Okay, okay, I’ll do it! It’s only one more thing added to my schedule. I’ll carve time out of my schedule, push to the surface before all the air runs out, and work to sit down and write this article. Hold on a minute, I have to take this phone call…I’m back. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, coming up with so-called great words of wisdom in a thousand words or less regarding the importance of balancing ministry to my church with ministry to my family.
Let me start by suggesting this: we all need to share in Fred Flintstone’s anthem, which is easy to remember. It goes: Yabba, Dabba, Doo! And he shouts this anthem from atop a Brachiosaurus dinosaur of the Sauropods family (but that’s not important), sliding down its long neck into his pre-historic auto, feet scampering. Zoom! He’s off to the wife and kids and then out for a big steak dinner!
This is where the Fred metaphor begins to lose steam. You and I are in church work–we can’t afford a big steak dinner after work every night. But stay with me. Here’s the point: Fred is excited to go home! His work is done for the day, and it’s time for some R&R. Of course, staying at work is also a form of R&R, only this time it doesn’t stand for Rest & Relaxation, it stands for Railroad Crossing, and that’s where you’re sure to get flattened if you don’t watch out!
My father used to say, “If you go into full-time church work, understand this: the church is like a huge thirsty sponge and you’re a tiny pool of water.” Think about it.
But let’s try to make this balancing thing easy. Answer this question: what has God called you to do?
First, He has called you to faith in Him. Next, (for the married) He has called you to be a husband or wife. Next, He has called you to be a parent to your children, should you have any children. Finally, after all of this, He has called you to full-time church work. If I’m counting correctly, that makes four calls. Offer God four hearty prayers of thanksgiving.
Let me share with you my prayer after receiving Holy Communion. It goes something like this: Thank you Lord for taking away my sin. Strengthened in that forgiveness, make me a better husband and from there a better father and from there a better pastor to the people You have called me to serve. Amen.
Remembering what God has called you to do, and the order in which He placed these calls, helps you remember what is most important in your life. For instance, I am committed first and foremost to my Savior–and I don’t mean in terms of pastoral ministry. This is a statement any child of God would make.
Second, I am committed to my wife as her husband.
Third, I’m committed to my children as their father.
I never consider myself my family’s pastor. If I try to be their pastor (which seems a little weird anyway), I immediately stop being a husband or father. I wouldn’t do that to them. If you think you can be both, you have role confusion and a boundary issue you need to work out. God has called me to lead my family spiritually–that’s a call every Christian parent has received from God.
Finally, I have been called to church work. The fact that I am in full-time church work serving as a pastor neither increases nor decreases my responsibilities elsewhere.
So how many evenings are you at home? How many of those days/evenings are spent in quality time with your spouse and/or children? How many times a week do you get away for yourself? I know, there are some of you reading this now who are saying, “Help me! I’m Mellllllllllllttiiiiiiing!” Others of you have it down pat. If you are one of the people who have this balance thing figured out, find someone who is drowning in the deep and gently restore him or her to the surface.
I look forward to the times I can be with my family serving them as God has called me to do. If I fall into the dangerous habit of making too many family time sacrifices at the expense of ministry, I’ll have to face the consequences in my marriage and parenting later down the road. In fact, as ministers of God’s grace, how can we tell others the importance of taking a Sabbath if we’re not living it ourselves? What kind of leadership is that? That’s like trying to encourage people to eat healthier food while chomping on a jelly doughnut.
To be fair, it is easy to become entangled in our schedules. Don’t think I manage mine perfectly. No one does. So, ask God to untangle it. As much as you ask the Almighty to help you in your ministry to the Church, pray as much if not more for Him to help you, guide you, and strengthen you with your family.
A change in an unhealthy work ethic does not happen over night. It will take concerted efforts on your part, and permission from the congregation, among others. But that’s another subject for another time. Regardless, making changes so that you can give the right amount of attention to your job as church worker and your role as family member is very important. I’ll be praying for you.
Okay, okay, I’m finished with this writing assignment! Yabba, Dabba, Doo! Don’t think I’m actually yelling those words out in my office right now. I am a pastor, after all (you know, we’re the serious and stoic lot). Only Youth Ministers can get away with outbursts like that!