The Secret to Longevity in Marriage and Ministry

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome Parts 1 & 2
May 11, 2017
How To Overcome Inevitable Resistance to Change
May 18, 2017

The Secret to Longevity in Marriage and Ministry

On May 5, 1959, two sweethearts exchanged “I Do’s” in a small church, in a remote barrio (countryside) north of the Philippines. This year, 2017, they celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary. They also celebrate the same number of years in service to God’s work. This couple is Met and Ina Castillo, my dear parents. Dad is now 82, while Mom is 80, yet they are still active and passionate about the ministry.

Meet Met and Ina Castillo. Married 58 years and going strong!

Wherever they go, people will often ask,“What is your secret?” 

They have much advice to give, but one ingredient that I have had the privilege to witness growing up is this – in both marriage and ministry, they have TEAMWORK.

God designed marriage to be a team. He created Adam and Eve for each other, to compliment one another and to help each other to fulfill God’s mandate to take care of His creation (Genesis 1:28).

A team always works for the goal, not against it. If one person is not working toward the same goal as the others in the group, then that person is not a team player, not a true team-mate and…should be kicked out of the team! Funny, but I am right, am I not? As a team, you are not – I repeat, NOT, in competition with each other.

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT: What are your goals as a couple?

Teammates always think of the good of the other, theself” coming in last. We have to constantly remind ourselves of this. Shaunti Feldhahn in her book “For Women Only” (2004) reiterates, “Marriage is about putting the other person’s needs above your own.” This is perhaps why it is important that from the very start, or as soon as possible, husband and wife should be clear on what the goal is for the marriage, especially when in ministry.

When you marry, whatever dreams and goals you had for yourself will now have to include your spouse. Now you dream big for two, you make decisions for two. Always. Two. If you have a void in your life that you need to be filled, I have bad news for you. Your spouse is not the best one to fill that. The only one who can is God. When you allow God to fill in the void, meet those unmet needs, you will overflow with His love and grace that you cannot help but spill over to your spouse.

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT: Is this marriage for self-fulfillment or to fulfill God’s purpose in my life? Is it a place for me to have my needs met or to meet the needs of my spouse? Are you often thinking of what you can get out of it or what to give?

Teammates always think of the team, not just self. Very seldom does a good teammate think of themselves alone. I am no basketball fan much less an expert but I have heard the interviews of basketball greats like Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry, and they almost always deflect any personal praise they get. Instead they acknowledge the effort of the team. This is because they acknowledge that they are able to be who they are and accomplish what they have accomplished only because of the team effort. Now just like basketball, or any team for that matter, each person has a specific role to fulfill. If you don’t fulfill your role, your team collapses. Also, if you begin to fulfill someone else’s, even in the guise of fulfilling your own, the team suffers. A husband and wife have roles, God-given and God-mandated roles, to perform in the family. I do not see any reason why a husband should do the wife’s roles and the wife the husband’s. Husbands, let your wives do what they were designed to do first as women, then as wives. Wives, let your husbands do what God has designed them to do first as men, then as husbands. Work as a team. Marriage is an “AND” relationship, not an “OR” kind of relationship.

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT: Are you a team player?

Teammates work together. Teammates work in unity. While you are different, with unique personalities, when you enter into a marital relationship, you have to begin to learn to work together, specifically using your uniqueness to the advantage of the team. It is not about being better than your spouse or showing off your skills. Remember, “in sickness and in health…”

And finally.

Teammates honor each other. What do I mean by this? Ephesians 5 says husbands love your wives, wives respect your husbands. In a marital relationship, love and respect go hand in hand. While in a different situation, we can respect someone without loving that person, but in the marital relationship we must do both together. Therefore the respect we give our husband is not out of duty, but out of love. The love we give our wife is not out of duty but out of love. When you both love and respect each other, you will not do anything to dishonor one another. You will not disrespect and embarrass him or her in front of other people, family or even when alone together. You will not tarnish his or her integrity with the children. You will not belittle him or her, whatever the circumstance or situation may be. When you need to correct your spouse, you will find a way to do and say it without attacking him or her, because you respect him and you love her. Teammates don’t destroy each other, but lift up and encourage one another to become a better person.

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT: How am I treating my spouse? Am I honoring God in the way I treat my spouse? 

When you work as a team in your marriage, your team skills will flow over to your ministry. But if there is no teamwork in marriage, do not expect it to show up in ministry.

You’ve got to work on strengthening your team of two before it becomes three or four (kids)…or more (church).

So yes, work on your team skills. NOW!


Donna Tan was a Pastor’s wife for 17 years, and a pastor’s kid to this day. She is also a minister, serving in the area of mentoring women and couples.

Donna has a graduate diploma in Christian Counseling. Her ministry experiences span cultures having led youth and women ministries in the Philippines, as well as women ministries in the US (as a leader with Trinity Wives Fellowship from 2010-2012, in Deerfield, IL). In the past seven years, Donna began to develop a passion for the welfare of pastors’ wives, having been one and having encountered their struggles in her counseling. She is currently writing a book for pastors’ wives.

Donna is married to Dr. Jason Richard Tan (Ph.D.), and they have two children – Joshua (15) and Elisha (11). They have been married for 18 years.

Jason and Donna are missionaries under GlobalGrace Fellowship (based in Pasadena, CA) serving the Philippines and Asia.

She is the Admin Director of Great Commission Missionary Training Center. She is also a writer, professional editor, and blogger.



1 Comment

  1. […] Marriage is not a one-man or one-woman deal. It is a team that requires teamwork. Both husband and wife must be working for it, fighting for it and being blessed by it. Successful teams are always in step with each other. No one is left behind, and no one slacks behind, either. (See my previous blog on Teamwork in Marriage.  […]

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