Priscilla & Aquila

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary so we thought we’d take this opportunity to share a bit of our story, specifically about how we became a clergy couple.

We met at the Church of God Theological Seminary (COGTS) in 1992. Joleen had been there over a year and I had just arrived. Students were required to participate in student small groups (led by faculty members). When I arrived, the small group Joleen was in invited new students to join them for an afternoon at a nearby United Methodist campground (Johnson Woods, I believe).

Part of that afternoon included a walk down a wooded trail in groups of two. The leader asked us to divide into groups of two. When we divided into groups, the leader wasn’t satisfied. He still wasn’t satisfied after the second time, and on the third time around, Joleen and I finally landed in the same group. Our task was to walk the trail and get to know a little about each other.

Nearly two years later, at our wedding, the group leader, Dr. Land, told the wedding guests during a time of sharing that he was “the first to send (us) into the woods!”

One of the issues we had to come to grips with was how we would both be able to live out our individual calls to leadership in ministry. The concept of “clergy couples” was pretty new to both of us. But it was a concept we quickly became familiar with!

We received permission to co-write our Masters thesis to flesh out what our ministry together might look like. For the research part of the project, we contacted every husband and wife who were pastoring together in the US (and some in Canada). That interaction gave us a good start.

Our paper also addressed the topic of husband and wife pastors from a biblical/theological perspective. We looked at Priscilla and Aquilla as an model. Read the PDF of the chapter we wrote about this couple).

We graduated from COGTS in 1995, a year and a half into our marriage, and began living out our vision for leadership in ministry. Fifteen years into our marriage, we’re still trying to live it out.

11 thoughts on “Priscilla & Aquila

  1. Congratulations of 15 years of marriage! I enjoyed reading the post but would like to know how long after the intial meeting and walk in the woods did you begin to see youselves as a couple?

  2. Ah, details. πŸ™‚

    We met in February 1992 but went out for the first time in January 1993. From there, our relationship seemed to develop pretty quickly.

    However, in March 1993, for no real reason we hit a point where we weren’t sure a relationship would continue. If I remember correctly, that point occurred during a phone conversation(s) during the storm of the century (we got 2 feet of snow in a city that averages 2 inches/year).

    We had a group gathering a few days after power was restored and roads were cleared (which took a long time in Cleveland, Tennessee!). I thought that would be it, but it was actually a turning point for us.

    Around the beginning of June we decided to get married, and we did 6.5 months later (on an unusually cold day in TN with weather not much different than today’s 12-degree with brutal wind chill temperatures here in Clearfield! But you would never know that from the sunny outdoor photos Joleen insisted on having, much to the displeasure of the wedding party!).

    Well, that’s *my* side of the story, anyway.

  3. I love the fact that Joleen insisted on outdoor pictures even though the weather was brutally cold! I’m sure it is something those in the wedding party still talk about. Thanks for the additional details. I tried to open the file on the chapter you wrote about from your thesis and could not get it.

  4. I, too, was interested in the Priscilla & Acquila chapter (after rediscovering your blog today), but the link doesn’t get me there. A little help? πŸ™‚

    Oh, and (belated) congratulations on 15 years!

  5. Thanks for pointing that out, Rich. I fixed the link!

    Interestingly, this has been the most popular post during the past month — glad someone told me about it! πŸ˜€

  6. Hi There! My wife and I are co-pastors in NZ but we are being challenged on it by our movement, and was wondering if there was any chance we could read your thesis on this issue? I have already read both of the chapters that are available on the net.
    Thanks
    Ben Arcus

  7. Thanks for the comment, Ben. It’s great to hear from you!

    I’ll check to see if there’s anything in the other chapters that might be helpful. If so, I’ll email them to you.

    In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, feel free to post them here or through the contact page.

  8. One of the main objections to us co pastoring is that they say there should be one leader, and that having two opens the door to a plurality of leadership, and why not have the whole team as senior leaders? I can see the difference between husband and wife as a unity despite being plural (much like the trinity!), but are there other biblical refutations to this?

  9. Incidentally, I can see the validity to a team of elders as equal leaders, but that is way outside of what our movement would consider to be OK. At the end of the day, unity is more important than these principles, but I am going to have a go at arguing my case.

  10. For the record, Joleen and I studied, researched, and wrote our thesis on husband and wife co-pastoring before we ever co-pastored. Our writing was based on the experiences of others as well as our observations on their ministry and the Scriptures, not personal experience (at the time).

    Secondly, we co-pastored for nearly 5 years after doing the research/writing, but for the last 8 years, we have pastored separate churches (mostly out of necessity, in our conference). I’m sure our perspective would be better if we had 13 years of experience as co-pastors, rather than 5 (8 years ago).

    That said, I’m not aware of any biblical reasons why there has to be only one leader. In Acts, there were multiple leaders (James, Peter, Paul, John, among others) but we never really are told specifically who’s in charge. That’s one of the reasons Priscilla and Aquila are such a good model — they’re always named together.

    Usually, when I’ve heard that argument, it’s been related to decision-making — that is, someONE has to make the final decision. I never understood that — why can’t we work till we come to an agreement? Why does one person have to have the final say?

    In 15 years of marriage, rarely have we both felt equally strong about something, from opposite sides. That’s not to say we haven’t disagreed, but we usually disagree to varying degrees.

    If one of us feels strongly but the other doesn’t, we usually go with whoever feels more strongly/passionate about the issue/decision. If we disagree and feel equally strong, that means we need to wait / pray / discuss it more (or make a better argument! πŸ˜‰ ). That should work in the church, too.

    Others areas where people get tripped up, I think, is vision-casting and teaching/preaching. Team teaching is becoming more and more common so it should become less and less of an issue. Vision-casting might be a little trickier, but I still think it can be done (either one spouse is more gifted at vision-casting or each person can cast vision for the parts of the ministry in which they are gifted/passionate).

    But husband and wife co-pastoring is a unique ministry. Not every couple can do it (their “wiring” has to be especially compatible).

    I hope this helps. God’s best to you as you seek to live out his call on your lives. Let us know if you have other questions.

  11. Just to volunteer a little more info/background on our story/journey regarding husband and wife co-pastoring (more for those who know us than for those researching co-pastoring, perhaps) …

    In seminary, when we did this project, we fully expected to spend the rest of our lives as co-pastors, serving together.

    In fact, when we became United Methodists, a story which we wrote about recently, one of the main questions we asked before committing to the denomination was, can we serve as co-pastors?

    At the time, we were fairly well assured (but NOT guaranteed, of course) that that was a possibility. However, we’ve since learned that it’s not a real likelihood in our particular conference.

    When we were appointed to separated charges, we actually viewed it as an opportunity to develop our individual leadership skills. When we co-pastored, I relied on Joleen to do certain things and she relied on me to do other things. Serving separately has given us the opportunity to develop our own gifts and styles of ministry and leadership.

    The real question would be, how well would we work together as co-pastors after having served several/many years separately? πŸ™‚

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