Pastoring in a multichurch district—which is what most pastors do—has its challenges. Pastors struggle to meet the needs of their churches and, at the same time, those of their own family. Pastors will, at times, be torn between what, when, and how to choose between church and family.
As the pastor in a district that has three churches (and we are planting two more), and a husband and father of four—I know firsthand the struggles pastors in a multichurch district face when it comes to the tension between work and family.
Family life alone presents its challenges, but it just gets that much harder when the pastor has more than one church. However, I have found that, if I have the right attitude and approach to ministry, family life can more than just survive. Over the last ten years, I have picked up a few simple principles that have given me rewarding success as a family man and a district pastor.
Your first church
As a multichurch district pastor, you must perform ministry from the principle that your family is your first church. A person that puts family first will not only receive the honor of God but will better gain the support of their spouse, children, and the churches themselves. When one outwardly places their priorities in the right order, that person will gain the respect and support of those around them.
Every call I have been offered in ministry started with an interview; first with administration, then with the church body. During these interviews I have made clear the priority I place on family. I am the right man for the call, I have said, if they are seeking a pastor whose family stays as a priority in his ministry.
I have found that churches and administrations who accept a pastor who places family as a priority will support that pastor wherever they can. Also, churches seeking a pastor whose family comes first are working churches, open to sharing ministry with the pastor. Lastly, these types of churches will respect and protect the pastor’s time. If you are feeling the tension between family and church, then sit with your family, church, and administrators respectively. Tell them your desire to put family first, and I can almost guarantee that you will get the support you need.
We live in an age of computers, mobile devices, cell phones, messaging services, etc. All these can save us time. Maximize the use of these gadgets to your family’s advantage.
For starters, when working on your schedule, why not schedule time with your family on a daily and weekly basis before you plan anything else? I have a BlackBerry that I use to schedule all my appointments. It is very helpful.
Here’s how it works for me. As part of my planning, I schedule time and events with my family first, and do this with my BlackBerry. I have daily, weekly, as well as monthly “sacred” times and dates set for each one of my four children, as well as my wife.
This works most beneficially in four ways. First of all, my family becomes part of the planning process, as we sit down together to accomplish the task of completing my schedule. This way they feel like they are part of my ministry as they see how much I value them. Secondly, they take part in assisting me in planning the right time, event, and place for spending time with them. Thus, they anticipate (with joy) the time we will be spending together. Thirdly, when someone calls asking for an appointment with me that cannot be classed as an emergency (and believe me, I make sure it is an emergency), I simply look at my BlackBerry and schedule them around my prescheduled time set aside for another commitment. Lastly, it will give your family deeper appreciation and respect for your work as they see how you are attempting to balance your ministry in a respectable manner.
When it comes to my family, a practice that works for me is that I set aside one hour a day for my wife. We spend this time together, alone, where she and I just sit down, relax, and talk about God, life together, the children, and our future. Pastors, who can’t even begin to express how crucial a good marriage is for their ministry, need the support of their spouse, and spending time with them is essential.
Secondly, we have daily set times for family worship. I say that “a family that enjoyably worships together grows together.”
Thirdly, I have set times throughout the day and week for each child where we come together and connect.
Finally, we have a family day once a week. We, as a family, spend time alone together. Lastly, we set dates and times to do ministry together for as we work in ministering together, God has a way of bonding our hearts as one.
With all that in place, I then can do the work of the church, but I do it around my family. That’s what priorities are all about.
Learn to say “No”
In ministry, we are tempted to say “Yes” to everything. This approach to ministry can ruin your family life. We must realize that we are just one person, and we cannot do everything.
Learn to suggest alternatives for ministry to your congregations. Learn to delegate responsibility. Take the time to train, teach, empower, and encourage others to do ministry. Not only will this give you more time with your family, it will give them the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of serving others.
Over the years, I have learned that my responsibility was not to take care of everything in the church, which I was prone to do, but to allow the Lord to lead. I needed to get out of the way and allow God to work through the body of Christ. I did not need to micromanage the ministry of the church. As a result, life has been better for me, my family, and for the church itself.
Because of the importance of family life, God desires that a minister’s family life reflect His abundant power. As a result, we must seek His way in our family life. As we place family on top of the list of ministry, we will experience, as well as manifest, a powerful witness of His grace. As we utilize today’s technology to help manage our time, we will experience the refreshing balance that tends towards positive relationships. As we delegate responsibility, which in reality helps others grow and experience God’s power in their lives, we will see individuals, as well as our churches, mature and grow.