11-30titlegraphicA few years ago, my wife Nancie and I hosted a Q & A luncheon at a youth pastor’s conference entitled, “Married and in Ministry.” The room was packed. Not because of us, but because of the topic.

As couples asked questions, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were too busy and that it was taking a huge toll on their marriage. What did surprise me were their reactions to some basic suggestions on how to change that. We mentioned things like boundaries and they responded with things like, “What do you mean by boundaries?”

Then we brought up the absolute necessity to date. For many, it was if we had suggested they take a trip to Disney World . . . every week. Date night? Who has time for that? We have people in our church who need us, who have real issues. We are out of the house most nights of the week—doing ministry, taking our own kids to their activities.  

I’m thinking to myself, how could such obviously smart people be so reluctant or even unknowledgeable about the need to take time for their marriage? As we passionately tried to give them permission to do so, we could tell some of them weren’t buying it.

As we were debriefing afterward, Nancie wasn’t as surprised by their responses as I was. She reminded me that making marriage a priority when you are ministry is basic to us. Why? Because we’ve had the unbelievable, and UNIQUE blessing of being surrounded by great marriages our entire marriage. From day one of our marriage, we’ve had couples around us who modeled date night and have held us accountable to it. She reminded me that day—and I have been reminded many times since in my interactions with pastors—that people in ministry need people to encourage them to do, among many things, date.

So whether you are a dating pro or haven’t been on a date since Reagan was in office, I have a little challenge for you. Go out on a date—this date. Remember what it was like to have fun with your spouse, and not just decompress from ministry or debrief about your schedules.

If the date works, then send some the couples in your church on the same date. Maybe start with your staff and volunteers and then move to a churchwide challenge, maybe even provide childcare. Bottom-line if you like the date, share the date.

Why date night? Experiences and laughter and affirmation all have one thing in common: they connect you as a couple. And connection is what dating is all about it. Date nights are not about to-do lists or solving all your issues. They’re about enjoying your marriage. And as Proverbs 5 illustrates, maybe one of the best ways to protect your marriage is to enjoy your marriage.

So continue or start dating. It’s not extra. It’s essential. And don’t forget to let us know what happened, by posting a pic with #mpdates.

(For more information about  resources that can help your marriage and the marriages in your church and community, visit MarriedPeople.org.)

Ted Lowe is the director of MarriedPeople, the marriage division of Orange, that helps churches help marriages. He’s also the co-author of the book for leaders Married People: How Your Church Can Help Build Marriages that Last, and the author of soon to be released book for couples, Your Best US.