I’m participating in a writing project right now for a church planter training slated to come out in the fall. I am writing the chapter on Pastoral Health. Part of my chapter deals with family health. I spent some time boiling down some of the principles that I have discovered as priorities over the years. Honestly, I still miss the mark on these things pretty often (especially #2) but the list is a helpful reminder for those who are serving in ministry, especially church planting. Here they are in no particular order.
Choose blend over balance in family and ministry.
Imagine family and ministry as two very important spheres in the life of a pastor. The more the spheres overlap the less tension will exist between them. If we view these spheres as separate and not able to overlap than you will find that there is not enough time during the day to do both jobs well. If you can search for ways to involve your family into ministry and to involve ministry into family you will earn time with both.
Give priority to your family when you organize your schedule.
The temptation is to give your family the leftovers of your day, your calendar and your energy. My suggestion is that before you plan out large chunks of time on your ministry calendar that you first give priority to the family. One of the few benefits of being a church planter is the schedule. Guys with “regular jobs” are forced to make their family organize around their work. As a church planting pastor the only deadline you are forced to meet are the ones that you impose on yourself. So please, give priority to your family.
Shepherd your family (one-on-one time with each member).
As a pastor your family will watch you walk out of the front door to attend countless meetings… you will meet with people constantly. If you are never meeting with your kids and wife they are likely to assume that they are less significant. I have 4 kids and getting face time with each of them is a big task… but a very important one.
Avoid doing for church members what you are unwilling to do for family members.
You’ve probably heard of the contractor whose house looks like THIS or the chef who feeds his family THIS for dinner. Don’t be that guy. Probably the biggest challenge that pastors face regarding family is the tendancy to ignore the spiritual health of those in your home. You must be a pastor to your family. Pray with them and for them, encourage them, preach to them, teach them, watch over their souls. Remember that the gospel isn’t about behavior modification… it’s about issues of the heart.
Exploit the benefits of ministry for the joy of your family.
If you are a vocational pastor or planter there are some benefits you should let your family cash in on. For example, you have a flexible schedule so be spontaneous, have lunch with your kids at school… Last Sunday we had an Ice cream party at church, guess who got the leftovers?