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“Everybody says they want you to be healthy, but nobody means it.”
– Chris Brown, North Coast Church
That’s a bold statement. Yet case study after case study proves it to be true; my own experiences notwithstanding. Church ministry can be difficult, and can place a burden on a family unlike other professions. The hours are often long, the work often thankless, and the weight of carrying others spiritually can be heavy.
If leaders are not careful, the primacy of family can slip. The reality is that the two keys to healthy families in ministry are not difficult. They’re obvious. Yet they must be practiced to make an impact.

Here are the two keys to healthy families in ministry:

Be selfish.

When it comes to your family, you have to be selfish. Church ministry will gladly take from you whatever you are willing to give it. The natural demands of ministry positions put a strain on a normal family rhythm–not including additional commitments leaders often add on. So don’t do it.

 

Do not say “Yes” to any extra obligation that equals a “No” to healthy margins for family.  Plan “appointments” for family time that can’t be rescheduled by a person who simply wants to complain or share an idea.

 

 

Treat your spouse and kids like you would a first time guest who is interested in meeting with you about the church. Scratch that. Treat them better. Your spouse and kids get the first run at your time, not the leftovers. This doesn’t mean not to work hard or that there won’t be inconvenient times that you’ll have to be working when it’d be better to be home. Simply be aware of how many “important” things have been on your schedule. If there is always something critical taking away family time, it’s time to reevaluate your definition of what’s actually “important.”

 

Being selfish about family time is the number one key to making sure that your spouse and kids know that they are the most important people in your life.

 

Your ministry to your family is your most important ministry. Family stays when positions go. So invest in family first and most.

 

 

Be present.

 

This one is so hard, especially in today’s society filled with every kind of device that wants to alert you about everything and anything. Let me tell you from experience, there is no good in scheduling time with your family if you aren’t more than physically present. Be emotionally and spiritually present with your family.

 

Turn off every notification you possibly can. When you’re on vacation, be on vacation. Don’t check emails during play time with the kids. It’s an email, so it isn’t urgent.  In 1993 no one had email and ministry still happened. Answer phone calls at home if you’re a pastor on-call. If you’re not on-call, don’t answer and check the voicemail later. If you don’t have an on-call system, make one. If you don’t have multiple staff, achieve this through volunteers.

 

 

Bottom line: eliminate the excuses for not being fully present.

 

If you want to remain in ministry for the long haul, you have to not only make the time but create the space to be present with your family. Scheduling properly is the first part, but engaging with your whole self is the linchpin.

 

 

 

These aren’t revolutionary tips you haven’t heard before. In fact, you’ve probably heard them any time someone talks about building a healthy family. Yet many of us don’t believe them, truly. If we did, we would change how we do ministry. We would see less burn out. We would see families flourish. We would see the stigma around ministry fade.

 

The onus is largely on you, friends.

 

It’s true that everyone says they want you to be healthy but nobody means it. So you have to own it. Choose to have a healthy family life, and make that ministry the most important aim of your life.