This week’s podcast will focus on balancing our personal and family lives with ministry. This post gets us thinking in that direction!
You've probably noticed by now, if you are a 200church pastor, that ministry is not like a production machine that you tend from 8:00am to 4:30pm each day, with a half hour lunch and two twenty minute breaks. There is not a quota that when met, allows you extra time to relax, or when exceeded, brings large commissions.
Ministry really is more like the song that never ends, it just goes on and on, my friends! If we are not careful, we can sing ourselves hoarse, and serve ourselves into exhaustion. If this happens, we have nothing to give our family, our friends, ourselves, or for that matter, our God.
It is interesting how younger church leaders seem to thrive on ministry. They are energized by phone calls, visits, counseling sessions, meetings, messages, lessons, and the study needed to prepare them. They crave growth, new attenders, new programs, increased budgets, and the affirmation of others. Since there is always another Sunday to prepare for, another new person to visit, the next ministry season to plan out, more phone calls to make, emails to send, and leadership articles to read – our ministry responsibilities and opportunities literally NEVER end!
Our spouse and kids often end up with the short end of the stick, because the urgency of the moment trumps the need to spend time with them. Their understanding of the importance of ministry would surely overshadow the consequences of not running when someone calls in their crisis. How do we balance our approach to ministry so that our family does not suffer, or worse, end up resenting the very work to which we give our lives?
I have just four thoughts… today. I have a lot more, but I’ll just share four:
#1 We have to settle the issue of where the power really comes from. We all know that Jesus said “I will build my church.” This really is important for us remember. Jesus is the Great Shepherd, the Savior, and the King of his Kingdom. We work for him. We are empowered by him through his Spirit. Our tireless efforts and sacrificial service, efforts and service that ignore the needs of our families, are truly not needed at all by God. Let’s settle the issue – this is really God’s church. It’s his deal.
#2 The next issue we settle is that while ministry never ends, each day does, after only 24 hours. Imagine if, after you allocate 8 hours for sleep each day,(stop laughing!) you decided that the lid on your ministry commitment would end at 9 hours, so that you had at least 7 hours for yourself and your family. Since each day is finite, our contribution to ministry must be finite too. Our spouse and our kids would love a few of those hours. And we need an hour or two to ourselves, for rest, recreation, and renewal.
#3 Ministry will never end, but your children’s years in your home will. I’ve messed up in many areas of my life over the years, but one area I managed well was time with my kids when they were at home. I have four children. Two are gone, two are still home. When I was a teenager, pastors were taught that they should reserve one night a week for “family night.” Because the culture back then was to be out doing ministry every night! To spend one night a week at home with family was considered honorable. Some of those pastors lost their family, their health, their ministry, and their minds.
Since most children have about 18 years at home, determine to make the most of that time. Andy Stanley says to “cheat the church” if you have to, to make sure your time with your kids is at a premium. They only have two parents, and if the church steals one, they will resent it!
#4 Pastors must set an example for their church, in the area of personal leadership and life management. How good for our people to learn to prioritize things like Sabbath rest, sleep, hard work, family, positive healthy living, personal worship time, etc. if we model these things for them! Our church family needs to hear us say “no, I can’t do that”, “no, I will not be able to make that meeting”, and “no, I am already scheduled to be with my son or daughter on that night.” Our preaching and teaching can take on powerful authority if our lives are congruent with our messages. For the sake of our influence, and our people, we must live out and model what we want to see in them.
To be clear, family comes before ministry. It has to, it’s like the oxygen mask. We have to minister to our own families first, then we have the right to minister to others. Yes, the song ends. It ends every day, every week, every month, and every year. God created those time frames. They shout “Limits! Boundaries! Finish lines!” Let’s not sing ourselves hoarse.
Let’s finish with the fourth verse, then punch out, and go home. God will stay and watch the store.
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