When Worlds Collide: Balancing Family & the Ministry
99.9% of the time, your family is part of your church body. That can lead to some sticky situations for a pastor’s family: from church bleeding over into family life, to the big stuff (a rebellious child, a medical crisis that becomes very public). Being a pastor is your job, yes, but it’s a little different than a typical 9-5 office job. In most job settings, the boss may see a picture of your kids on your desk or says hi to your wife at the annual Christmas party and that’s the extent of it. That’s not the case in the ministry. We have some suggestions and a resource to help you achieve a better relationship between your family and your congregation.
We’re going to say something that will either make cheer in agreement or gasp in disbelief: Your family can come first. This is something many professionals need to hear, not just pastors, but because of the inevitable familial involvement in your work – it matters a little bit more for you!
We have some verses to back it up. First is 1 Timothy 3:1-13. This gives a bunch of pre-requisites for a church leader. But the repeated theme is clear; from verse 5, “For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” In order to keep a healthy household, you have to give yourself permission to be fully present with your family. Even if that means turning off the phone and email notifications for family time. Titus 1:5-9 also supports family first by praising leaders who, well, practice what they preach.
Knowing that you need to set aside time for family and actually being able to find it are two different things, though, right? That’s where smart resources can help you to do your pastoral work as effectively but more efficiently. Service Rocket, for example, contains 12 modules devoted to helping you and your leadership team plan for Sundays with more creativity, more cohesion, and even more skilled (and happier) volunteers. Utilizing resources like Service Rocket will help you delegate with confidence. Training and how-to’s are built right in, but it also get your weekly workload organized and streamlined to free up more time for the family.
Protecting the Family
Raise your hand if you or a member of your family has been criticized by a member of your congregation. If we were in a room together, there’s a solid chance that every one of you would have a hand in the air, unfortunately. One of the most painful parts of the ministry is being under the microscope, and hearing about it. So, what can be done?
This might sound cliche at first, but bear with us: Boundaries. In order to protect your family from unnecessary criticism, you have to establish and maintain specific boundaries in your church. This can start with our earlier suggestion of having (and holding sacred) off-the-clock family time where you aren’t reachable. It can get a lot more creative and specific, though, in ways that your church members will see as a positive!
One idea we love is setting boundaries in areas of service. Have a family talk with the spouse and kids; find out what areas they are naturally drawn to or have natural giftings. Those are the areas – and the only areas – where a family member will serve. While you might have a church member or two question why a family member isn’t serving here or there, you can turn the conversation around by inviting them to see the awesome work he or she is doing in their gifted area.
Another way to protect your family, especially in times of crisis, is by having accountability. If a child or spouse has a past struggle that seems embarrassing or like a stain to talk about, speak with your pastor colleagues about ways you can be transparent with your congregation. Let the person who lived the story be the final voice of whether it gets shared in order to keep family trust. While it is okay to keep some business personal, it is admirable to let your spouse or child share their testimony of struggle and restoration as an example of authentic Christian living with your church.
Being called to the ministry is a big responsibility. When you have a family, the responsibility only grows! If you can strike a balance between caring for your family and caring for your flock, if you can set boundaries to protect both relationships, then you can find a way to keep healthy relationships within and between your family and congregation members.