This is a excerpt from the chapter I wrote in “PLANT”. PLANT is a new resource produced by “Innovative Faith Resources” designed to equip church planters. You can order “PLANT” or watch a promo video about it HERE
“It’s easy to allow the stress of planting churches to distract us from the primary task of being a good pastor at home. Church planting is filled with problems, unmet expectations, exhausting schedules, failed projects, spiritual warfare, difficult people, and the uphill battle of building a gospel witness in a community that doesn’t want one. But there are a few priorities that can help you remain a good shepherd to your family.
Priority # 1 – Choose blend over balance
There seems to be an agreement that pastors must keep a healthy balance between family and ministry in order to be successful at both. The problem is that two items as weighty as family and ministry cannot be properly balanced without breaking the scale that’s balancing them. Any time I am forced to choose between the sheep in my church and the sheep in my home, one of them will go unattended. Imagine a real shepherd managing two flocks. The further away those two flocks grazed from one another, the more difficult the task of caring for both would be. I can picture the busy shepherd running back and forth to get a quick head count at one flock while feeling a need to return to the other. What if one of his flocks needs something special, a wolf to be chased off or a wound to be nursed? His work will be hurried and some of his sheep will always be vulnerable to attack. No one is forcing you to choose between family and ministry. What would happen if we stopped trying to balance the two and started trying to blend them? The more we are able to blend family and ministry, the less we will be forced to choose between them. Think about the way God directed the people of Israel on the matter of raising children, He says, “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them
be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates’” (Deut. 6:5-9, emphasis added). Notice that God doesn’t ask them to stop doing the “regular work” in order to instruct children on spiritual matters, but gives instruction, “as you go.” This is how we blend 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 you view these spheres as separate and not able to overlap, then you will find there is not enough time in the day to do both jobs well. If you can find ways to involve your family in ministry and involve ministry in your family, you will earn time with both.
The way I see it, the church planting pastor has two options regarding the balance between family and ministry. First, he does the work of the ministry for 40-50 hours a week and the remainder of that time is given to his family. Or a second, less discussed option, is that he searches for ways to make ministry the lifestyle of his family. I have chosen the latter of these two. I began working in ministry soon after becoming a Christian. When I began a relationship with Jennifer (now my wife), she joined me in the work. When our first son was born, he joined the work as well. Every time God gave us another child our team was expanded. As a family, we pray together for the needs of those in our congregation, I test out illustrations and sermon ideas on them and I talk with them about issues of direction for our church. When someone is hurting or in need, I take my family along to assist in the ministry.
Just as a real shepherd might take his child out to tend sheep with him, when possible, I take mine to tend sheep with me. I want them to learn what I do, and I want to spend time with them. Because of this, it only makes sense to bring them with me. Sure, it may not seem professional to some, but then again, professionalism is not the goal of a pastor or a
dad. There have been times when my children have done more to minister in hospital rooms and on front porches than I was able to. This doesn’t mean that everything we do as a family is centered on the work of ministry, but it does mean that much of what we do is aimed at serving our local congregation. It also means that there are fewer hours in the day for the activities that do not benefit the church.
Please, don’t feel sorry for my children or my wife. They are not slaves begging for more time on the baseball field or at the local park. Trust me, my children are well acquainted with the inside of a Chuck E. Cheese’s. But they are also acquainted with the fact that even in Chuck E Cheese’s, we are ministers of the gospel.”
Priority #2 Two Tomorrow…