6 questions every pastor must ask about their family

Questions pastors must ask about their familyI’ve been learning more and more that there are a lot of things I say I believe, but my actions don’t always fully support those “beliefs” as consistently as I want them to.

These lessons have resulted in many changes over the past two years. I’m very excited about the implications they’re having for me, my family, my ministry, and especially my walk with the Lord.

Here’s a few questions I wrestle with that have led to a lot of changes in my own family and ministry over the past two years.

How would you answer these questions?

  1. Do you have a stronger vision for your youth ministry than you do for your family?
  2. Where does most of your best creative energy go: to the youth ministry or to your family?
  3. Do you pour more energy into spiritual conversations with church members or with your family?
  4. Does your family feel like ministry is something that unites you together as a team or something that just pulls you away from them?
  5. Do your actions reflect that your family is your primary ministry and passion?
  6. What’s your discipleship plan for your spouse and children?

These questions point to something far greater than youth ministry. I think you can pick up on what that is.

This isn’t about keeping the two in balance with each other — this is about tipping the scales completely in favor of what’s greater.

Posted on May 6, 2013

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  • I love this, because I hate the word “balance.” Balancing is what you do when you’re not courageous enough to make a decision.

    #1 convicts me big-time, because while I spend a lot of words writing about leadership and vision in youth ministry, I have honestly never articulated a mission and vision for our family, and for me as a dad. I THINK I have a vision of what God wants to accomplish in our family, but have I written it down? Nope.

    Great post.

    • Love to hear you’re thinking about this, too, Benjer! I’m not sure that writing down a vision necessarily makes it a strong vision, whether its for the church or for your family, but I think I know what you mean.

      Personally, our family vision isn’t written down. It’s something that morphs as my kids grow older, as I try to figure out how each of their giftedness plays into it, and determine what kind of family identity I want to project on to them.

  • I love it. “These questions point to something far greater than youth ministry”

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  • Tim, have you ever hosted a Family Discipleship Workshop with your church family? I can’t help but think it would be beneficial to not only discuss why family discipleship is important, but to spend a good chunk of time actually making a plan. I think most parents (and ministers) want to disciple their family but struggle with the “how” and “what” to do. Do you have suggestions on how a church might conduct a workshop like this?

    • Good question, Gene. I started replying to you here, but it got really long. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just answer this as a new blog post. :)

  • Kurt J.

    These thoughts aren’t all directly related to this post (which is great, by the way) but they are in a similar category and reflect some of what I’ve been wrestling through as I continue to pursue being a good dad and husband:

    * It seems like in many of these types of conversations, the church/ministry is blamed for our struggles to find health. To me, that’s a cop out. For most full time pastors, the ministry provides far more flexibility to be good parents than our friends in the marketplace have. If I’m not getting it right, it’s on me, not my church.

    * #5 doesn’t feel fair. Despite our freedom, For full timers, ministry is their job, and like ANY job it is time consuming, and long hours and hard work go along with it. So if you look at “hours spent”, then no….my family often doesn’t look like the priority.

    * Does it seem odd that many of us expect the church to sacrifice for our families (leave office early to coach, ditch a meeting to take our son to dentist, give me extra time off after big event….) yet we are beginning to demand that we should never be expected to sacrifice for the church?

    * Bi-vocational pastors: You have it rough! I can’t imagine the never-ending pressure you are under trying to “do it all”.

    * Ministry volunteers: You are heroes! You have a demanding career and a family, and you STILL find time to serve. Wow.

    * Full-timers like me: We got it easy! We get paid to minister and have flexibility our bi-vocational and volunteer friends don’t. It’s time for me to quit whining!

    * “Tipping the scales completely in favor of what’s greater” sounds great in theory…not sure our employers would agree, which is why we feel such tremendous tension.

    * A family “vision”? Yes, but I don’t strive towards it like I do my ministry vision, which hurts to admit. Thanks for the reminder!

    Good, good stuff Tim! Thanks for helping me wrestle.

    • 1. Yes, absolutely. This is a personal issue, not a church issue.

      2. I’m not really thinking of this one in terms of “hours spent.” If that was the case, then you’re totally right. I’m thinking of it as something bigger that probably goes back to #1, which is that the issue is us, not in our church or our job.

      3. Hmm… Like a sense of entitlement? Yeah, that doesn’t seem right.

      4. Yeah, seriously. I love being a volunteer at this point!

      5. I’m fortunate enough to work at a place that values ministry and family above everything else, so even though my career is outside the local church, it’d be a bit weird to NOT serve in ministry while working here. It’s a good fit for me! I feel very blessed.

      6. I’m not sure I’d agree that full-timers got it easy, but that’s probably due to my issues. Maybe I was doing something wrong when I was full-time, but I feel like both my ministry and family are far more fruitful as I work outside a local church. So many stories I could share hereā€¦

      7. I guess I’m willing to say that my employer doesn’t get to decide what I believe is greater. If I believe scripture says something about me and my family, then I’m going to pursue employment opportunities that are aligned with that or start my own business. Thankfully, my current job is definitely aligned with that, but I’m also working on building a business, as well.

      8. Yeah, this family vision thing is tough. I’ve been working through this for a while. It’s definitely a different ball game than slapping a statement on a leaderhead.

      • KJ

        Per #7: It may be semantics…true, your employer doesn’t get to decide what you believe is greater, but it does get to decide what IT believes is greater and what it takes to succeed there, etc. The decision is up to us to take the risk to leave an employer, be it secular or church, if our values can’t be reconciled (which is basically what you are saying). But, that is tough for men and women with mortgages to pay, medical expenses piling up, etc.

        I remember reading Bob Buford’s book, “Halftime” which challenged folks to make a mid-life career change in order to do stuff of lasting significance. It was awesome…until it became evident that the reason he could walk away in mid-stream was because he had built a multi-million dollar company and never had to work again! The dude making widgets in a factory doesn’t have the same freedoms.

        I think a more realistic conversation for many might be:

        “Our lives are CRAZY busy….we have demanding jobs and most of us can’t drop everything to pursue a career that reflects our family values. Therefore, how do we live as followers of Jesus who want to get it right?”

        One of my best friends is a VP in one of the biggest corporations in the world…ZERO respect for his family. Yet he is the best dad I’ve ever met. Hasn’t been easy for him, but he’s been extremely intentional…probably has a family vision statement. He probably has a separate vision statement for each member of his family!

        • That’s so great to hear about your friend! It just goes to reinforce our point that it’s more about us than it is about our church or our workplace.

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