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