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My Single Biggest Regret From a Lifetime of Ministry

biggest regret

I invite you to read this opening to my journal dated October 1980 to shed light on my biggest regret.

I was 40 years old and Margaret was 38. We were in our 19th year of marriage, and pastoring the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Miss. Our  children were 17, 14 and 11.

The first entry in the book is dated October 9. However, the paragraph above that reads:

The month of October got off to a poor start around the McKeever household. I announced to Margaret that until October 27, there were no open days or nights. The month was filled with church meetings, committees, banquets, associational meetings, speaking engagements at three colleges, a weekend retreat in Alabama,and a few football games. She cried. Once again, I had let others plan my schedule in the sense that I’d failed to mark out days reserved for family time.

I ran across that book today, read that paragraph, and wept.

The irony of this is that a year or two earlier, we had come through months of marital counseling and felt that we finally had a healthy marriage. In fact, one Sunday night six months after this journal entry, Margaret and I would take the entire worship service to tell the congregation of our marital woes, of our attempts to make this relationship work, of our extraordinary efforts to get counseling, which involved driving 180 miles round trip twice monthly for two-hour sessions with a professional therapist, and of the Lord healing our marriage.

We were supposed to have a healthy marriage, and here I am putting everyone and every thing ahead of my own family.

What’s wrong with this picture?

That is my greatest regret from over half a century of ministry: I failed to take care of my family.

Now, I am not groveling in self-pity. I tell this in the hope that younger ministers will see themselves in this and not make the mistakes I did.

The tension between home and ministry was constant for us, starting early and never letting up.

As young marrieds, when we were living in the vacant parsonage of Central Baptist Church, Tarrant, Ala., Margaret said, “You might as well move your bed to the church.” I was holding down a 40-hour-a-week job in a cast iron pipe plant nearby, and in the evenings and weekends serving Central as assistant pastor.

Margaret’s father had been a Greyhound bus driver almost all his adult life. His schedule varied from time to time, but when he was home, he was all there. There were no calls for him to drop everything and report to the station.

A minister’s life is all about interruptions.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.