Both my husband, Joseph, and I are ministers. We met while doing ministry. I had heard about Joseph through our ministry circles but didn’t know him personally. A mutual friend of ours, who volunteered at my church as a youth leader, told me about this great preacher that I should bring in to speak to the youth. Some months later I invited Joseph to come, and while we were working on details about his preaching engagement, our phone conversations lasted for hours. We instantly connected. He was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the other guys I had dated in the past. We had our first date shortly after his preaching engagement, and the rest is history.
Before we met, we were already serving at two different churches. I had a full-time position at the church where I am still serving, and Joseph had just joined a church staff as their associate minister. Serving two different churches was never an issue for us. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it early on, but as we dated and as our relationship became more serious, people began asking questions: “Which church will you be attending after the wedding?” or “You mean the two of you don’t go to the same church?” And then there were the comments: “It’s fine to be at different churches while dating, but that’s going to change when you get married.” Most of the time I would look at them side-eyed, scrunch my face, and reply, “Who says we have to attend the same church?” Then we would hear, “Couples should be worshiping together on Sunday.” And I wanted to say, “Who made up that rule?!” Joseph’s response was, “Church and Sunday are not the only time we worship together.”
As a ministry couple we have dealt with very traditional opinions on how our marriage should look. Well, I am here to say, there is no set way to be married and do ministry. Do what works for you and your family. I understand the traditional roles, especially in the African-American church setting, but times are changing and clergy are changing. There are more ministry couples than ever before. Some share pulpits. Some serve different congregations.
Being married ministers has never been a challenge for us as a couple. Both of our congregations support us, and we visit and preach at each other’s churches at times. This dual-ministry marriage is all we have ever known, and ministry is all we have every known. We both have been doing ministry the majority of our lives, and we stay open to how God uses us. For this season, we are content and at peace with our ministry placements and will not move until God says otherwise, no matter the opinion of others. We will stay true to our individual callings as a couple and continue to support one another.
We should never let church norms and traditional opinions outweigh how God can use an individual in ministry. Ministry is not about us or traditions; ministry is about serving others and having a role in what God is already doing.
Bianca Robinson Howard serves at Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, as associate minister and the full-time children and youth pastor/director.