The biggest challenge for all of us is to set boundaries and establish priorities. I have seen too many families destroyed because parents set other things above the family as being more important (i.e. career, hobbies, friends, etc.). We need to understand that when we are on our deathbed we will not wish we spent more time in the office, but wish we spent more time with the family. Cats Stevens songs “Cats in the Cradle” is a haunting reminding that time passes so quickly that we need to cherish our time with not only our children but with our spouses. My mom told me when I was a teenager that I should enjoy my teen years because “you blink and you are 16; blink again and your 18; blink again and you are 21; blink again and you are 30 . . .” James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Ripley, my daughter, turns 8 years old on Thursday, 11/23 (yes Thanksgiving’s Day). I cherish every moment I have with her. FaceBook likes to remind me of memories (pictures and videos) I have posted. I see her little face at a year old or hear her 3 year old voice in a video where she is singing a song; it melts my heart. The time is flying by so fast. I can’t stop or slow time, but I can make sure I set the proper boundaries where I’ll be with her and Teresa (my wife) during the important events.
I’ve seen over the years, men in ministry set their church work (ministry) above their families. The result of this are children who leave the church hating it for taking their dad away from them, or them having an unhealthy relationship with their father. I know a man that almost rob himself of an opportunity to be a father because he wasn’t sure if he could be a good one because his father (a pastor) was never around. With the help and love of his wife, he agreed to have children and now he is an awesome dad to his 17 year old son. I can see the hurt is still there but he is working to get past it. Ministry workers (be us pastors, evangelists, lay ministers, deacons, etc.) need to understand that family should take priority over church work; not priority over God, but the busy work of ministry.
My childhood pastor taught me the importance of family by his example. Some 25-30 years ago, most churches used Tuesday nights to visit people. If one of his children’s schools had a PTA meeting or presentation, he was there. Most schools did these on Tuesday nights so he missed visitation and was present with his children. That has left an impression on me and has influenced me in my ministry. I set a priority that if I can help it, I will be at Ripley’s events and there whenever Teresa needs me to be with her. Teresa and I have discussed this and she is aware that sometimes I’m not able to be present so she makes sure to let Ripley know the reasons if I can’t be present. In the (almost) 8 years of her life, I missed only 1 event she was in and that was in the middle of a school day and I couldn’t get away from the office. I actually felt really bad about it, but Ripley (who has a huge and tender heart) told me she understood.
We pastors must understand that our calling is to serve others as we preach and share God’s Word. Serving our families first and then others is the right way of working in ministry. In my personal life, my priorities are set in this orders; God, Teresa, Ripley, family, other people, myself and ministry. Setting myself before ministry will allow me to keep myself healthy (both physically and mentally) in order to be 100% when serving in ministry. Let me encourage you to set your families over all other work and people; only God is set above family.
I hope you have happy and safe Thanksgiving’s Day. God bless!