Ministry Spouses and Healthy Churches

Ministry Spouses + Parakaleo = Healthier Churches

Parakaleo Director Shari Thomas joined her husband John in Singapore, where he trained Asian church planters
Parakaleo Director Shari Thomas joined her husband John in Singapore, where he trained Asian church planters

How do churches and denominations help pastors thrive in a demanding job where the average tenure is only three or four years?

Multiple studies confirm that pastors leave their churches—and sometimes ministry in general—because they burn out, wear out, or are run out. This frequent turnover can have devastating impacts on churches, pastors, and their families.

Resilient Ministry uncovers themes that promote healthy, sustainable ministry. Based on a seven-year study of pastors, Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman and Donald Guthrie have distilled lessons for pastoral longevity and health. The authors were colleagues at Covenant Seminary, where Burns and Chapman now serve as adjunct professors.

One of their key findings was the importance of the pastor’s wife. “There are exceptions to this, but in general the most significant human factor in the sustainability of pastors in ministry is their spouses,” reports Burns.

“One of the most significant lessons we learned… was the strategic role the spouse plays in ministry life. By ‘strategic role,’ we don’t mean the functions a spouse may perform in the congregation. Rather, we mean the role spouses have in sustaining their pastor-partners in the work of ministry,” Burns writes. “One male pastor put it this way: ‘I know now more than ever that I cannot answer this calling without my wife. She is the only person in my life who will always be there for me in ministry.’”

The author’s findings concur with multiple previous studies, including research conducted by Shari Thomas which led to the founding of Parakaleo in 2005. “My research uncovered a gaping need in church planting and the pastorate: the wife. New research continues to prove this need,” she notes.

Parakaleo comes alongside church planting spouses with training, resources, one-on-one coaching, and local networks led by trained church planting wives. After several years of development, Parakaleo now has 16 modules for basic training that address the needs of spouses in ministry.

Parakaleo receives requests for help not only from spouses in North America, but overseas as well. “We invite wives to attend our events, and they can use our modules to lead groups in their location after they are trained,” Thomas says. For example, Shari recently joined her husband John in Singapore, where he trained Asian church planters for the City to City network. She shared Parakaleo’s work and received an enthusiastic response from participants.

This training is exponentially effective and reproducible: once Parakaleo is up and running in a location, it is self-sufficient and does not require ongoing funding. The benefits overflow to the pastoral family and the church. This modest investment in training yields significant kingdom results: more resilient pastors, better-equipped and supported spouses, and healthier churches.

The article “Resilient Ministry: What it Takes to Survive and Thrive” can be found in ByFaith (