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How Churches Benefit from Co-Pastors

One couple’s story of leaning into their unique gifts and callings as they lead together

Their leadership styles are different, too. Robin tends to be more of a kick-things-into-gear leader, and brings momentum to get ideas started. Marty weighs decisions and builds teams that makes ideas sustainable.

The congregation’s approach to ministry also helps make co-pastoring successful. “If something happens in the evening, our church is respectful of the fact that it’ll be one of us, not both who attends, and one of us will be home with the kids,” said Robin. The duo also sits with their 9-year-old daughter and twin 6-year-old sons in the front row at church, rather than in the pulpit seats.

Obstacles to Face

But every setup has its setbacks, and co-pastoring has a unique set unto itself. Robin and Marty have had to get comfortable with living out their marriage while on stage before a congregation. They rotate working from home each day, which offers a double benefit of one parent handling bus duty while two pastors avoid being on top of each other all day in the church office. They have also learned not to talk church talk all day and all night.

Other issues are more specific to female pastoring, but they still tackle them as a team. In a previous church where they both served as pastors, they had to help the church leaders think through a maternity policy for the first time. “The church wound up being extremely generous,” said Robin, but the process was hard to navigate.

Along those lines, assumptions have been made about Robin’s career trajectory that have not been raised regarding Marty’s leadership. When Robin became pregnant in her last position, the church’s finance committee put together a proposed budget that wrote out her job for the following year, assuming she would be staying home with the baby. Robin and Marty had to inform the church that she would not be staying home, and asked that her position be written back into the budget.

“We express these as concerns rather than saying, ‘You gotta fix this,’” said Marty. “You always have to take the high road as the pastor. That’s for sure. You can’t let your emotions affect how you respond to the situation.” As co-pastors, Marty and Robin strive to model both the grace and iron-on-iron grit required for these situations.

Woman as Pastors

Robin’s advice to women pastors is simple: be yourself. Whether working with a spouse or not, women need to discover how to lead a church without striving for masculinity. It takes time but, according to Robin, it has been important for her to get comfortable being guided by her femaleness, rather than equating strong leadership with something outside of her own strengths.

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