Your Schedule Is Different, Not Bad
It’s easy to feel as a pastor that you don’t have time for your family like you ought to. You certainly don’t have your weekends like everybody else. During the year, it’s very difficult to take off on vacation like a lot of your parishioners do. So you might say, this is working against me. But I actually believe you can leverage the pastorate on behalf of your family.
Some years ago, when my daughters were married and my sons were still in high school, I was being interviewed by Christianity Today about family. We took the children, without their spouses, out to dinner and asked them how they really felt about being raised in a pastor’s house. They said, “Dad, we loved it. We loved the conversations at the table, the interesting people—we love church.” They were totally positive. My oldest son said, “They worked you too hard,” and I said, “They didn't work me too hard; I worked myself too hard.”
My wife Barbara (who is an absolutely brilliant mother and spouse) and I leveraged our schedule. If I wasn’t on the road, I’d have meetings at night and be up early in the morning. We couldn’t necessarily have breakfast together because of school schedules. But we always had evenings around the table, which meant my dear wife had to plan a menu and have it ready. We had to take the phone off the hook. But we always had a meal together.
When a child loves the Lord, you say it’s God's grace and you don’t take credit for it.
Meals at the Center
I’m not talking about perfection. There were probably three years, when the kids were small, when there wasn't a meal where something wasn't spilled on the table. But we would talk to the kids and engage them in conversation. If you ask a child “How was it today? Bad or good?” they won't answer you. Instead, ask, “What’s the best thing that happened today? What was the hardest thing? Did you see Johnny?” In this way, we’d aim to get them involved in conversation.
So we kept a family time from when they were children all the way through high school, because that was a time that we could be together. I really do think a pastor can have the table be the center of things. It is a place for guests to come, and the whole nine yards.
If you're in the pastorate, you can almost always make it to your children’s concerts and their athletic events. I was present at my boys’ soccer games. I got yellow carded in the stands one time for being a little noisy. We made it to all of their school events. About every two months, with each child, I would take them out of school for lunch and then bring them back to school. When their friends asked where they’d been, they’d say, “I've been with my dad to lunch at Chilis.” Other dads didn’t do that.
During nice weather, my wife would pack up a breakfast that she could cook in the park with a Coleman stove, and we would have breakfast in the park before school. We leveraged all those things.
The ESV Pastor’s Bible was designed as a go-to, portable resource for on-the-ground pastors with scriptural references for any occasion and practical excerpts on a variety of relevant topics.
When we were young and lived in California, when it got to be May, I basically abused their education. On my day off, I’d take them out at noon, and we’d all go down to the beach until dark and have a bonfire down there.
Planning for Fun as a Family
We worked a lot of fun into raising our kids. We got an idea from Dr. Bob Smith, who was a longtime professor of philosophy at Bethel College. He’s now gone to be with the Lord. He introduced us to what we call pajama rides. We would tell our children when they were little “You know, in the next week or so, we’re going to take you on a pajama ride, but you have to be in bed.” When we yelled, “Pajama ride!” they'd come down in their pajamas and get in the car. The first time we did it, we took them to Dairy Queen. After they’d gotten themselves all messy, I said “Surprise!” and I took them to another Dairy Queen across town for seconds.
That began a tradition of going to a movie, going to a pool, or going to a friend’s house. They celebrated when I got older by taking me on a pajama ride on a Sunday night all around town.
And then, we’d leverage our vacations. You are busy when you are in the ministry. I worked about sixty hours a week. It was a busy life. But when they were young, we’d rent a place and stay at the beach for two weeks and the kids would have us 24/7. We’d build sand castles, fish, swim, and do our own plays and puppet shows.
When a child loves the Lord, you say it’s God's grace and you don’t take credit for it. By God’s grace, my children all love the Lord, and they are all positively disposed toward the pastorate and ministry.
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