If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter.
How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church that stole their family time.
There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.
I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of nonprofit boards, that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.
Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.
Here are seven ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:
1. Down time.
Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work six long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath.” According to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work six days—just saying!) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two—take two!
2. Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar.
I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together, it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me—extremely!
If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seems cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.
4. I don’t work many nights.
Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is, I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions—I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night—and life has seasons that alter this somewhat—but in a normal week I work six full day-time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.
5. I’m not everyone’s pastor.
This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes, but I pastor a large church, so if someone is already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is to reach unchurched people.