10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife

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This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime.

I also love sharing some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Please know these are intended to help – not hurt or discourage. I believe in you.

Here are 7 random pieces of advice I give young leaders.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes

It helps you remember to write it down, but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people this is what you are doing.

Respect your elders

The fact is you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will help ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet

This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it

You may never use a resume again in today’s work world. It’s all about knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone. But, the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared. (Also keep your LinkedIn account up-to-date. Future employers will look.)

Never burn a bridge

You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leave well always. Always honor your past.

Be an encourager

Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection made

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. Always value networking. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness

Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience challenges them. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions.

Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children

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I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality which only came to me when my boys were nearly grown I had observed it for years — we practiced it — but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting. 

Here’s the observation.

Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.

My theory.

Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.

I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.

I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And, I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.

But, here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.” 

The fact is you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than them. You may not feel you are – the little ones can be intimidating– but you are. And, I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all. 

But, I do think it’s important – even Biblical – to train a child in the way they should go. And, the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not okay to throw a temper tantrum. You can.  And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions – ultimately their heart – towards thing you know, because of your life experience – are best for them.

That’s what parents do. We raise children – children who will one day be adults.

Here’s the deal and why this matters so much and actually how this whole concept even developed.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority. And, if we have this parenting thing backwards what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. 

How does that work for a teenager? It doesn’t.

They have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around. The biggest problem with trying to control children into their teenage years is they can completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Many parents release early then try to control later. It doesn’t work. They hang out with the wrong kids. They wear the wrong clothes. They aren’t making wise decisions. The older they get the harder it is to control. At some point your parenting moves from more control to more influence. The key is to control early, things which need controlling – things like heart and character issues – then be able to release gradually as they get older and as they mature.

If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. That’s most important. But know you don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young. You do it by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if a trust relationship has been developed. 

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you can still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

For more parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

10 Great Prayers for Every Marriage

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Dear Lord, grow our love for You daily.

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally.

Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way.

Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design.

Dear Lord, rid our hearts from grudges or bitterness towards one another, teaching us to forgive readily and extend grace continually.

Dear Lord, let us encourage each other to achieve the dreams you give us individually and jointly.

Dear Lord, keep us humble, placing each other’s needs ahead of our own.

Dear Lord, guard our hearts from selfishness and self-centered desires.

Dear Lord, protect our marriage from the destruction of outside influences.

Dear Lord, make our commitment deeper than our emotions, stronger than the seasons of change and the trials which will come our way.

3 Easy Parenting Principles We Used and Saw Amazing Results

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I am frequently asked what we did or didn’t do as parents. I am amazed God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have. In their mid-twenties they are far better men than I was at their age. They love Jesus. They work hard and provide for themselves. They love others well. What a blessing!

It’s all grace.

But, there were a few principles we practiced consistently.

Here are 3 easy parenting principles all parents should consider:

Be intentional

Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children – they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there. 

If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about the role. You must have an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through – intentionally – ways to develop them. 

At the beginning of each new year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.  

Shape the heart

The Bible is clear we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape the heart of their child. It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.

I learned great lessons from older friends and things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn’t mean giving them everything. Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules, when our homes lack grace, or we give them everything but never helping them develop discipline and structure for their life. 

We taught our boys biblical principles. We shared with them our own struggles. We built deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop. We ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball. 

Enjoy the ride

Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. Be a fun parent – balancing love with discipline. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and theirs and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.

Let their friends know yours is a welcoming home – where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return. Children can’t handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn’t hide problems from our boys but we did help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and enjoy being a child. 

We played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes. We loved seeing our boys enjoy life and grace in our home. 

For my complete parenting philosophy see THIS POST or read other parenting posts HERE.

Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?

(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them by clicking HERE.)

7 Suggestions after You Learn of an Affair in Your Marriage

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I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week. It’s a word we are afraid of, one which can destroy, and certainly a word which breaks many hearts — and sadly — many marriages never recover when it occurs.

Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they try to deny it. Yet, the impact on the marriage is certain every time.

The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought this word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together by the grace of God — actually strengthened following an affair — I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, I want to share some tips from my observations.

Here are 7 suggestions after you lean of an affair in your marriage:

Expect numbness

For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. Don’t be surprised. There will be a range of emotions to come in the days ahead, but right now you may not know what to feel. This is perfectly normal. Your emotions have been shattered. Trust has been violated. There is a huge hole in your heart. Don’t make major decisions during these initial days. They will be purely emotionally based and you may regret them later.

Get counseling soon

I didn’t say immediately. In my experience, when couples call the day or two after they learn of an affair the counseling starts off in an unhealthy way and is difficult to find successful traction long-term. There are too many emotions in the way. But, you will need someone to walk through this with you. This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. Saving the marriage will take two committed people, but counseling can help you either way. Certainly, if you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.

Decide where you want to go with the marriage

This is again, not a decision to make in the first few days, but eventually you’ll have to make some hard decisions. Do you want to make it work or not? You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do. This may take a season — and counseling — to discern. Please understand, I know the Biblical commands for marriage — and I believe them. I think the best thing to do is to work to save the marriage. I also believe every marriage can be saved and work if two people are willing to make it work, but without your personal commitment to doing so, it is unlikely you will be successful in saving the marriage — or, at least, in making it strong again. Think about the vows you made to each other. Obviously, they have been broken. But, are you willing, at least in your part, to making them work again?

Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan

Working with a counselor and together you must work on practical steps to grow the marriage again back to complete trust. This will be a difficult, long process — the biggest concern I hear from the offending spouse is how long it does take — but the results are worth it.

Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you

Yes, I just said that. And, yes, that is a hard word. It will be a work of grace. Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a difficult process. Sometimes God grants you this ability quickly and sometimes it takes time. Trust is always rebuilt over time. But you can not have a successful marriage where one spouse is holding a grudge against the other. Forgiveness is a necessary step to restore the marriage.

Build safeguards into your life

For long-term success in marriage, to rebuild trust and to help ensure this doesn’t happen again you need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. Try to find things such as what went wrong? Where were the holes in the marriage? How did it get to this point? A counselor can help sort through these, but it will be up to you to implement safeguards against them moving forward. In our marriage we have certain “ground rules” and practices which we believe help protect our marriage. You may need similar processes.

Invest in other marriages

Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way. Helping others will actually serve to further strengthen your own marriage.

This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage. I’m praying for those who read this and are directly impacted by an affair. I’m praying for your marriage to be saved. God bless you.

Anything you would add to my list?

Top 5 Obstacles to Having a Great Christian Marriage

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I love marriage. I love the idea of marriage and the process of marriage.

But, marriage isn’t easy. It’s actually hard to have a good marriage.

One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

One flesh.

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages.

In my work with marriages, I’ve identified 5 of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes simply understanding what obstacles exist and knowing they are common to most marriages — you are not alone — can help us learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger “one flesh”.

The 5 major obstacles I have seen are:

Lack of Biblical knowledge about marriage

There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver’s license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don’t really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

Differences in Men and Women

Men and women are designed differently by God — not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

Communication styles 

Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it’s received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

Outside influences

Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:

  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Devil

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

Differing Goals/Objectives 

Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that’s part of God’s overall design to make two people one.

Some of the major differences include:

  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler; Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It’s to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God’s plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also God didn’t promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, “This is a profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

8 Paradigm Shapers for Making Discipline Decisions as a Parent

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I frequently have parents ask me what type of discipline they should use with their children. I’m glad parents are asking the question, but I seldom can give a standard answer for every situation.

I prefer to use a paradigm through which parents can make their own decisions. That’s the purpose of this post.

Perhaps these steps will help you make wiser decisions regarding discipline.

Here are 8 paradigm shapers for making discipline decisions as a parent:

Have a vision – If you don’t know where you want to take children you’ll be less likely to take them there. This should be decided before the need for discipline arises and it should ultimately help shape the discipline you use.

Have a purpose – The purpose of discipline should not be to cause harm, but to teach. Discipline is to help a child learn how to live. Keep this in mind as you discipline and it will help you make wiser choices. Ask yourself, “What can I do to best teach my child what he (or she) needs to learn from this experience?”

Step back and process – Immediately after an offense is not always the best time to administer punishment. It’s okay to let children wait for a response. Sometimes this is the best discipline for the child and it almost always makes your decision better. This step becomes more important as they get older and the discipline decisions become more difficult.

Never make a decision in anger – You don’t want emotions to make the decision. You want a well thought out response.

Consider the bigger picture – This is where having a plan/vision comes in handy. Considering where you want to take the child, how they are progressing in life, and the motivation of their heart, what punishment will most help accomplish your objectives for the child in this specific circumstance?

Make the punishment fit the offense – In my opinion, you shouldn’t have a standard punishment. Grounding for older children or time-out for younger children may work in some circumstances but not in others.

Make the punishment fit the child – All children are different, learn differently and require different methods to teach the principles you want to teach.

Reinforce love – Every discipline should be used as an opportunity to show children how much they are loved.

Let’s face it, parenting is hard work. I’m hesitant to say anyone is an “expert” in this subject. We all have room for improvement. I’m not assuming you will carry around this list in your pocket, whipping it out at the appropriate time of need, but I do believe having a framework of this sort in your schema will help you better address the issues of discipline you face as a parent.

In the end, having this type of paradigm thought process, before the need for discipline arises, should help us be better parents.

What is the most difficult issue you deal with regarding discipline? What would you add to my list?

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Millennials

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The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.

I’ve now updated this post, because we are currently in a growing, revitalized established church and — amazingly — our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.

It must be more than structure or age of church — or even style of worship.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things — and these are the things which regardless of type of church have remained true. 

Here are 7 thoughts for the church to reach millennials:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults — and they want it to be unconditional love — through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And, they want us to love first, without qualifications added.

Be biblically true – Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe — and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.

Be culturally aware and relevant – This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world. And, changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to plug-in – They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world — and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input – You have to allow Millennials to do things their way — often with technology — within groups of friends — sometimes unscripted. A church which is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them – The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them – I love this about them — they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching Millennials?

Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Happy Family Portrait at Park

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. 

How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church which stole their family time. 

There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.

Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:

Down time.

Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work 6 long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath”, according to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work 6 days — just saying :) ) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two — take two!

Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar.

I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me — extremely!

Scheduled time with my family.

If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seemed cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.

I don’t work many nights.

Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions — I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night — and life has seasons which alter this somewhat — but in a normal week I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.

I’m not everyone’s pastor.

This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes but, I pastor a large church, so if someone is already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is to reach unchurched people.

I delegate well.

We have a great staff. If something is better for them to do, I let them do it. Every event doesn’t require me to be there, nor my wife. I try to support the activities of the church as much as possible, but not at the detriment of my family. I realize smaller church pastors struggle here, but part of your leading may be to raise up volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities and leadership. It also may be to lead people to understand your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and part of having a healthy church is having a healthy pastor and family.

I try to stay spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

It’s hard to lead my family well and engage them when I’m always stressed by ministry. This is a constant battle, and requires great cooperation and understanding by my family, but I recognize it as a value worth striving to attain.

Pastors, I hear from you — and sometimes your spouse. Some of you are drowning in your ministry and your family is suffering. Many are going to say they have no staff or a small staff, but I encourage this same approach to ministry for every person on our staff. I would expect no less of a commitment to their family than I have to mine. Ask yourself this question: How healthy is your family? What are you doing to protect them?

Help me help other pastors. Share how you protect your family.

You might also read 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair