Copastors: Twenty years in marriage and ministry

"Husband, wife join forces on the pulpit,” reads the laminated copy of a newspaper article that a church member found and gave to us when she was packing for a move. We were touched that she’d held on to the article for 20 years. A new clergy couple was a novelty in this traditional Penn­sylvania Dutch area—a story that could fill pages in the local paper. After recently celebrating both our 20th anniversary at the church and our 35th wedding anniversary, we were inclined to reflect on our two-decade experiment of copastoring.

We never would have predicted that we’d still be here when we sat down with that newspaper reporter 20 years ago. We thought the vocational experiment might last seven years or so before we’d move on to other positions, either together or separately. After we found out that the church had a deficit that represented a third of its annual budget, we wondered how long the church could afford us, and what the minimum respectable time would be for us to stay before seeking a more financially stable congregation.

Yet here we are. A faithful and energetic response by the congregation saw us through that initial financial crisis. Since then, factors common to most long-term pastorates have kept us here: a healthy congregation that knows how to support and affirm its leaders, enough growth and change to keep us feeling challenged and energized, a new associate pastor position that eases the ministry burden, and a congregation that has done a wonderful job of helping us raise our three daughters in the faith.