When it comes to strengthening our marriages and growing together, some types of growth are more clear-cut than others. When we wanted to grow in our dancing skills, Michael and I took a dance class. When we wanted to grow in our parenting skills, we read books and talked with veteran parents. When we wanted to grow in our communication skills, we went to marriage counseling together. But how we grow together spiritually is a little less obvious.
Ultimately, as we both aim to know and love Jesus more, our marriage will benefit from the pursuit of Christ, and including one another in our spiritual lives can bring more unity and joy into our home. But other than attending church together, how can we grow spiritually together?
Here are ten ways we’ve been able to grow together spiritually that might enrich your marriage too. Some of these might just surprise you.
1. Go on a wild adventure together. Take a trip to a new city, or do something out of your comfort zone, like jet skiing or scuba diving. New experiences create new chances for conversation about what you value, along with occasions for reflection on your lives together. Are you both satisfied or hungering for something more? Deviating from the rhythms of regular life helps people articulate what they need more clearly. New adventures open up windows for meaningful connection—practically and spiritually—as you get out of the patterns that you rely on during the week.
2. Join a small group that makes you think. If your church has a small group ministry, choose a group that you can attend together. The weekly—or monthly—chance to talk with others about God, read the Bible together, and chat about spiritual matters can open up important questions and conversations that spill into your home. Michael and I have had many, many conversations about God and our spiritual journeys that were piqued by discussion during a small group. A small group provides a consistent time set aside for spiritual growth, and when you go together you will grow together.
3. Have sex! Marital intimacy is a powerful spiritual bonding agent, and consistent, healthy sex connects you to your spouse in a way that nothing else can. Sex is spiritually powerful because it is meant to point you toward deeper intimacy, not only with your spouse but also with God. Intimacy in the bedroom can help foster spiritual intimacy and vice versa.
4. Have a daily spiritual “check-in” question. This question can be as deep or as broad as you want it to be. A consistent question to help you touch base can build a sense of connectedness with one another’s spiritual journeys. Questions like, “Where do you feel like God is at work in your life?” or “How did you experience God’s grace today?” are great options to open up purposeful, spiritual conversation.
5. Fight . . . and make up. I’m not recommending that you start fights in your marriage in order to create the opportunities to grow! But fights are inevitable in any close relationship. When handled well in marriage, conflict can lead to spiritual intimacy because it begins a conversation about what is behind the pain that’s surfaced. Fights often start because of personal brokenness or a lack of feeling understood. If you can move past the anger and talk about where the pain really stems from, you can connect deeply. Reconciling well requires constant humility. You have to daily (sometimes hourly!) repent for your own sins and choose to forgive your spouse again and again. But when you give and receive forgiveness as freely as Christ has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32), you can foster an environment of reconciliation and trust—fertile ground for spiritual connection with your spouse.
6. Be missional—together. Choose a ministry in your church that needs you, and serve side-by-side. I can almost guarantee that volunteering in the preschool Sunday school class once a month will provide you with plenty of inside jokes and laughter in your marriage that you wouldn’t have otherwise! Similarly, singing in your church’s worship team or choir or tutoring together in an after-school ministry will create a deeper spiritual bond. Working with your spouse in a shared mission—something most of us never get to do in our day jobs—can be beautiful and powerful for your marriage. You get to see your spouse in a new light, and you get to further the kingdom of God together. What could be more wonderful?
7. Get literary. Read a devotional or Christian book together. You can each read a chapter at a time and then discuss it afterward (books with discussion questions included work well). Or you can read the book aloud to one another and stop to talk about the text as you go. If you travel regularly, consider purchasing an audio version of the book and then discuss your thoughts after 10 or 15 minutes of listening.
8. Mentor a younger couple. Mentoring a newly married or engaged couple (or simply a younger couple) is a service that will not only bless them but will strengthen your own marriage as well. It’s almost inevitable: As you help other couples work through challenges and questions in their relationships, you get the opportunity to reflect on your own marriage. From answering their questions to telling your own stories of marital victories and failures, chatting openly with others about how you’ve grown as a couple is a wonderful chance to grow together spiritually.
9. Pray with and for one another. Praying together acts as spiritual glue; it is often a powerful way to see your spouse’s heart on display before the Lord. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but choose a time when you will pray together, whether it is before going to sleep at night, during breakfast, or over the phone during a lunch break. Don’t shy away from asking your spouse for specific prayer requests. When I ask Michael what he most wants prayer for, I’m sometimes surprised. I may think he needs prayer for one thing when his heart desires prayer for something entirely different. Even starting the conversation about what your spouse wants prayer for in his or her life can provide wonderful insights into what your spouse is experiencing spiritually. And if praying together is difficult for you, consider purchasing a devotional book or a book with written prayers included—that’s a wonderful place to start.
10. Attend a retreat or conference together. Setting aside a weekend to attend a retreat can create rich opportunities for growth. Getting out of the house, breaking your normal routine, participating in worship, listening to new teaching, joining in prayer times—these can open up new avenues for spiritual conversation between you and your spouse. You might even choose to go to a Christian marriage retreat in order to specifically work on growing your relationship.
However you seek to grow spiritually with your spouse, the main goal is to deliberately choose something to do together. Just as you don’t grow in any skill without practice and time, so also you (and I) won’t grow spiritually in marriage without effort and deliberate steps toward that growth. Choosing to commit time and energy toward the growth of your marriage will bless not only you but also your spouse and family. The good news is that you aren’t alone in your desire to grow spiritually with your spouse—God himself desires it for you. He will help you as you seek his presence, truth, and love in your marriage.