I have lost count of how many times I have been warned, “Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry.” I plan to write on that later, but for now, I want to encourage you not to sacrifice your ministry on the altar of your family.
I do not deny that many pastors have lost their families because the church became their mistress, but I’ve also seen many pastors lose their ministry because they made their families an idol or simply because they created an unnatural divide between their family life and their ministry life. As a Christian minister you must resist the temptation to separate your family life from your ministry life.
You must also resist the temptation to idolize your family. It is true that if you lose your family you will lose your ministry, but what leads a pastor to believe that it is essential for you to spend every waking hour with your wife and kids?
The idea of a forty-hour workweek is not necessarily bad, but it is not biblical either. Pastors are blessed to have flexible schedules that allow them to eat lunch with their wife and children on occasion, to get away from the office and attend school functions, and even to work after the kids go to bed when necessary to allow for more time with them during waking hours. This flexibility is a blessing that must not be taken for granted nor taken advantage of.
Your wife and children should come before your church in your order of priorities, but that does not mean that they will come first every hour or even every week. Sometimes the needs of ministry necessitate that others receive my attention rather than my kids. Occasionally, I need to attend late meetings or minister to families in crisis late into the night. On some nights the stress and needs of ministry can even call me to my knees in prayer or a separate room in study rather than playing with my kids. The call to pastor is a call to sacrifice and the responsibilities of the shepherd must not be shirked.
Here are some steps you can take to avoid sacrificing your ministry for your family.
I would never urge anyone to prioritize their ministry over their family, but I would urge all pastors to do the hard work of ministry. Don’t use your family as an excuse for pastoral laziness; that isn’t even putting your family first. The call to shepherd is not a call to lounge, but to protect, feed, and guide the flock of God to which you have been entrusted (and vice versa). Do not take God’s call lightly and do not sacrifice your ministry for idol worship of your family.