The Table Podcast

Double Ministry Families

In this episode, Kymberli Cook, Travis Cook, Kat Armstrong, and Aaron Armstrong discuss key challenges of families with both spouses serving in separate ministries.

Timecodes
00:15
Guest introductions and backgrounds
04:46
Are double-ministry families a new idea?
09:26
Key challenges of double-ministry families
16:11
Managing logistics and roles in the home
26:51
Prioritizing when one ministry needs to take precedence
30:36
Explaining ministry and your calling to your children
37:53
Concerns about the children’s later attitudes toward ministry
44:04
Dealing with spiritual guilt
Transcript
Kymberli Cook
Welcome to The Table Podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Kymberli Cook, and I am the Senior Administrator at the Hendricks Center. And today we’re gonna be talking about double-ministry families. And we’re joined by Aaron Armstrong, who is the Lead Pastor at Dallas Bible Church, Kat Armstrong, his wife, who is herself an author, speaker, and co-founder of Polished, a women’s ministry, and … [Laughs] why did I hesitate? … and my husband, Travis Cook who is the Associate Pastor for Teaching and Single Adults at Park Cities Baptist Church here in Dallas. So, thank you so much for being here and for joining us. And we’re gonna be discussing double-ministry families, which is kind of an odd, even, title, but it will hopefully become clear throughout the podcast what we’re talking about.

But first, before we hop into that conversation, I’d just like to take a little bit of an opportunity for each of you to introduce yourselves, explain, just briefly, how you ended up in your current ministry, and particularly talking about your calling, and how you ended up being called to ministry. So Aaron, let’s start with you.

Aaron Armstrong
Yeah. So I am the Lead Pastor at Dallas Bible Church. I knew I wanted to get into church pastoral ministry for a really long time, since the end of high school. So came to faith early on, and got serious about the faith late in high school. And that’s when the Lord started shaping my heart for pastoral pulpit ministry. I always had a great experience in the church and saw what God wanted to do there. And so I had this strong desire to go serve the church after that. And so we came to Dallas. We went to Texas A&M, and we came up here to Dallas, ’cause we wanted to go to DTS. And then we served for a number of years at Northwest Bible Church. We were here in town all throughout the seminary days, 2005, I think it was, through about 2015. And so, had some good years there at that church, loved that place a whole lot. And then, about four years ago, the Lord moved us out and I accepted the lead position at Dallas Bible. So it’s been an incredible time for the past four years there.
Kymberli Cook
Great. Travis, why don’t you go next?
Travis Cook
Sure, yeah. So I moved out here to Dallas from Atlanta, Georgia, to be … I wanted to be an Army chaplain. And I was an Army chaplain in the reserves for a number of years. And during that time, because it was reserve duty, I needed a job, as well. And so I wound up working part time at Park Cities Baptist Church. And as I worked there, my role, my time increased. Went from part time to full time, and then about two years ago, our teaching pastor took First Baptist McKinney, to be the senior pastor there, Sam Holm. And then I stepped in as the teaching pastor, and they have let me continue to do that. So it’s been fun, and I still get to enjoy my time with my singles, as well.
Kymberli Cook
Great. Thanks, babe. [Laughter] I don’t often get to say that here…
Aaron Armstrong
It’s a maiden voyage.
Kymberli Cook
So Kat, how did you end up doing what you’re doing?
Kat Armstrong
I was at Dallas Theological Seminary for a long time. Took eight years to get that two-year degree. And about halfway through, I was doing well in my career doing sales. So I was just getting an opportunity in my work to share my faith often. Not very well, but I was sharing my faith often. And so one of my … the other co-founder of Polished, we were both students at Dallas Seminary, and started praying about how we could reach our peers with the gospel, women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who feel far away from their local church, maybe a little disconnected from God, a little disillusioned in their faith. And so Polished was born over a decade ago. And so I’ve been serving there 11 years as the Executive Director and co-founder.
Kymberli Cook
Fantastic. So, just for myself, because I’m a part of this conversation, as well as the host, I served in a camp through, I guess from the time that I was 16, all the way through college each summer. And I was actually raised in a ministry family. And so in the midst of being at that camp, I realized that I, myself, had a full-time ministry calling, and that’s what brought me to DTS, and where I met Travis, and ended up on staff here. So, but it all started definitely with that calling, and now I’m working on my PhD here at DTS, with the hope of going into more academic ministry and continuing to do what I’m doing.

So, this concept of a double-ministry family, this phenomenon of both a husband and a wife, that both spouses being employed by different ministries, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about people being employed by two different ministries, or at least working full time in those ministries. It’s kind of new, I think, that you haven’t heard a lot about this. Definitely families have been a part of some ministry. One ministry can encompass a whole family, and the husband and the wife working all together. But the idea that one family is going two different places, both for ministry, is a little bit new. Why do you all think that is? Kat, why don’t we start with you?

Kat Armstrong
Oh, I’m in the hot seat. [Laughter] Do y’all get this question a lot? ‘Cause we get this question all the time about, “How are y’all doing that? How is this working?” So that’s … I think that it’s new only because we’re getting questioned about it all … often. Maybe it’s new because there are new policies and big, massive organizations that now allow for it. So you even had something like Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, where you both had to be in that organization. And now we’re seeing softer policies in all sorts of organizations, where you can be on staff, full-time ministry, even raising support, and your spouse not be in the same ministry. Or be called to the business world. And so I do think it’s newer.
Kymberli Cook
Do y’all have any other thoughts as to why it’s new?
Travis Cook
Sure, yeah. I think the church, historically, has maybe viewed hiring a pastor as, I’m not just hiring a pastor, we’re not just hiring a pastor, we’re hiring a family. And there’s that expectation that the wife, or the husband in some cases, come and minister a part as well. And I think more churches … and I’ve been really thankful that Park Cities has been really good about this, as well … they don’t treat us like a single unit. But they … even though biblically we are. But they don’t treat us like we’re one employee. They treat me as an employee and a minister on staff. But they allow Kym to have the freedom to pursue what she wants to pursue. And I think that’s developing and growing in churches and in ministries, as well.
Kymberli Cook
There’s a lot less expectation.
Travis Cook
Um-hmm, yeah.
Kat Armstrong
Yeah, even when Aaron was candidating for his current position as Lead Pastor, I was certainly involved in the interview process. They wanted to get to know me and know more about our family and make sure that we were making the decision together. But ultimately, I remember Aaron being in the interview process, and being really forward and saying, “Kat does this thing outside of church. And we really want her focused on that, because she’s been building towards this.” And I remember that moment, feeling so supported and encouraged, because he said, “And we’ve been married X amount of years, and I’ve just found that when she’s doing this ministry, our family flourishes. And so we want to make sure and support her in that.” And in some ways he was saying, “So that may limit …”
Kymberli Cook
You were setting expectations.
Aaron Armstrong
We’re gonna be clear about what you’re getting here. And to the elders’ credit, that’s exactly what they wanted. They came in and they wanted to know who Kat was, not just … they didn’t come in with a role that was predefined or anything. They came in wanting to know who we were and how God has uniquely wired both of us. And they came alongside and they’re like, “This is great. Tell us about who she is and what’s unique about her and all this stuff.” And they wanted to do that. So I think things have changed. That’s not a mindset that I think existed very long ago. Things have changed. Women have more freedoms to lead and to use their gifts. And it’s not just … they’re not just freedoms, but they’re actually affirmed in the church. And so you’re seeing that a whole lot more. And I think we’re seeing ministry flourish as a result of it.
Kymberli Cook
And not only are we seeing … I agree … a change in demeanor and expectation in that you would be able to say that in an interview process and still be taken seriously.
Aaron Armstrong
Right.
Kymberli Cook
But also, the positions are … the positions and opportunities, I think for women are opening up more and more, as well as women getting more and more theological education, to be able to be in some of those positions, even that some men might be in and some women might be in.
Aaron Armstrong
Women weren’t getting seminary degrees here 30, 40 years ago, however long that was. That wasn’t a possibility. And so now it is, and so, yeah, you’re getting this new dynamic come in.
Kymberli Cook
And naturally, yeah, people meet in seminary, or come in, and then somebody ends up being in a ministry, and all of a sudden you have a double-ministry going on.

So, I did have one question, as I was thinking through this whole … this life and this conversation. What would you all say makes our situation different from either somebody where … a family where the spouse is in full-time ministry, and maybe the other spouse volunteers at another one, full time, in a heavy way? Or, two people who are just working, and you even mentioned being called to the business world, and we here talk about faith and work all the time, and we definitely believe that vocational ministry includes being in the workplace. So what makes what we’re talking about distinct from those conversations, those families? What would you all say?

Aaron Armstrong
Travis, I think she was kicking it to you.
Kymberli Cook
Would you like to say something?
Travis Cook
Again, it probably rests in calling, somewhere, this sort of calling to a vocational ministry of some kind, whether it’s bivocational, vocational, something like that. There’s this sense of, “I’ve gotta do this because the Lord has asked me to do this.” And going that route, and ultimately finding somebody else that wants to go that route with you. And even if you’re not doing ministry together in the same place, it’s almost as encouraging, if not more so, to come home and to relate my day and frustrations that I have in ministry to my spouse, who is in a different ministry context, but is also having the same frustrations, and at the same time, the same wins. And so you’re able to celebrate something together, and you don’t feel like … in some ways you don’t feel like you’re living in two different worlds. You’re living in one world, and it brings about a unity that I think is unique for the couple that’s in ministry together.
Kat Armstrong
100 percent. We agree. Don’t you think? We talk about this all the time that when I come home and say, “I looked at our P&L, our profit and loss statement, and here’s what I found. And what have you done budgeting-wise, now that we have a staff? And how do you get your staff to work through their own budget and turn it in, and that process.” And so there’s those type of things that we come home and share, and there’s other things like, “Wow. I just had incredible spiritual warfare today. You would not believe the technical glitches that we’ve never had in 10 years of doing this ministry, that we had today. And I think it’s because of this important message that was getting out.” So Aaron and I can relate on some of those things.

So I think the double-ministry family has some unique things that maybe don’t get talked about. And I think for those who aren’t familiar with that concept of family and ministry, they may wonder, “How is that working at home? Are they taking from each other? Does it pull them apart?” And for us, it seems to bring us closer together.

Aaron Armstrong
Yeah. That was always the biggest assumption, was like, “Oh, my gosh. Aren’t you competing? Don’t you feel like there’s competition going on?” I’m like, “No, it’s addition.” The whole thing is addition all the way around. You come home and there’s a commonality. We’re uniquely wired, we’re wired in a very similar way. And so … And we have jobs that are very similar, right? So what’s different is that a lot of ministry jobs, you’ve got one leader and one follower most of the time. And in these scenarios you’ve got two people leading in ways that are very similar to each other.

So yeah, there’s that commonality at home. We both know what it’s like to prepare a message, to deal with people that are grieving, to deal with strategic decisions for an entire ministry, to deal with balancing a budget, and having to raise funds throughout a course of a year that employees are dependent upon, that ministries are dependent upon, and all the pressures that that may bring. And so we come home and there’s this … I’m not speaking to somebody who has no clue what we’re talking about. You talk to that person. You’re like, “What do you do again?” And you’re like, “I have no idea what that job is.” And you’re like, “I could contribute nothing to your life, pretty much.” But that’s just not the case in this kind of a deal.

And so people think it’s competition. I’m going, “No. It’s multiplication. It’s addition here.” And so, yeah. I think that’s one of the differences.

Kymberli Cook
As I was thinking through it I also thought, I think there … and you brought in a little bit of it with spiritual warfare … I think there are spiritual dimensions that make it unique, like the guilt that you can feel, the expectation, the spiritual expectation that is put on you. Again, there’s a variety of other things that we’ll talk about that just are a part of this life but I think that make it very distinct from some other people who might just have two spouses working in other business ventures. I think that there’s something about the spiritual pressures that both of you are facing that come with, especially being leaders that people are looking to you and you’re having to manage all of that and consider your own spirituality and the spirituality of your spouse in the midst of all that, that make it just a unique beast. Now would you guys agree?
Aaron Armstrong
Absolutely. I think that’s a huge one. And I’ll say that’s been one of the biggest blessings of this thing is because the pulpit ministry and high-level senior leadership where you’re in front of people, you’re delivering talks and everybody sees a figurehead up there communicating and stuff like that, which both of us do to different … in different ways, that lends itself either to extreme pride and arrogance, or depression and despair all the time. ‘Cause a lot of times … it’s so easy to fall into one extreme or the other, the incredible praise of people, or their extreme criticism. And so to have someone who comes and knows that tension, walks in that tension, and can discern with you what’s going on when you can’t … they’re saying, “Hey, babe. You’re getting a little full of yourself. You’re getting a little self-sufficient here. Let’s come down.” And, “Okay. You need to be lifted up. This is really tough, and this is hard.” To have that person who knows what you’ve been through is absolutely everything.
Kymberli Cook
And not even knows how it’s impacting you, just because she knows you as a husband, but she knows because she’s been there, and she’s felt that. And there’s a level of empathy there that might not be in some other types of relationships.

So inherent in this conversation, when you get to logistics and how you make it all happen, is … one is obviously busyness and just a conversation on that and whether it’s healthy or not. But two is, where I’d like to go, is about just roles, and roles in your family, and roles in how you make your home work. And I think we’ve talked about it here before, but that every couple has to figure this out, whether or not they’re somebody who’s staying at home with the kids and working, whether two people are working in the business world, everybody has to figure it out. But again, particularly, at least maybe here in Dallas, there are assumptions, I think, that come about for what certain roles should be. And how do you all negotiate and navigate that space, and how do you all figure out, particularly, how to figure out how to just keep your home running? And how do you all decide which of you does what?

Kat Armstrong
Yeah. I want to know what y’all do. [Laughter] What do you all do?
Travis Cook
Good diversion.
Kymberli Cook
What do we do?
Travis Cook
What do we do? So I think, one, there has to be a mindset of humility. ‘Cause if I view what I do, my ministry, “Well, I’m in the church. She works at a parachurch organization. So I’m in the church. That’s God’s plan for the world, like it’s much more significant.” If I come at it with that attitude…
Kymberli Cook
And it won’t work, Travis.
Travis Cook
Right. No.
Kat Armstrong
Ain’t gonna work, Travis.
Travis Cook
No. Plus, she’s smarter than me, so she can just run end-arounds on me all day long. She’s getting a doctorate, right? So you have to come in with this attitude of humility and saying, “She or I, we have to do everything we can to make the home work. And whatever pieces I can pick up, I’m gonna do it.” That also means … humility’s not just constantly making yourself less than, but it’s being honest and open and vulnerable like, “Hey. I really … Hey, one of our kids is sick this week, or today. They can’t go to school, they can’t go to day care. What … Can you stay home?” “I can stay home in the morning. Can you take the afternoon?” And it’s just communication. If you’re not good at communicating, you’re not gonna thrive in that situation. Conflict resolution is really important. And just constantly deferring and saying, “Hey, if I need to, I can stay home. But I’d really rather not if you can meet me halfway,” or something like that. And typically that works well, especially with kids. And again, it’s just tired. You sleep less.
Kymberli Cook
Well, and from the get-go we’ve … we haven’t had necessarily a traditional setup with the roles that we have, even in just keeping the home. So he’s way cleaner of a person than I am, so my threshold for cleanliness is a lot lower. So, …
Kat Armstrong
You’re like, it’s fine. There’s nothing…
Kymberli Cook
Yeah. I’m like, “It’s fine.” He’s like, “This is disgusting and it’s gonna be cleaned now.”
Travis Cook
It’s been increased since we’ve been married.
Kat Armstrong
Whatever, Travis.
Travis Cook
We’ve moved it up some.
Kymberli Cook
So we learned very early on for marital bliss that he does all the cleaning, and he does all the laundry and he does that kind of thing. So in that, we don’t even really fit the traditional mode. We never did, even before I was pursuing a PhD, and all of that kind of thing. So, I don’t know about you guys.
Aaron Armstrong
Well, I think that’s right. If you’re not gonna have a traditional marriage, you can’t have traditional roles. And you can’t be glued to those traditional things. And so we haven’t … I’ve always joked and said, “We try to think missionally rather than traditionally.” And so you’re like … to your point, humility is everything. And so I think that’s a thing that we’ve had to … you have to take into it. You have to take this mindset of, hey, I’m gonna serve the other person. And that’s gonna look differently through all the transitions of life that come our way. We were in seminary for almost eight years. And during that time there was the first couple years when I was working full time and she was going to school full time. And I wasn’t in class and she was and stuff. And then that changed, and she starts working and now I’m in school. And then that paycheck comes down a little bit and I start working. And it’s just, each semester and each day it’s what needs to be done in order to serve our family right now, and to serve each other.

And so, yeah, that’s exactly right. We don’t have these traditional roles embedded. And so Caleb gets sick, and it’s kind of a, “Hey what’s going on in your calendar today? What do … I’ve got flexibility, you’ve got flexibility. Where is that? Let’s work together to make this thing happen.” So yeah, I’m not stuck on, “Hey, you’ve gotta take out the trash,” no matter the fact that you had a horrific week or whatever it may be. It’s just what needs to be done to serve our family. And so we’re not sitting there going, keeping a tally chart on, “Hey, did you do everything you were supposed to do?”

I remember we went to one of those conferences early on in our marriage…

Kat Armstrong
Don’t name the conference. It remains nameless.
Aaron Armstrong
This is like the fifth time we went to that same marriage conference, but they were just saying, “You don’t look at this as a 50/50 relationship, where it’s like each of you are 50 percent in, and each of you do your part. you’re okay.” And you’re like, “No, no, no. This is an all-in.” You think of, “Hey, I’m gonna serve her with 100 percent of what I’ve got.” And you get two people saying, “Hey, I’m all in. Everything of me is for you, and for your flourishing.” That’s a relationship that thrives pretty well. And so, yeah, we’re not glued to these hard-core roles, and we recognize our roles have changed over … in different seasons. Sometimes I’ve taken the finances, sometimes she takes the finances. You know what I mean? Our roles change.
Travis Cook
And if I’m not … If I approach my home life with the attitude of humility and service, then I can go back into my ministry with an authenticity and a strength that I derive from playing the role of Christ in my marriage and in my family, that I can then take and serve … if I can’t serve my wife, whom I love, and if I can’t serve my kids whom I love, then the difficult people that I work with in my ministry, the hard people, the hard situations, I’m gonna have … those attitudes are gonna translate, one way or the other, for better or for worse, for good or for bad.

And so it’s almost like a training ground. I can tell how effective I am at ministry by the way I’m acting at home. And if my home attitude is different, then I know that on Sunday morning or Monday through Thursday or whatever it is my work week is, that I’m faking it if I’m not measuring up at home in that regard. So it’s a good thermometer or barometer to let me know how I’m doing.

Kymberli Cook
So bringing up the days that you just did is a nice intro into the idea that ministries aren’t really nine to five on the work week, [Laughter] and once again, a unique element of this particular life. So how do you all just manage the logistics? How do you … the getting the kids where they need to go, carving out time for study, doing meetings, all of that, again, I think we talked about it a little bit, but how do you all handle the straight up logistics? Because it can be crazy when you have … These ministries tend to pull at you, and … I don’t know … I grew up in a ministry family, as I said earlier. And I guess I learned early on that they will take as much from you as you will give to them. And they will just continue to take and take. They’re just kind of black holes. And so, you do y’all manage that?
Kat Armstrong
I think we’re both really good with boundaries. I think that’s a nonnegotiable when you’re in ministry, whether you’re married, single, no matter position, like you just described, you have to be good at boundaries. If not, it’ll eat your lunch. So I think the logistics are a really well color-coded Google calendar. Shared calendars, right?

And then you now can set up reminders that it will email you or text you straight from the calendar. You can set those things. So I think where … I’m really regimented. He knows …

Aaron Armstrong
I feel like that thing saved or marriage early on.
Kat Armstrong
It did save our marriage.
Aaron Armstrong
When Google came out with that thing in 2004, something like that, it changed everything.
Kat Armstrong
It did. That and DVRs.
Travis Cook
Google saved my marriage.
Aaron Armstrong
DVRs also.
Travis Cook
That’s the next sermon series right there: “Google Saved My Marriage.”
Kat Armstrong
I think that’s one logistical thing. We’ve got a lot of help. My mom lives with us, and so that’s always important to mention, because I think sometimes you can look at a double-ministry family, and if they’re getting help, somehow, we may not talk about it, but it’s a key point in the way that we’re able to pick Caleb up from school, and make sure someone’s with him.

Then, I would say, the other logistic would be those good boundaries are … both of us are good at resting, individually, and knowing what brings rest. So for me, reading and being alone brings rest. And for him, getting to watch a football game is rest.

Aaron Armstrong
If they win.
Kat Armstrong
If they …
Travis Cook
Depending on the outcome.
Kymberli Cook
If not, not so good.
Kat Armstrong
Knowing what really energizes you and keeps you from getting depleted, and then being able to talk about it. So some of the principles we’re talking about are …
Kymberli Cook
Just general, yeah.
Kat Armstrong
They’re just general for everybody. But I will say that they can make or break a double-ministry home.
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah. I was gonna say priorities. You always talk about that a lot, too. And that was a thing early on. We know here are the things we … that are gonna be … the rhythms of our week that are definitely gonna be in place. Date night has always been a thing from day one. We’ve been married almost 18 years now, and … we made it. 18 years. That’s pretty awesome. But that’s been a staple, from the very beginning, even when it was just, “Hey. We can afford the little happy hour.” Remember that? The $5 burrito that was ladies’ night on Tuesdays. Happy hour for lemonade. So it was like … but we were off in school, it was $5 burritos, we split it. We got … it was half off that day.

But that was a thing, remember that? That was in those college days. And so. But that’s been a staple. And so each week we’re like, “Okay. This is a priority. Waking up at a healthy time is a priority. Getting exercise is a priority. Rest and the weekends, these are priorities. Here are the ministry asks that come in during the week, and where they fill in. And then yeah, and knowing what to say no to. I don’t think either of us …

Kat Armstrong
So we haven’t done organized sports yet for Caleb. We’re late on that. And part of that is, we’ve got a lot of night time commitments, between the elder meeting, and then Wednesday night church, and then sometimes I travel, often. Almost every week I travel. And so sometimes you say no to things. I’m not saying he won’t ever get to do them. It’s just this particular year. He’ll be fine. He’s not gonna get a full ride at a college. So, it’s okay.
Aaron Armstrong
Probably not.
Kymberli Cook
So you brought up priorities. What do you all do … and I’ll let you answer this on … what do you all do when one ministry seems like it needs to take precedence over the other? How do we handle that?
Travis Cook
The short answer is, it does. And really, if I believe in what my wife does … like I do … I believe in her getting a PhD. I believe in what the Hendricks Center does. I went to DTS. I believe in what she does. It’s not like I sit here and I’m like, “Well, it’s kinda ridiculous, but fine, I’ll let it go.” No. I believe in them. And so it’s not her ministry, it’s our ministry. And she hard-core believes in the church. Park Cities has been good to us. And she loves the church, both the local church, and then our specific church where we’re at. And so it’s really easy for her to say, “No. If you need to go do that, go do that.” And then, within the context of that, you don’t abuse it. You don’t say, “Well, again, the church needs me. They need me again. They need me again.” The boundaries is so key. But being able to say no, and that’s a magic word that people need to learn. It’s very short, but it’s very amazing, saying no. But then yeah, just really believing in what the other person does. And if you don’t have that, have a conversation with your spouse and, “Help me understand. I don’t have to have a passion for what you’re doing, but help me understand why you’re passionate about it so I can at least get on board with what you’re doing.”
Kymberli Cook
And see how it’s building the kingdom.
Travis Cook
Yeah, exactly.
Kymberli Cook
Again, not viewing them as competing ministries. It’s all kingdom work. So how are we, as a family, building the kingdom? Right now we’re doing it in two separate ministries. But we’re all just trying to build the kingdom of Christ. How do y’all do it?
Aaron Armstrong
No, I think that’s huge. I think that the … Kat labeled us Team Armstrong very early on because that’s how we think about things. And that’s … I think you hit the nail on the head right there. It’s not your ministry and my ministry, this is our ministry. Our family is our ministry. And the ministries underneath that subset that God’s given to us, those are our ministry. Polished is mine. The church is hers. She is mine. I’m called to care for her, and to love her in such a way that sees her flourish and do everything that God’s called her to do. That is my primary role and calling as a husband.

And so you take those things seriously, and it breaks down the, hey, this one’s more important than that. And you … there’s not a grid. There’s a … we keep open hands and we see what’s coming up in each season and what needs to take priority. If you need to travel, okay, great. I’ll take care of Caleb. I may need to take off a little bit early from work to go pick him up, and we’re gonna have a lot of daddy/son nights and stuff, and that’ll be fun. That means we’ll go do go carts, and we’ll go play war in the backyard, stuff like that. But that’s just what comes up, and she knows there’s times when I’m preaching and I’m stuck on a message or something, and I’m like, “Babe, this is … sorry. It’s one of these longer weeks. I’m not getting it. I need more time here.” And she’s like, “Great. I’ll take him. I’ll take him. We’re gonna go spend time together.” And we make sure that time with him is very intentional. So it’s not wasted time.

Kat Armstrong
Yeah. I think we’re constantly asking each other, “What do you need? What do you need this week?” And usually there’s a lot of clarity in just that, whatever the answer is. If the answer is, “Oh, I’ve got to travel,” usually Aaron’s first to say, “Okay. Hey. I’ll do this, that, and the other,” ’cause he knows what it’s like when I travel, and the demanding, grueling schedule. And vice versa. You just explained a great example of, “Hey, this sermon is not coming together.” And in my mind I’m like, “Oh, I know what you need. You need Saturday morning from nine to noon. And then you’ll knock it out, and we can have the rest of the day for family.”
Kymberli Cook
So, you brought up kiddos. And maybe this is just an extra sensitive point for me because I grew up in the ministry, in a ministry home. But how do you all … and Travis, you can explain what we do and I’ll chime in. But how do you all explain that church isn’t just where Mom or Dad works? It is the body of Christ, all the things that church is supposed to be. How do you … Obviously it’s more than that in your family. And so you have to explain that, and you have to explain calling, and explain all these things I feel very early. How do you all handle that with Caleb?
Kat Armstrong
Me?
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah.
Kat Armstrong
Oh. How do I handle that? We talk about Jesus at the dinner table a lot. So that’s usually our key. When he’s shoveling the food, it’s the opportune time that he’s listening. Yeah, we talk about what does it mean when Daddy puts together a sermon, and how he serves the local church body, and how we all are supposed to serve. We do have the benefit of my mom being at that table as well, every night for dinner, and me being able to say what Ita … we call her Ita, which is short for Abelita … Ita works at the food pantry, and she helps with ESL students, and she does all sorts of things in the community, and she’s also serving our church. So in some ways, we get to talk about how all of us do different things to serve Dallas Bible Church, and the bigger church, but we all work together. And then usually he’s real quick to chime in and say, “You know what? We love this church that’s north of us, and this church that’s south of us, and we’ll name them by name, where some of our neighbors go to church and say, ‘We’re all on the same team, all working towards this global vision that Jesus has for us.'”
Aaron Armstrong
You did a … I thought you were gonna go a different direction with that. But very early on you always … you did a good job of teaching him a lot, like God’s given us this mandate, you told him, and stuff, that we love God and we love people really, really well. And you explained that to him, and we do that at the church. This is the place we serve the church, and this is the place we go to worship.
Kat Armstrong
Yeah. We talk about what does our family do? And I said, “Our family does two things. We love God, and we love others. And we get to do both of those things here.” So it was asking the question, “What do we do? What does our family do, Team Armstrong do?” And he would say, “Love God and love others.” And like that’s what we do.
Kymberli Cook
That’s great.
Travis Cook
Awesome. Yeah. So I think one of the things I’ve tried to do, we’ve tried to do, is when there’s an opportunity where I can take Haddie with us … and she’s our three-year-old … I do. So if we’re having a service project or something like that, it might be … and again, I’m usually working with single adults, so usually it’s me, and I’m the only one with a kid showing up, rolling up to a service project.

But it really helps. And a lot of our single adults … to your point about having help … a lot of our single adults help us with our kids, and it’s a huge blessing. You gotta have that help, ’cause neither one of us have family in town. But teaching them like, “We’re serving. And the reason why we’re taking a Saturday morning or we’re taking a Saturday afternoon, or whatever it is that we’re doing, the reason why we’re doing this is because we love Christ, we believe in serving other people, we believe that he served, and so we serve.” And again, taking those opportunities to … almost every opportunity you can is a take your child to work day, but it’s take your child to church or church functions day. So that’s one of the ways that I’ve tried to at least be really intentional.

Kymberli Cook
And there’s been times that Haddie, where she’ll be really sad that Travis has to go to work, that he’ll … if it’s a Saturday or something.
Kat Armstrong
Dad guilt.
Kymberli Cook
But it’s been really cool to have the opportunity to say, “Well, you know, honey, God has given Daddy an amazing gift, to be able to love people who are hurting, and who are scared, and who are unsure about things,” and walking through if she saw somebody that was really sad that week, and saying, “Somebody like that. God has given Daddy a gift to be able to talk to those people about Jesus, and help them talk through those kinds of things. And so it’s our job, as part of what God has given Daddy, it’s our job to let him go. And that’s how we help that person, too. We help that person ourselves by letting him go.” And that, I think for her, has been … she’s very empathetic. But that was like, “Oh, okay. Well then, that’s fine. I understand,” somewhat. As much as a three-year-old can stay focused on something.
Kat Armstrong
I think the conflict for us came with family and work and ministry is Caleb doesn’t like sharing us when we’re there at the church. So what’s hard is that he wants our attention. As an only child, he’s used to that. But when we go on church campus, it’s difficult. So he loves Legos. So I can use Legos for any example or illustration. So I’m like, “Buddy, if you were to bring Legos up to church, you know you have to share it with everybody. You can’t just bring your toys up there and think you’re the only one that’s gonna get to play with it. You know everyone’s gonna want to. And so you have to decide. And if we go in that church I’m like a Lego. You’re gonna have to share us when we’re there.” And I think that’s really helped him.
Travis Cook
That really resonated with me. I like Legos, too. So that was meaningful.
Aaron Armstrong
Legos preach, man.
Travis Cook
They do.
Aaron Armstrong
They preach, I’m telling you. I think … We were always paranoid when Caleb was being born. We were paranoid. We were like, “Great.” The PK think, preacher’s kid thing. That’s legit. Now you got two preachers in your home? You’re like, all right, that’s double legit. That’s terrifying, right? You’re like, we’re gonna mess this kid up.
Travis Cook
Or we’ll cancel each other out. You never know.
Kat Armstrong
You never know.
Aaron Armstrong
Maybe. We’re like, “Okay. Let that be the case. Maybe we cancel each other out.” But I think he’s made us be that much more vigilant on the front end, too, to pay attention to what his experience is like at the church. And so I always try to tell him my story, why am I up there. I’ve told him a lot, my story, how I came to the Lord. He came to faith at the end of July. And so we’ve had some …
Travis Cook
That’s awesome.
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah. That’s a whole ‘nother story. But been some fun conversations from there. From there you get to explain, “Hey, this is why I love what I do. Mommy gets to go, and she’s preaching the gospel and people are coming to faith, and they’re experiencing the same joy that you just experienced at the end of July. And this is what we get to do. And we get to go serve the Lord like this. And we love that … this is why we love it.” And so to see, hopefully, my hope … there’s a lot more years of … we could go sideways there. But the hope is that he’s gonna see something real, that’s real at home, and to your point earlier, it carries over to the church. It’s not this segmented thing.
Travis Cook
My primary job in my life right now is to disciple my children. And in so doing I learn how to disciple my flock, I learn how to disciple and shepherd people. If I can shepherd a three-year-old and a four-month-old, that I can shepherd other people, too. And so I really feel like I almost learn more being at home, and if I’m open to that. And I feel like the Lord teaches me a lot through that. So, yeah.
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah.
Kymberli Cook
Yeah. We … Do you all … and the answer could be no, and that’s fine … ever worry that your kids will be bitter toward the ministry?
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah.
Kat Armstrong
I worry about everything.
Aaron Armstrong
Constantly.
Kat Armstrong
Anything that there is to worry about, I’m worried about it.
Travis Cook
That’s good to know. Good to know.
Kat Armstrong
So I know where the exits are here today. No … Yeah, of course.
Aaron Armstrong
Yeah.
Kymberli Cook
Yeah.
Aaron Armstrong
Not in this crippling, “Oh, my …” like we sit cowering in our home or anything like that. But it’s definitely a thing that’s in the back of our mind always. Yeah. I want him to love the Lord. Byproduct of that, I hope he loves his church, his bride, and he serves it. I pray that over him all the time. I’m like, “Buddy, God’s given you a voice. He’s given you a voice. He’s given you this beautiful personality that’s … that’s just incredible. And I pray that God uses you in tremendous ways, and that you stay close to him and serve him all the days of your life.” That’s this constant prayer there. And so, yeah. But yeah, it’s always on the back of the mind.
Travis Cook
Yeah. You can’t control everything. You could be the best parent in the world and have children that rebel, and children that resent the ministry. And I think that’s just where you do have to turn it over to the Lord. You have to, in faith, and kinda go in … every parent, I think, makes mistakes, and kids carry around baggage. You can have the best parents in the world, and your kid carries around baggage from the parenting experience. So, I think, to your point, yeah, you’ve got to be in prayer. You’ve got to be seeking the Lord and praying that the Lord would … He’s the best father. So praying that the blood of Christ would cover over my mistakes in the life of my children, and that I might build them up in the Lord, and not ruin anything, and just really trust in the Lord, and that I’m not letting a spirit of fear take hold, that you might be too cautious, and might not induce in them a love of the church, and a love of Christ.

So, yeah, just pursuing what God has for you, and in so doing, trusting that the Lord will take care of those with you as well.

Kat Armstrong
Don’t you think your girls are gonna have early memories of you both reading books, or you … studying at home? And that’s gonna … I think that’s gonna be so good for them.
Kymberli Cook
Oh, I hope so. That’s part of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Kat Armstrong
Absolutely. They’re gonna have these early memories of what Mommy was doing. She was studying the Bible all the time, studying. And it was worthwhile. And Daddy gave her all the space to do it. And I think that that’s gonna go really far with your girls.
Kymberli Cook
Um-hmm. No, I agree. I agree wholeheartedly. I just … It was something that I was all … my mom would always talk about it when I was growing up. And she would say, “We just pray that you all don’t come to resent the ministry. We pray that you don’t do this.” And it was something that I never really experienced until we have entered this season, and thinking, “Oh, man,” ’cause you are having to explain where people are going, and why the crazy. To explain the crazy to children who are in the midst of the crazy. And so … I don’t know … it’s just … I think that it’s a very felt need in the hearts of ministry families, probably any ministry family, not just a double one, that I guess I just felt needed to be called out, and voiced.
Aaron Armstrong
I think that’s where the boundaries thing comes in, too, right? I think … hopefully he knows and hopefully this stays consistent throughout his youth, is that he sees that I’m not willing to sacrifice my relationship with him for the relationship of … he is the biggest priority. He and his mom are the biggest priority in my life. So hopefully he’s never gonna feel that massive, massive sacrifice. He’s gonna see service to the church, but he’s not gonna see, hey, I’ve abandoned him. I didn’t think about him. The thing that I appreciate …

One of the things that I appreciate most about Dad is he came home and he scheduled his business things at night around our baseball games, around our sports. He was present. He was there. He did not take promotions that would make him travel and leave all this time so that he could be home with the family. I’m like, “You proved it. You proved your love.” That was never any question with him. And so, hopefully he’s able to see that over his years.

Kat Armstrong
Yeah. And in a similar way with my dad, he was a Christian school administrator most of the time I was growing up. And I knew that it did not matter what was happening. We had a family policy that if we needed to talk to Dad, he would walk out of a board meeting, he would walk out of a presentation, he would walk out of anything, and he was there in an instant.
Kymberli Cook
We have that policy at church, that we actually had to tell some of the workers that work with the kiddos, anytime you need to get to me on Sunday morning, come and interrupt. If I’m in the middle of teaching a Sunday School class, just come and interrupt me. But I do think it’s counter-intuitive to folks, but it’s so important.
Travis Cook
And cultivating that in your children to letting them know it’s okay for you to come to me and say, “Daddy, I feel like you’re working too much,” or, “Mommy, I feel like you need to slow down.” As they get older … maybe right now our kids are maybe a little young for that … one can’t talk yet, but giving them the opportunity, the permission to say, “Hey, you’ve worked a lot this week.” And Kym has that right in my life to say that. And so I feel comfortable, again, depending on who your kid is, and knowing your child, but extending that permission to them, as well, to weigh in on your work schedule and say, “Dad, could we talk about how much you’re gone?” or, “Mom, could we talk about how much you’re gone?”
Kymberli Cook
So what I’m hearing, in conclusion, for families who are in double ministries specifically, is that communication is absolutely key, just for logistics and for managing everything. If you are not strong at communication, you’re probably gonna struggle. And the other thing …
Travis Cook
Definitely gonna struggle. [Laughter] Definitely. I’ll go harder than that.
Kymberli Cook
And the humility. Being willing to flex, and nobody’s ministry is more important than the other person’s, and nobody is really more important than your children and your family, and recognizing your own limitations and your boundaries. And then maybe just not letting yourself be spirituality guilted. As I was thinking through this … and this can be our last question … is I thought of this, and I would love to hear what you guys think of it. So, as far as spiritual guilt and not being sure if you’re doing the right thing, and did I choose my kids? Should I have chosen the ministry? That person accepted the Lord with somebody else. That really hurts that I … that kind of thing. I thought, I think it would be a matter of letting the Holy Spirit, and obviously other believers, inform my decisions. But maybe … and this is what I’d love your opinions on … maybe not those directly in your ministry, because they’re wanting something from you. I don’t know. What do you guys think about that? We really only have time for one. So Aaron, it’s you.
Aaron Armstrong
Who to listen to?
Kymberli Cook
Yeah. What do you think?
Aaron Armstrong
That’s a tough one. I don’t know who to …
Kymberli Cook
How do you handle spiritual guilt? Let’s say that. Let’s go that way. And maybe you don’t have it.
Aaron Armstrong
I don’t deal with it a whole ton. I don’t have a savior complex where I think that I have to be there for everyone to be okay. I’ve got great staff. There’s no junior Holy Spirit. We all have him. And I think that there’s … we’ve got a healthy … there’s health all throughout the church, and different leaders around there. And people pick up. And so I celebrate when kids pray with the volunteer in the class and don’t pray with me. It’s the same end goal there. And so, I think that some of it is just letting go and saying, God’s worked so long before I ever showed up on the scene. He’s probably gonna keep going when I’m gone. He was great at DBC, at Dallas Bible long before I got there. He’ll continue if I’m gone. And so it’s, you know what? He doesn’t need me. I get to come along for the ride in this and get to be used in it. And so I’m grateful for every little part. I’m gonna work hard in it and do the best that we possibly can. And then love my family, and let the chips fall where they may. So I don’t deal with a whole lot of guilt. People try it, and it’s like, “Okay. Thanks for that input.” You’re like, it is what it is.
Kymberli Cook
Thank you guys so much for being here, Aaron and Kat and my love. We really appreciate it.
Travis Cook
I had to. [Laughter]
Kymberli Cook
And thank you for joining us today on The Table. If you have a topic you’d like for us to consider for a future episode, please email us at thetable@dts.edu, and be sure to join us next time as we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Aaron Armstrong
Aaron currently serves as Lead Pastor of Dallas Bible Church where he is their chief visionary, preacher, and leader. Originally from Spring, Texas, he is the proud husband of Kat Armstrong and father to the cutest child ever born, Caleb. He received his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. At age 16, God rescued him from a life spent “doing religion” by introducing him to the beauty of His grace and the love He has for ALL people. Since that time, God has branded a passion on Aaron’s life to build the local church by boldly proclaiming the faithfulness of God to anyone who will listen. Aaron joined the Dallas Bible Church staff in June 2015.
Kat L. Armstrong
Kat Armstrong has been teaching the Bible to women of all ages for over 15 years influencing women at the crossroads of faith, family, business and culture through speaking, writing and leading in for-profit and non-profit organizations. Kat’s powerful and insightful exegesis of the scriptures combined with her relatable vulnerability and have you in stitches humor leave her audience with theologically sound messages that help them relate the scriptures to their own personal and professional lives. Along with her involvement in the local church, Kat’s professional experience extends to her role as a serial entrepreneur working for small businesses that have made it big including Artistry Labs and University Laundry, and innovating through Arbonne and Baby Bow Tie. Kat’s professional endeavors and involvement with the church led her to her current role as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Polished, an outreach ministry that gathers young professional women to navigate career and explore faith together. Since Polished's founding in 2008, Polished has reached over 10,000+ young professional women with the gospel in Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and North Dallas through monthly luncheons and the Polished Podcast. Kat graduated with her undergraduate degree in business from Texas A&M before obtaining a masters in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2011. Today, Kat and her husband, Aaron reside in Dallas, TX with their four-year old son Caleb and attend Dallas Bible church where Aaron serves as the lead pastor.
Kymberli Cook
Kymberli Cook is a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and serves as the Senior Administrator at the Hendricks Center, overseeing Cultural Engagement events and efforts, pastoral relationships, and creative design. She holds a Master of Theology from DTS and resides in Dallas with her husband and daughter.
Travis Cook
Travis Cook is the Associate Pastor of Teaching and Single Adults at Park Cities Baptist Church. He moved from Marietta, GA in 2007 to pursue his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating in 2011. He served in the US Army Reserves Chaplain Corps for 8 years, resigning in 2015 to concentrate on full-time church-based ministry at PCBC. Travis is passionate about teaching, helping people make new connections to God’s Word and its application to their lives. He is married to Kymberli Cook, has two daughters, and loves reading, baseball, history, and making terrible puns.
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