If a pastor isn’t careful, the success of his ministry could mean the failure of his family. Satan would love to see both fail but he’ll settle for your family. He doesn’t have to have either one. It is possible to have both a healthy family and a thriving ministry. But there are a few traps pastors should watch out for. Here are two.
The Visiting Trap
You’re going to have to leave your house in the middle of the night to make a hospital visit. You might even have to step away from a family vacation to grieve with a church member who just lost all three of her kids in a car accident. These sacrifices come with the job.
There is a difference between occasionally sacrificing time with your family to minister to those in need and the continual neglect of your family because you need the approval of others. If you make a habit of putting your spouse and kids to the side because you crave the approval of others, it is likely that members of your church will think of you as a real go-getter who works a lot harder than most other pastors. Just don’t be surprised if your approval rating isn’t as high among the people with whom you live.
Pastor, God has offered to generously give you his wisdom if you ask for it in faith (James 1:5-8). The next time you have a conflict between your family calendar and your ministry calendar, take God up on that offer.
The Phone Trap
The phone is one of the greatest practical gifts God has given to pastors. It can help them to connect with more people in a shorter amount of time. But if we’re not careful, our phones can also be a curse.
Pastor, set limits on when you will answer your phone. If you’re eating a meal with your family or if your four-year-old son is midway through a fifteen minute description of the dream he had last night, the person on the other end of your buzzing phone should be the last thing on your mind. This is difficult and it requires a lot of prayer and discipline but it’s worth it. Your family will thank you for it. There are a lot of ways to say I love you but one of the best ways is to say, “Let it ring, they’ll leave a message if it’s important. I’ve got to hear the rest of this dream.”
What does it profit a pastor to gain a large ministry following and forfeit his family?
When a pastor consistently neglects his family for his church, he sometimes likes to ease his guilt by telling himself that he’s doing the Lord’s work. He’s right. Sort of. He’s doing his lord’s work, not the Lord’s work. The Lord’s work is done at home with the family before it’s done in a staff meeting or on a hospital visit. It’s easy for a pastor’s lord to be success or approval. This requires prayerful evaluation of both the heart and the calendar.
Paul doesn’t spend a lot of time writing about how pastors need to be constantly available to their congregations but he does have something to say about the pastor’s availability to his family (1 Timothy 3:4-5). It is the pastor, not the pastor’s wife, who is charged with managing the household and raising children to be godly. Yet we are often led to believe that it is somehow a mark of holiness for a pastor to leave his wife with all of the burdens of the family while he occupies 90 hours of his week doing his lord’s work.
Pastor, the devil is perfectly fine with you growing your church through your hard work just as long as you shrink your family through your neglect. If you neglect your family for your church, there is the very real possibility that your family grows to hate the church you gave your life for and perhaps even the Lord you claim to serve. There is a better way.
Be present for your family. Be engaged. Serve them. Lead them. Love them. Communicate to them that there are times when you will be pulled away but, to the best of your ability, allow your calendar to communicate to them the fact that you love them more than you love the church. Faithfully serve God by loving him, loving and leading your wife and kids and lovingly shepherding the church that has been placed under your care.
That’s what ministry success looks like.
Featured image of the author and his wife Marsha.