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Balancing act

Not everything is obvious for successful marriages of clergy couples

February 10, 2010

The Rev. Sue Krummel

Photo: The Rev. Sue Krummel

BUFFALO, Minn.

When the Rev. Sue Krummel talks with minister couples, where both husband and wife sport “the Rev.” before their names, she speaks from experience.

Krummel, who is general presbyter and stated clerk for the Presbytery of Great Rivers with offices in Peoria, Ill., is married to the Rev. Forrest Krummel, pastor of First Federated Church in Peoria.

They’ve been married for 33 years.

“My husband and I were married six days before starting seminary,” Sue Krummel said. She and her husband graduated from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and were ordained in 1980.

This year marks their 30th year as ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They have two adult daughters and three grandchildren.

“As more and more women enter seminary and become ministers,” Krummel said, “we’re seeing more clergy couples.”

Krummel led a session called “Clergy Couples” at Christ the King Retreat Center here during the Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ annual training event for presbytery Committees on Ministry and Preparation for Ministry Jan. 26-28.

She said some of the more perplexing financial issues for minister couples have found better resolutions in more recent times. Those financial issues had to be overcome early in the calling for herself and her husband.

And for the minister couples themselves, it’s a matter of being able to “coordinate your careers and calls.”

Krummel and her husband have filled a variety of calls in Iowa and Illinois during the past 30 years. Out of seminary, they were called as co-pastors to a yoked congregation with each position compensated at two-thirds time. From there, they went to a congregation where both were called to half-time positions as associate pastors.

Later, Krummel’s husband was called to a full-time pastorate while she filled a variety of positions with the titles of temporary, stated and interim. Before the Krummels ended up where they are today, they were called again as co-pastors of a 750-member congregation.

“A lot of lay people look at it and ask, ‘Why is that so hard?’” Krummel said. Being a pastor is “so draining emotionally; it’s a difficult job to bring home.”

But the challenge of being married pastors does not have to lead to a failed marriage. And being married ministers is not an excuse for a failed marriage.

“Everyone needs to find a way to deal with that,” Krummel said.

And, citing their early calls to smaller Iowa congregations, she said farmers could more readily identify with their situation.

“Being a clergy couple is almost like a family business,” she said, noting the similarity with farms where husbands and wives work side by side. “Farmers were able to understand that.”

Besides, she noted, she and her husband had some specific benefits when they served in co-pastor roles.

“Clergy have flexibility during the day. We could be with the children, attend junior high sporting events and be there when they came home from school,” she said.

And the challenges of minister couples are not only those the couple must face. Congregations that call minister couples need to understand that the minister couple “is going on vacation at the same time,” Krummel said. “The same is true if there’s a family event.”

It’s important for congregations to recognize those issues before initiating the call.

And when it comes to the financial side for minister couples, the Board of Pensions of the PC(USA) has made the picture more clear. Details can be found by searching “clergy couples” on its Web site.

Duane Sweep is associate for communications for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.

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