Feeling convicted about how I use my time

Hannah and ZekeGrowing up as a pastor’s kid I remember what it feels like to think that the church is more important to your dad than you are. If there was a Bible study going on, a meeting, someone in the hospital, or a phone call, it came first.

I remember the parents of my wrestling teammates all showing up for every match, even if it was two hours away. One teammate asked me, “Hey, where are your parents? Do they come to our matches?” I remember the embarrassment I felt as a Christian telling him, “Yeah, they come when they can, but tonight he’s leading a Bible study at church,” as if that was more significant than engaging with the other parents who seemed to bond together throughout the season. Sometimes that embarrassment turned into resentment toward church.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents both invested a ton of time into me and my siblings. My dad read to us every day, taught us more about the Bible than I probably retained throughout Bible college and seminary, took us on camping trips, bike rides, and a lot more. The time investment was definitely there, but for some reason some things like the wrestling matches were important to me enough to overshadow everything else, especially when he mostly used the time in the bleachers to memorize Sunday’s sermon. Other parents were cheering me on more than he was.

During my senior year of high school I remember sitting in my room crying. I sent him an email explaining what I was feeling, the embarrassment that none of the other wrestling parents knew them, and how it seemed like church stuff was more important than attending my matches. Thankfully, things changed immediately. He got someone else to lead the Bible studies and made it a priority to be at every possible match, without sermon in hand. He also did the same for my brothers’ volleyball and basketball games from that point forward.

Now I’m serving in a similar capacity. My kids aren’t in high school… yet. But I’m still thinking about this now because I’d rather not receive that email from my daughter when she’s a senior. What am I doing right now to ensure that my kids and my wife know that they are more important to me than my ministry? Will my wife and kids grow to resent the church?

I’m feeling convicted that I’ve been giving my family my “left-over” time lately. All my prime, alert and energized time is spent on ministry stuff. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that during certain seasons of ministry, but how much of my “left-overs” should I be giving them and for how long?

Last week Dana and Zeke were out for an evening, so I spent the entire time playing at home with Hannah. We had a blast! There’s absolutely nothing that substitutes the sound of her giggling as we roll around, her stillness as we read books, and her voluntary kisses. The last thing I want is for her to grow up feeling that she gets the left-overs of my time and that ministry is more important than she is. I’m sure that won’t always be within my control, but lately I’m heading in the wrong direction. It’s time to change that.

Posted on November 23, 2010

  • Tom

    Thanks for being vulnerable. As a father of 4 & serving in ministry, I can relate. Keep a balance & you will be successful in both areas.

  • tom

    good words…hard words too. in ministry…remember the institution called the church will take all you have and then some. at then end the biggest legacy is fatherhood. your bride can get a new husband, but your legacy…your children can't get a new dad. "cheating" if you will…the church is what you have to do…and God will honor that. thanks for sharing what you've lived and what you're learning.

  • The purpose of my move from PA to IN and leaving TIMS is for this very reason…family. Praying for you Tim!

  • What makes it even that much harder is when you are part-time, with a full-time job, and going to school. My daughter is 13 mo. old and I am learning, well trying to figure out how to get everything done that is required and also spend adequate time with my family.

    • Yeah. Ministry becomes more about, "Out of all these great, spiritually influencial opportunities I have, which good things am I going to say no to in order to say yes to something better?" Sounds easier said than done when you consider all the different dynamics that play into those priorities. Been there.

  • Matt

    Thanks for the reminder. My wife and I just had this same conversation two weeks ago. I seem to teaching other people kids about the Bible and Jesus more than I am with my own kids. Blessings to you and your family.

    • It's easy to dismiss that with, "Well, I'll teach my kids God's Word at church with everyone else." I'm glad you guys aren't! Sounds like a healthy conversation between you and your wife.

  • Thanks for this. As a single person involved in ministry, I can only imagine that if I took my lifestyle as is… and added a child, there would be a much much much more different tone to my ministry and free time. Thanks for the insight and experiences we can take to heart.

    • Yeah, it happens easier than you think. Gotta always be conscious about it or it totally creeps up.

    • Trazy, I was in your spot. Single in ministry for several years and I just gave it everything I had. I didn't have any healthy boundaries as far as time for myself or limits to what I would say 'yes' to. It was a very hard transition when I got married last year and it's even harder now that we're expecting our first baby. My advice would be to try to set some of those boundaries now so that it's not such a tough transition for you. When people are used to you being available 24/7, it's hard to set boundaries that will be respected. Better to do it now so that you have time to convince everyone that you're serious! :)

  • GeraldNC

    This has been one of my most difficult things to learn in ministry. I turned down a YM job because my wife couldn't get there, (panic disorder), and I went through a dark period following that thinking I had failed God. I still wrestle with this some times. Good things have come from that decision for sure though. Also, I volunteer as the tech director and more times than not have to run A/V for both Sunday services. When I'm doing that my wife doesn't typically come. I'm about to decide I have to step down from that position and praying someone else takes it up. My wife and I being able to worship together, her regular attendance in the worship services is more important than my ministry back there.

    Anyway, it's hard some times discerning what we should be doing for God, but I have come to realize my first ministry is to my wife, (family). If that fails or if I don't do what I should be doing in it, then my witness of Christ will definitely suffer.

    Thanks for sharing brother!

  • Andrew

    glad God is moving in your heart, every ministry starts and ends in the home!

  • Right on! I recommend "Daddy Dates." Usually about once a week, I go out with one of our two girls, and all my attention is on her, then take the other one out the following week. The beautiful thing is that they are used to it, and my almost three-year-old now says, "I want a Daddy Date" when she misses me. You can bet that gets my attention, and we make it a top priority. In addition, Mommy has gotten in on the act, and they get "Mommy Dates" too, one-on-one time with her. Of course, plenty of Mommy-Daddy dates are key, too.

    Ministry can be demanding in terms of time, but the beauty–especially when the kids are not in school yet–is that we can have flexible schedules. Just last week, I surprised my girls at the library when I knew they would be at story time with Mommy. I had just finished doing a funeral at a mortuary near our library, and took a little time out of my day to give them an unexpected treat.

    Keep on working through this; I'm struggling through it as well. Because as other pastors with older kids have noted, ministry does not get less demanding, and the choices only get harder. Our lead pastor is great at this. Up until last year (when his son decided to join a competitive team), he coached his son's soccer team. In addition, he is one of our small group leaders, and he leads his son's sophomore small group. He practices and preaches a family-first mentality, and I'm grateful to be in that kind of ministry environment.

    • What age did you start doing Daddy Dates? I'd love to do that with Hannah. We play around the house and sometimes I go out back and play with her outside. When they get older is that when you start going out to do more "date-like" stuff?

      • I think we started when Bethany turned about two, because that's when her little sister Samantha came along, but we've really been intentional about it since this summer. I got the idea from a friend who has taken his daughter on dates for most of her life. I usually let Bethany choose the location (which at her age is the children's museum, the "duck pond" and park, or the mall) and we go for about an hour. McDonald's is great during the colder months. Sometimes a treat is in order if Daddy still has some of his "entertainment money" left for the month. I think there's something cool about leaving the house, because it's like sacred space. During the week, I play with the girls until it's time to go to work, or after I get home (if I am even home before bedtime), but I think they know that's kind of leftover time. It's only recently that Bethany has been old enough to get the concept, which is cool, because she looks forward to it. Sammy and I just kind of hang out somewhere fun for a one-year-old, but I think she likes getting to go somewhere without her sister.

        One thing I've started to do this semester is to be the parent helper at least one time a semester in Bethany's AWANA group on Wednesday nights. That was really cool, too, and when Sammy's old enough, I'll do that for her, too.

      • Hey TIm!
        My Dad started taking us out (Luke and Matt too!) when we were really young- like 4 I think. The general schedule was one "date" a week- Mom, kid, Mom, kid, etc.. Se we went went about once ever 11/2-2 months though it wasn't a perfect schedule. We didn't really do "date-like" stuff necessarily, we would just go to the mall and walk and talk and get a pretzel or a meal from the food court. I have such vivid memories from it though. I think more "date-like" stuff would have been extra special for me as a girl, but I still cherish every time my dad took me out. The sooner the better to start!

    • Shawn_Michael

      I do the same thing. If I lose my daughters, nothing else matters. They are my lifeblood — a gift from God. It is SO EASY to let the church/ministry take away. It is so smart to have your guard up and protect that time with your family above all else. Sure, you'll probably have to explain to some people why you are not at the church for every men's meeting and bible study. But it's much better than having to explain to your own children later on why you've let ministry [with others] take precedence over their relationship with you.

      Thank you, Tim. Great post. Great reminder. A needed one for many.

  • Mike

    Thank you for sharing this!! I easily find myself caught up in ministry, even just my mind always thinking about stuff and I spend more time on the couch than on the floor with my kids. This was a great reminder about what really matters!!

    • I do that, too! Wish the ministry brain would shut off so I don't have to ask my wife to repeat whatever she just said to me because I wasn't paying attention.

  • Glory

    Thanks for sharing Tim – the insight into your heart and concerns is special.

  • jay @ bethegospel

    my dad was a pastor as well. Although he did tons, I always remember the time he carved out for me to play baseball, sega, go bike riding, and exploring in the woods.

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  • Dude… This is spot on. I am personally trying to deal with this stuff because I feel like my family really is my first ministry. So what if I have a successful Youth ministry turning out God loving people, if my own family (wife and kids) slowly gain a resentment for me, God, church, ministry, etc.

    Thanks for your honesty, because this is a real struggle!

  • Tim, great reminder, something we need to face constantly. Anytime I have a work obligation that takes away from family I try to make up for it. My son is young and I would hate for him to have resentment towards the God and church I love because he felt ignored by his father.

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