further thoughts on balancing family and ministry

Thanks for all for the comments on the previous post of the Leadership Journal interview. I too thought that the quote lifted concerning sacrificing family for ministry or ministry for family was misguided and disturbing. The second half of the sentence about the former pastor’s concern that this generation was sacrificing ministry on the altar of family rang hollow and seemed like something that only someone guilty of the reverse was likely to think of.

If you didn’t check out the pingback from my friend Rick’s blog, check out his commentary there too.

Hitting on several of the concerns raised here… I think some (even many) of us are thinking about two main things in our efforts to conceive of and set healthy boundaries concerning our faithfulness to Christ regarding our families and our ministries. One is that we’ve heard plenty of commentary from folks at or after retirement who say something like, “No one looks back and wishes they’d attended more meetings or spent less time with their families.” Well, we’re trying to take that very good point into consideration on the front end.

Another is that, as Songbird mentioned, part of ministry is modeling healthy stewardship of one’s relationships and responsibilities in life. Pastors (and others in ministry leadership) do not get it right all the time, but if they are not on a journey of meaningfully endeavoring to get it right as much as possible, that’s not a good thing. Plenty of folks are not being faithful stewards of the relationships and work in their life. A significant part of ministry is not just what we do but who we are. We dare not reject modelling another way to be simply to keep up with the rat race around us.

Finally, I am still waiting for the book on planting a church or renewing a church and experiencing exceptional growth in both numbers and mission and discipleship, etc, that does not have to either recommend unhealthy (thus non-gospel?) work/family habits or that does not include an apology or admission of neglect of healthy boundaries and relationships. Not to slam on persons who have contributed much to us from sharing their leadership gifts and experiences openly, but I think it worth mentioning that we don’t have a lot of models of doing this with the same excellence in attention to family and relational health as is given to quality programming and experiences of persons newly encountering the church.

Thanks for chiming in on the first post… More thoughts?

AN ADDITION: I do know at least one pastor in our conference who planted and grew a large church (a couple thousand in worship attendance) who has a reputation for his diligence in setting strong boundaries concerning family and ministry, or rather, family and work. Part of that, he has said, involves shaping healthier, more balanced expectations from the outset.

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

3 thoughts on “further thoughts on balancing family and ministry

  1. I’m going to the UCC’s New Church Leadership Institute in Atlanta next month, and the question of how you manage your time in a new church plant has definitely been on my mind. In our denomination, the money is not as available as in others, so there seems to be an expectation that I would plant a church “part-time” which means holding a second job in ministry to earn a full salary and benefits (which in my case my family depends on, since my husband has salary without benefits). Realistically, church planting has to be fulltime and is often more than, as you point out in your post. Add in the need for care of self to the priority of care for family, and there are clearly not enough hours in the day! Something has to give. And I’m sure you see, as I do, that what “gives” will be the pastor’s physical health, or a pastor’s marriage or parenting, long before the ministry goes. I think the burnout model comes from an apocalyptic sense of self-importance. I want to think the parable for this week, the wheat and the weeds, encourages us to take the long view: don’t get in their and start yanking willy-nilly; wait and see what is there when the plants are full-grown and the harvest is complete. Hard for us in this impatient 21st century!

  2. I agree completely with the concern for balance in one’s life.

    I was reminded by this post of an previous acquiantance of mine. She was a single mother in seminary, and on one particular day was interrupted by a phone call while we were volunteering together at a Habitat for Humanity build. After the call she related to me that she was getting an updated from her mentally handicapped son’s nanny, who had just taken her son to his first t-ball game.

    While I greatly appreciate the work of Habitat for Humanity, and I have some respect for this individual’s commitment to a cause, the fact that she missed something as big in her son’s life as his first t-ball game for volunteer work struck me as a little backwards.

    I belief that part of every parent’s mission in life to raise good, Christian children. And that takes time and commitment, sometimes at the detriment of other priorities. But we can’t prioritize children last and then expect them to look a the church with love and not contempt.

    God Bless,

  3. Songbird:

    Thanks for this. The United Methodists in many regions are, thankfully, putting resources into church planting. But a continuing concern is finding a way for the pastor (and for that matter, the lay persons on the launch team) to plant the church while living a balanced, healthy life that one could faithfully recommend to others.


    Yes. This is really good and a good reminder of the lay side of things. The commitment to service and mission is good, but raising our children to share that value would sure seem to look differently than that. Do the volunteer work at a different time.

    The issue here is stewardship and balancing stewardship of one’s family joys and responsibilities, one’s work, one’s service to others/ministry, etc.

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