Ministry and family balance

17 Jan

I was recently asked my thoughts on balancing the demands of ministry and of family. Part of my answer was the following, about which I am seeking feedback from my loyal reader(s):

I believe that often (not always) pastors experience significant tension between ministry and family for two reasons: 1) a refusal to restrict the work of the church to only those things that the church is authorized to do in Scripture, and 2) a desire to expand their own personal ministry reach beyond their local church.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks?


Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Pastoral


5 responses to “Ministry and family balance

  1. Ryan Martin

    January 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Or they choose to work on dissertations while pastoring. ;)

  2. Scottt Cline

    January 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    A very, very good observation.

    I’ll toss out a few maybe-not-so-related thoughts…

    Thought #1:
    A good case can be made for the normalcy of bi-vocational eldership in the NT: Paul’s right to remuneration must have been tied to his particular sort of ministry (short-term church planting and elder training), since his expectation for regular elders appears to have been different (Acts 20:34-35). I bring this up because early elders “balanced” not only church and family, but church and family and work! So, I submit that if we are “doing ministry” in such a way that family (and probably family and work) are squeezed out, then we are “doing ministry” differently than early elders “did ministry.”

    Thought #2:
    Perhaps we should be conflating uses of time rather than compartmentalizing them. For instance, what if we involved our family in parts of our sermon prep? Or in parts of our counseling? How else can we integrate our responsibilities?

    Thought #3:
    We spend time on what we love. It’s just true. Period. Husbands who feel what they should feel toward their wives will really miss them after a short period of distance and do something about it. Fathers who feel what they should feel toward their kids will really miss them after a short period of distance and do something about it. If a man is not missing quality time with his wife, and quality time with his kids, to the extent that he’s compelled to do something about it, after a short period of distance from them, it’s because he doesn’t feel what he’s responsible to feel about them in general. His affections are not properly weighted. His heart’s out of whack. He needs to step out of pastoral ministry until that changes.

    Thought #4:
    Men need to “own” their families as their “personal project” in life. We’re project oriented. We want to work toward a goal, accomplish it, look back on it with satisfaction, and display it for the good of others. Include your family in that category. Similar to the above, this is about our affections. Make it among your primary purposes in life to gift the world with your godly seed.

  3. Steven Thomas

    January 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Michael, your two reasons are insightful and correct. However, it seems to me that they are related primarily to the pastor’s use of time. Time devoted to unnecessary activities and commitments inevitably rob both the church and the family–but usually the family suffers more because we (shamefully) tend to devote ourselves to those things that come under public scrutiny.

    However, even if you address these two concerns by clarifying ministry objectives and structuring your time accordingly, you will still find it difficult to “balance” ministry and family. You cannot use Outlook to schedule the output of emotional energy a pastor rightly invests in his flock (cf. Col. 1:24-29; 1 Thess 2:7-9). There will be times when your people hurt or your congregation is threatened and, if your are a good shepherd, you will be deeply affected–and often you cannot share your burden with your family. In some respect, you will always take your work home.

    You need an outlet. Frankly, I believe that one of the best things a pastor can do for his family is to cultivate a relationship with another man–ideally a pastor–with whom he regularly meets for encouragement, counsel, and camaraderie.

  4. Jim Peet

    January 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Recruit … Train … Delegate…. Repeat

  5. Todd Mitchell

    January 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I think you’ve nailed it, Michael.

    Once upon a time I heard a fellow complaining that a candidate insisted on spending two nights a week with his family. He didn’t think that was reasonable given the many programs and meetings necessary in the church. My response was that if he does not manage his household well he isn’t qualified for ministry, and furthermore if he is to set an example for the men of the church he ought to be spending more time with his family than a mere two nights per week!

    Cut out the programs, eliminate the Sunday-evening assembly (or at least move it up to be contiguous with the morning assembly — we have an afternoon service following a common meal), and eliminate the midweek assembly. That’s what the church here did before I ever met them, and as far as I can tell it is better for it. I know that my family and I are!

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