The Emotionally Healthy Leader: Married or Single

Haystack Rock at Sunset; photo by Thomas Robinson. See

In Peter Scazzero’s book The Emotionally Healthy Leader, chapter 3, he explores how either being married or being single impacts our lives as leaders. Too often, ministry leadership adversely impacts marriages or the lives of single people involved in ministry. Scazzero asks good questions (page 96 and 107): “How do we, as husband and wife, cultivate a passionate marriage, especially in the context of leadership? What restores and replenlishes my soul? What fills me with delight?” Scazzero offers the following ways to cultivate passion in marriage or in singleness while actively involved in ministry or service:

  1. Pray for greater passion: “Resist the temptation to become apathetic by asking God for grace to live in love each day, seeking to be present to one another in the way that God is present to us.” Realize that passions ebb and flow, and there will be times with greater passion, and times of lesser passion, but praying through each season, will quicken God’s passion within your marriage or within your singleness, even in times in ministry that are hard.
  2. Make cultivating passion an intentional spiritual practice: Set aside time to be fully present with one another as a married couple without interruption. As a single person, cultivate passion as a spiritual practices by investing in a few other people and sharing faith life together or committing to regular focused times walking in nature or engaging in creative pursuits. We allow too many distractions and interruptions to get in the way of intentional time together with passion. “We talk about passion, plan for passion, and pray for passion.”
  3. Intentionally affirm one another: Scazzero writes, “you find what you look for – look for faults and you will find faults, look for beauty and you will find beauty. Regular, sincere affirmation is one of the greatest gifts one spouse can give the other.” The opposite of affirmation is criticism, which “sucks the life out of us and out of our relationship. It is one of the killers of passion.” This is true both for marrieds and singles.
  4. Devote yourself to excellent self-care: “Build into your leadership strong rhythms and boundaries for proper self-care.” (107) What are the ways you restore your life when drained? What brings you greatest joy and delight and how often are you pursuing these activities? “Make pursuing joy and delight an intentional part of your life and leadership,” writes Scazzero.
  5. Invest in community, cultivating at least one or two companions for the journey: Scazzero writes this for single people, but it is equally true for married people. Who in your life are you journeying with, in addition to your spouse if you are married? What small community of other pilgrims know you well enough to challenge you in a loving way?
  6. Practice hospitality regularly: This practice is also found in the “singleness” section, but as a married person, I’ve found the practice of hospitality life-giving, and a beautiful way to practice our life together as a married couple. We love having people into our home to share meals, conversations, poetry readings, music, walks on the beach.

Scazzero restructures his leadership priorities weekly in the following way:

  1. Spend time alone with God (specific times and spiritual practices for the week).
  2. Invest in life with my spouse and our marriage (specific times and actions for the week).
  3. Practice delight (outdoors, art, creativity, reading, music, cooking).
  4. Everything else in ministry with the Church.

Scazzero offers a helpful assessment tool for marrieds and for singles, a survey called “How Healthy is your ability to lead out of your marriage or singleness?” 5=Always true; 4=Frequently true; 3=Occasionally true; 2=Rarely true; 1=Never true of me.

  1. I see my marriage/singleness as a sign of God’s love for the Church and the world.
  2. I believe the quality and integrity of my marriage/singleness is the most important gospel message I preach.
  3. I place high priority on investing time and energy to build a healthy marriage/singleness that reveals Christ’s love to the church and the world.
  4. I experience a direct connection between the oneness with Jesus and my life as a married/single person.
  5. A key factor in discerning Go’s will in ministry decisions is the impact it will have on my my ability to love a whole, rich and healthy married/single life.
  6. I am aware of how issues from my family of origin impact my marriage/singleness.
  7. I do not over function as leader at the expense of living a healthy and balanced married/single life.
  8. I make what is important in marriage/singleness important regardless of my leadership responsibilities.
  9. The fruit I bear in ministry overflows out of the richness of my marriage or my close relationships with family and friends as a single person.
  10. I am comfortable articulating a biblical vision for marrieds and singles on how each serves to bear witness to God’s love. (see pages 88-89, The Emotionally Healthy Leader.