What I Wished I’d Known Before Becoming A Co-Pastor

Liz SarnoWritten by Liz Sarno

I pastor our church alongside my husband where I fill the role of the executive pastor, worship pastor, sometimes teaching pastor and sometimes associate pastor as well. I guess you could say I am the “co-pastor”. We started our church before we got married so that was my title before I was his wife. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to do this job, but more about what NOT to do. If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be this:

Always wear the right hat.

For a season of my life, I lived in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it on TV, but if so you probably noticed the ladies all dressed up wearing gorgeous hats. The first year that I attended the Derby, I had tickets to the infield and there were no beautiful hats to be found, unless you counted baseball caps, since this particular part of the track was very casual and relaxed. The next time that I was invited to the Derby, it was to sit in the fancier section, and I got to wear the most beautiful hat. At the Derby, it’s pretty clear which hat you wear in which location. You wouldn’t wear a baseball cap in the grandstand and you wouldn’t wear a fancy hat in the infield. In life however, knowing which hat to wear can be a little more uncertain.

No matter what our roles in ministry we all wear more than one hat. We are wives, mothers, pastors, friends, and the list goes on. When you co-pastor alongside your husband, it is crucial for the health of your relationship and your church that you not blur the lines by wearing the wrong hat.

The Wife Hat

I had to learn that although I am co-pastor of our church that I need to wear my wife hat at home. We fell into the dangerous trap where we never stopped doing ministry. We talked about church on date night, in the car on the way to the kid’s school play and at the dinner table. It began to erode our relationship as husband and wife. At home my hubby doesn’t need to hear about staff issues, the latest projects, the numbers or budget concerns. He needs me to be his wife, his biggest cheerleader, and his best friend. He needs me to be romantic and supportive and have things in common with him besides our church.

The Co-Pastor Hat

On the flipside, at work I have to take my wife hat off and put my pastor hat on, which also means that I am technically my husband’s employee. Although we pastor together, he is still my boss. Honestly, this was the most difficult thing for me to adjust to. It was hard for me to separate out my work role from my position as his wife. We had many meetings where I pushed my ideas stronger than I would have if he wasn’t my husband. I was quicker to argue my points than I would have with a different employer. I felt more entitled to my opinions because I couldn’t separate our relationship. I’m ashamed to admit that I probably didn’t give him the respect he deserved in his role because I hadn’t quite learned my place as his employee. After all this time, I’ve almost learned how to take off my wife hat when I’m at the office.

Liz Sarno2The Child of God Hat

This is the most important hat you and I will ever wear. Unlike the others, it should never be taken off. It can be easy to unintentionally substitute ministry for relationship. Without meaning to, personal devotional time can get replaced by studying for a message. Private prayer time can be exchanged for public worship. When God whispers in our ears, instead of writing in our journals, we write blogs or articles. God doesn’t mind messages, public worship, or blog posts, but He does mind when pursuit of ministry replaces pursuit of His presence. Keeping this hat fixed firmly on our heads will keep us on track and help us better recognize when we are wearing the wrong hat and help us put the right one back on.

8 thoughts on “What I Wished I’d Known Before Becoming A Co-Pastor

  1. Caitlin

    I love this! I often tell my husband before I speak which hat I’m wearing, ‘I’m telling you this as your wife’or ‘I’m telling this as your staff member’ he thinks it’s silly but it helps me separate things out better and maintain balance.

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  2. Donna Porter

    Pastor Liz this was phenomenal! I would love for you to share how you knew when you had on the wrong hat. This would make a great workshop. Thanks for your transparency!

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  3. Kristina

    Thank you soooooooo much for sharing this!!! This has truly blessed me and will be a blessing to my marriage , ministry, and walk as I maneuver the many hats I wear!

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  4. Marisa

    These are some great insights Liz, I think you’ve been able to put words to what so many of us experience for years but are not able to articulate. This is a VERY BIG topic for women in ministry. I am not a co-pastor but I am co-worship leader with my husband. This was a land mine we weren’t expecting when we were first married. It’s taken us a lot of work and commitment to the process. I am almost certain it will shift again once he makes a transition to Lead Pastor (some day). I love the ministry but I think it’s important for our kids to see and know that our marriage is our priority. No matter what issue is happening at the church or amongst the staff we must be completely unified in our marriage, I think that’s what makes wearing all the hats bearable or even joy-filled! I think it’s also important to note some days, we will absolutely get it all wrong, and the hats may get a little dingy and that is completely ok – because we are daughters of the Most High which never be taken away from us! be blessed xo

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