If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of his immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. There have been seasons of my ministry where this is the case, especially on abnormally stressful days.
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.
Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:
Down time. Saturdays 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…Ha!) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year that I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. 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 that 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, and life has seasons that alter this somewhat, but as a rule I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough.
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 in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor, simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since our church is designed 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 and trust volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities. It also may be to lead people to understand that your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and that 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…often. 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 would challenge you that 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