Kay Warren, who founded Saddleback Church alongside her husband, Rick Warren, says couples who thrive in ministry all demonstrate the ability to see themselves as a “team who shares a God-given dream.”
In a recent op-ed for pastors.com, Warren said this “one factor” can actually make or break the ministry God has called couples to: “Being a team sharing a dream can revitalize a marriage, a family, a local church, and ultimately the Kingdom of God,” she said.
Warren shared how, when her husband told her he wanted to plant a church several decades ago, she became anxious. But after she attended a church growth conference, his heart for church planting began to take root in her too.
However, the “sharing the dream and being part of a team” strategy they’d started the church with began to fade as their family grew. The demands of small children, she said, “often prevented me from being as active in ministry as I desired.”
“As a result, Rick and I felt emotionally distant from each other,” she recalled. “Nothing was actively wrong, but we were like ships passing in the night, each of us busy with our individual responsibilities. I didn’t know much about what was happening in his world, and he didn’t know much about what was happening in mine.”
One day, Rick Warren asked his wife a question he had read in a marriage book: “Is it true that the more a woman chooses to make herself a part of her husband’s world the more he will choose to be a part of her world?”
“I was riveted by that question and pondered it for days,” she said, adding that it’s not helpful to wade into the debate about “whose turn it was to make the first move.”
“That kind of me-first thinking can become a distraction and is what dooms too many relationships to disappointment and bitterness,” she said. “I’ve played that game, and no one wins. I’m learning to put my energy into what it is I ultimately want — for us to be part of each other’s world.”
Warren shared four ways individuals can move toward being part of their spouse’s world:
Ask: “Is there a sermon, podcast, or article that really touched your heart recently?”
- Ask: “What are the two most influential books you’ve read in the last six months?”
Ask: “I’d really like to hear, what are your dreams and hopes for the church in the next six months?”
Attend or watch the same conferences together.
“You and your spouse are each other’s most valuable resource for ministry — more than education and training, more than abilities, more than spiritual gifts, more than anything,” she concluded.
Rick and Kay Warren started Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, in 1980 as a home Bible study. Today, Saddleback is one of America's largest and most influential churches, with several campuses in California and around the world. The couple frequently discusses the importance of teamwork, both in marriage and in ministry.
“The more effective you want to be is dependant on how tight your team is,” Rick Warren said in a 2017 interview alongside his wife. “Literally everything we’ve ever done together — we’ve done everything as a team, even writing books, even writing messages.”
“We’re more effective when we’re actually different,” he continued. “People think that a team is important if you think alike, but the opposite is true ... the greater your differences are, the more effective you’re going to be as a team if you examine each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.”
“Kay has taught me more than anyone else in the world,” he said, “and probably vice versa.”
Effective couples must have two things, he said: A common goal and clear communication.
“Work on being a team, because it doesn’t come automatically. We have worked hard to get where we are,” he said, adding that without his wife, there would be no Saddleback Church, no Purpose Driven Life, or mental health ministry.
“All of these things are because you stayed with me,” he told her.
Kay Warren echoed her husband's sentiment in her book Sacred Privilege.
“We wouldn’t be who we are today without each other,” she writes. “I’m a better Christian, a better woman, a better mother, a better friend, and a better minister because of Rick. He says he’s a better Christian, a better man, a better father, a better friend, and a better minister because of me. The shrieks of iron sharpening iron have often sounded like gears grinding on bare metal, but the result has been profound personal growth in both of us.”