. Thanks for the thoughts. I tend to tell my wife everything – which is good but also bad. It helps to have her support, but I also know it stresses her out. I think it’s a fine line, so I’m trying to use discernment on what I share and what I don’t.