When your mission gets in the way of your marriage

imprrh@gmail.com —  June 7, 2013

When your mission gets in the way of your marriage

For the first ten years of my ministry, I was a terrific pastor and a terrible husband. I neglected my wife. I passed on the responsibility of raising my kids to baby sitters. I led a church well and it grew at a rate of 100 people per year, yet I was not present as a leader in my own home. This was my story. Too bad is repeated constantly. My “mission” got in the way of my marriage. It can happen to you too.

Ministry is hard enough, with the added stress of issues at home. Many leaders and pastors have real trouble in their families that gets ignored, relegated or forgotten. Private problems almost always come back to affect public performance, usually in the worst possible moment. Here are three principles that have helped me, just some suggestions that could also benefit you:

1. Don’t force.

One of the mistakes I made was using my family to achieve personal ministry goals. It was more about me, than them. Now, I believe in involving the family in ministry, according to their gifts. My wife doesn’t play the piano. My son doesn’t preach. My daughter does. I had to learn to be encouraging without being demanding. Plug in your family according to their gifts, not your personal hobby horse. Respect the “no’s”.  If you have more than one church, keep your family in the best possible church. Stop hauling your family like nomads from church to church, forcing them to be the only pathfinders, just so you can say you have a club. Let them develop relationships. People will criticize you for that and accuse you of preferring one church over another. Let them. Ask your family where they feel the most comfortable. Leave them there. Your job is not to look good, but to get your family into heaven.

2. Don’t forget.

My family IS my ministry. That doesn’t mean I become lazy, or forget that I also have a job. But in the rare case that I have to choose, I chose my family. I have missed meetings to go see my daughter or son play, (even though the teams they were on were terrible). Next year, my kids will go to boarding school. My wife and I will drive the 1.5 hours to Calhoun to see them play. They are with us for a short time. So I will make the sacrifice. I have found that if you chose the important, God takes care of the urgent. Important fact: the moment I decided to be a real father and husband, my church grew more. Interesting…

3. Don’t forget (part 2):

My wife told me about a month ago: “Honey, we are always doing these family weekend retreats, and preaching messages about families, why don’t me and you go to a retreat, not to preach, but to learn and grow”. Great idea. I booked a weekend in a Family Life Weekend to Remember. No kids. No responsibilities. No sermon prep. Nothing to fix, present, or prepare for. Just 72 hours of marriage enrichment. Pastor, below is the link. It’s free! Church leader, it’s not free for you, but still affordable. They do these all over the country. Take some time. Don’t forget what is really important. After the kids have gone, and after the church work has ended, you will still have your spouse. Work on your marriage first. http://www.familylife.com/weekend

Thanks to https://twitter.com/dKnighTweets and https://twitter.com/Beautiful_Ashes for the inspiration for this blog.


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9 responses to When your mission gets in the way of your marriage

  1. Your family IS your ministry, amen! i believe your story is familiar to many “in ministry”. God continues to patiently remind me that my family, while capable of causing me the most distress, the most pain, the most disappointment, ought never receive more grace outside of my home than they do within.

  2. That pricked my heart yrs ago and continues to prick my heart each time i raise my voice at my kids, each time i disrespect my husband, each time i choose not to pursue another family member with the same love with which God pursues them…i’m so grateful for grace that covers my shortcomings. so grateful God continues to prick my heart and have me extend that same grace to those closest to me, my family.

  3. Francisco Ramon June 7, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Pastor, las palabras que usted escribe, son de aliento, esperanza y animo. Dios le bendiga y gracias por compartir su experiencia. Saludos!!!

  4. Pastor Hernandez, you bring up some great points in this post! It always scares me when pastors neglect their families to tend to the church flock, when being the priest of the home is job number #1. I’m so glad that you changed how you were operating before your family fell apart because many don’t make it. Also, I read a book recently by James White about things pastor’s don’t learn in seminary but that are vital to having an effective ministry. One of the major points he made was that he, too, put his family first. He mentioned that he didn’t force his kids to be apart of their church’s student ministry because they were already always around the church. He took some criticism for it, but he said that it was worth it in the end. His kids are all somehow involved in formal ministry and all still Christians who love God deeply. Lastly, it makes me feel more secure as a member when the pastor is taking care of his home. Plus it sets a great example of Biblical manhood for others to follow. Insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. imprrh@gmail.com June 7, 2013 at 4:08 am

    thanks everybody for your comments. Its a needed topic and I am glad you guys enjoyed it.

  6. MyRon Edmonds June 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

    This is awesome! Andy Stanley said “cheat the church not your family.” I was so guilty of this. My wife said to me one day “you are superman at church and Clark kent at home.” Yikes!!! Pastors and leaders need to realize that you can have family success and ministry effectiveness simultaneously. But if you have to chose…cheat the church…

  7. Great insights! It is so easy to go after our dreams without listening well to our family. And even worse it is possible to think that they just aren’t as committed to the Lord when perhaps we aren’t as committed to them! Thanks for sharing and leading in this direction. When Jesus comes back the first people we will look for as we fly to meet Him in the air is our family members. Let’s do everything we can now to have the best chance to all be there!

  8. Fredy Reinosa June 9, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Thanks Roger , This information is what God wants me to learn , as Pastors we need to take care of our families first .

  9. Chris Donavan June 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm


    Good to be reminded– thanks so much for the practical advice! I too highly recommend the seminars from Family Life Today. Awesome support for our marriage that we found no where else!