No doubt you have noticed that the Anglican Mission has been writing a lot about marriage recently—and you get why. Marriage is such a cornerstone of our society, of our culture and of the long history of the Church.

But I am writing from a different perspective: not what the Church teaches about marriage but about how the ministries of two AMiA churches—St. Andrew’s Little Rock and All Saints Dallas, the churches in our daily lives of the last 23 years—have supported, guided and helped shape our marriage. This has been a great and unexpected blessing to Kirsten and me.

Both St. Andrews (a church plant when we joined) and All Saints Dallas (a “teenage” church when we joined) created a joyful culture of “Give, Attend, Serve” as a touchstone for what it meant to be a member of their communities. We both grew up in large church-going families that had prepared us for the giving and attending parts of that formula. But we struggled to serve because we had a house full of kids.

The clergy and lay leaders of St. Andrew’s saw us as we were—busy parents with only Sundays available to serve—and continually created and invited us into ministries where we could serve together: greeting, chalice bearing, altar guild, Sunday school, chair stacking and unstacking (a primary ministry for church plants). All these ministries had an expectation that we would serve for one to two years and then move into other ministries or times of rest. We never felt we had committed to a “Hotel California” ministry. We could serve joyfully and leave cheerfully as our circumstances changed.

We have had a similar experience at All Saints Dallas. We were invited into ministries that both matched who we are (prayer team, mentors to young women and young married couples, chalice bearers) and recognized the season of life we had entered. All three of our children married over the course of 14 months and Kissy and I were swamped with all the details. The expectation was real—we need to serve to be a part of this community—but the (cheerful!) invitation to serve was a deep recognition of the circumstances of our life.

And here is the unexpected blessing: Kissy and I have come to realize that our shared experience of “The Church” through serving has given us the gift of knowing one another, our church communities and the Lord by serving in all these ministries together. We now have friends, successes, miracles and shared stories—sad, happy, hilarious and perplexing—that are a part of the story the Lord has been writing for OUR marriage.

So, to clergy and lay leaders, I encourage you to be bold (and cheerful!) in creating ministries and inviting couples to serve in your churches. It’s a great, if somewhat stealthy, marriage ministry. And to all couples in the church, serving together—even stacking and unstacking chairs—is one of the many unexpected blessings the Lord has for you in his Church!

Kirsten (Kissy) and Mike Blanchat are members of All Saints Dallas, where she serves on the Altar and Sunday Worship Teams and he is the Executive Administrator for the church. Mike also serves the AMiA as the Executive Director.