Pastors not only want to succeed at church and home, but we are also required to. Have you heard of any other profession with the requirement to win at work and home? I have asked that question to thousands of pastors and seminarians, and I have yet to hear of even one.
When we said “yes” to God’s call to pastoral ministry, we agreed to this 2000-year-old job description.
"He (pastor/elder) must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?" - 1 Timothy 3:4-5
The Bible does not teach pastors to balance our lives—it tells us to manage them. The Greek word for “manage” is proistēmi, which means to stand before or lead. It is the same word used to describe the gift of leadership in Romans 12.
Pastors who do not lead both their homes and churches are disqualified from leading either. I became a pastor and husband in the same year three decades ago, so I empathize with the challenges you are facing today or will face tomorrow. To lead our families and ministries competently, we need to first lead your own lives well.
"Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers."
- 1 Timothy 4:16
I am embarrassed about how many times I have paid more attention to my sermon than my own soul. It feels counterintuitive for ministers to talk about their own health, but self-care is strategic, not selfish. We must authentically practice the discipleship we enthusiastically preach about because when we win, our families and ministries win. When we lose, the collateral damage is exponential.
So how is your life? Is your vision to grow your ministry as ambitious as your vision to grow your soul? It is unrealistic to expect a healthy church to be led by an unhealthy pastor.
Leading Our Spouses
Have you noticed that some people have a hard time hearing “no”— particularly those in our family and ministry? Others have a hard time saying “no”—particularly those who are called to love and lead churches.
You will not win at home or at church if you consistently confuse your bride with Jesus’ Bride. Your marriage and ministry were not created to be in competition with each other. Consistently saying “yes” to your spouse will consequently bless and disciple those you need to say “no” to. Keep intentionally growing and protecting your marriage by making margin for it consistently.
In 2017 LifeWay Research released a groundbreaking study of pastor's spouses. They asked 720 protestant pastors’ spouses important personal questions about their family and ministry, and the results were both encouraging and discouraging.
Let’s start with the encouraging news:
- 93% believe their husband is a good fit for the present church.
- 83% enjoy their ministry work.
- 79% are satisfied with their role in ministry.
Still, there are some real challenges for pastor’s wives:
- 38% do not get the attention they need from their spouse because the church needs so much.
- 55% agree it is difficult to balance church and family.
- 35% of spouses often resent the demands of ministry on their family.
Prioritizing our family over our ministry actually strengthens our ministry. We are discipling our members by the way we manage our homes.
Leading with Grace
Managing our marriage competently should not imply perfectionism. Perfect husbands and fathers do not exist; otherwise, there would be no leadership in any of our churches. We must pastor our homes with the same gospel-drenched grace that we draw on to pastor our churches.
Bravely talk with your spouse about how you can better love and lead your family. This is not a small or simple task, but it is an important one because your ministry will never be stronger than your marriage.