This year’s theme is “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with…..
The Life of a dual minister family
Sharon Kirkpatrick Felton has been the Minister to Youth and Students at Faith Baptist Church for a year and a half. She has over 25 years’ experience in student ministry having served in churches in Texas and Tennessee and on college campuses in Kentucky. She graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Psychology and from Southwestern Seminary with a Masters of Divinity with biblical languages. Sharon is passionate about advocating for others and working to ensure that all people experience justice and are free to live the life God has for them. She also loves to cheer for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Texas Rangers! She is married to Dr. Keith Felton, and they have three children, Carter, Dakota, and Maya. Matthew 22:36-40 is the foundation for the way Sharon does life and ministry.
The life of dual minister families is wonderful and challenging! People with the same passions and interests end up together in life, often creating situations where both people are called to ministry. Many times it is difficult to find places of ministry for both people. Often times there is a level of sacrifice that one or the other must make. My husband and I have spent the majority of our married life “trading off” ministry positions. One of us may find a position and feel called to go and the other will find something while waiting for God to open up other doors. We have always made the decisions together and made certain that both of us felt that the decision was good and right for our family. God has always provided places of ministry and opened doors we might not have thought of while we were in times of waiting. We take turns, it seems, pursuing and living out our calls.
We have served together in the same church, once. We had a wonderful ministry and felt as if God used both of us to further God’s kingdom. However, it was very difficult for me to deal with the negative sides of church as people criticized the pastor (my husband). The church is made up of imperfect people, including the minsters, and when someone got out of sorts it was challenging to keep it from being personal. As ministers you know more than you can share, you understand all of the dynamics of situations that others just can’t know, but you are unable to express the information. You have to maintain confidentiality and so, in essence, you have to take it. It is difficult enough to do that for myself, but extremely challenging when it happens to your spouse. After several years, I recognized that I did not function best in a joint ministry setting. I did not like being unable to defend my husband, or answer his critics. I had a hard time letting go.
What works best for us is serving in two different ministries. Thankfully, we have both been called to churches. It is a challenge sending our family in two different directions on Sunday and Wednesday, calendaring events take on a new level of planning and communication, but we love being able to follow God’s call and find fulfillment in serving. Our children have the opportunity to be loved on and taught by two congregations, our evening conversations are full of new and interesting details as we share our days. We share ideas in ministry and have two churches from which to pull ideas. We’ve seen God expand our ministries and our understanding of church as we live and serve two communities.
It does take extraordinary congregations to allow us to come and serve without always having our family with us. It takes understanding and support and an openness to our unique situation. Fortunately, we have found two such places to serve! Our kids actually enjoy being able to go to two different VBS weeks, double the youth outings and when one of us has to stay long, they can go with the other.
Co-ministering is a gift and a challenge. It requires constant conversation, before you enter a marriage, and as you embark on your life’s journey together. It is important to know yourself and how you handle stress and frustration. It is important to have both people willing to sacrifice for the other and it requires more churches to be open to different ways of doing ministry.