Pastor, Don't Neglect this Group of People
‘Pastor, this group feels left out.’
If you have been in pastoral ministry for any length of time, and especially in a multi-generational established church, you have most likely had something like that said to you. A common struggle of pastoral ministry is navigating the competing interests of sub-groups within a church. Reflecting upon 23 years of pastoral ministry, I do think there is a group that tends to be neglected by some pastors. In fact, the group I am thinking of should be the most important group in a pastor’s life and is also the group that knows him the very best.
Pastor, don’t neglect your family.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been in several gatherings of pastors and church planters. In at least two of these gatherings, it has been stressed just how important it is for pastors to care for their families. I have often said that pastoral ministry impacts the family in unique ways.
In pastoral ministry we spend hours every week thinking through and praying about best discipleship practices for our church members. We spend hour upon hour wrestling through growth strategies and ways to better reach new people with the gospel. But, how much time do we spend praying about and with our families. How intentional are we as pastors in leading our families spiritually, discipling our children and investing in our marriages. Sadly, we can easily fall into the trap of wanting to powerfully lead our churches while neglecting our families. As Jamie Owens writes,
But if God would approve and bless our shepherding, we must shepherd those closest to us: our families.
I love my family! My wife Angela and our three kids, Noah, Judah and Sarah are God’s greatest gifts to me. And when it comes to my kids, I’m especially thankful for the godly influence and loving investment from so many people in the churches I have served. My three kids were all born and raised in the central Newfoundland town of Lewisporte. It was there I served in pastoral ministry for 15 years at the local Pentecostal church (Philadelphia Pentecostal Tabernacle). They were great years. But as I look back, what I think about most is not what more I could have done for the church, but what more I could have done for my family.
I praise God for such a strong children’s ministry in that church and I recall so many faithful Sunday school teachers and children’s ministry workers who invested greatly in the lives of my kids. And while I’m so grateful for the strong investment from others, I’m reminded that we as pastors must not rely too heavily on others to disciple our children. Our leadership in the church should never be more important than our leadership at home.
Pastor, you are needed in your home. Your family is your ministry.
If I can be a little transparent – while I’m not currently in pastoral ministry, I absolutely loved being a pastor. And, I have always taken great pride in working hard, putting in the hours. I wanted to be the first one at the office in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day. But pastor friends,
If we give all our time to the church at the expense of our families, it won’t translate as devotion to Christ. Instead, our families will rightly see it for what it is: an unhealthy obsession with ministry. It smacks not of devotion, but selfish ambition. (Jamie Owens)
Pastor, take it from me: there will come a time when you will leave the church you currently pastor. And when that time comes, you will gather in a room, eat triangle sandwiches and listen to people say some nice things about you. But, pastor, the very next morning those people are going to move on. And, when you walk out of your church for the last time, you are going to come home to the most important people in your life; the people who love you the most and who know you the best…your family.
Pastor, don’t neglect your family.