I recently was asked to give a very short talk to pastors about the pastor’s family. I wrote about the subject several years ago here:
*The following are my rough notes from my most recent talk.* dHaving pastored for over 30 years and raised my children as a pastor, what advice would I give that is unique to a pastor? Here are three specific thoughts.
1. Pastor all the sheep.
When you study the life of Jesus you see that there was a priority in discipleship: the crowds, the 70, the 12, the 3, and the one, Peter. Jesus ministered to all of them. But he had priorities. And that’s ok. Peter was a special but not exclusive focus. Peter, James, and John saw things the other twelve did not. Love manages multiple priorities at the same time. Love also prioritizes some relationships over others.
Thus, make sure you are shepherding and discipling your family as part of your inner core. The most foundational parenting verse is not Deuteronomy 6 or Ephesians 6 but Matthew 28. We are to make disciples of/ shepherd/ pastor everyone we can, and especially our spouse and children.That means I seek to be intentional. I have a plan and I fit family discipleship into my schedule.
One application of this is:
I don’t overwork.
You are not just a Christian worker, you are also an example of living the Christian life. My tendency is to overwork. So I tried to put intentional discipleship commitments in my daily, weekly, and yearly schedule. One way I tried prioritize my kids was to take one of them out each week on a donut date. The time is short so put those commitments in now.
Another application is that:
you don’t underwork.
Some of you will have the opposite temptation. We live in a time when everyone is child-centered. I could do a million things for my children. Other parents are. But I wanted my children to know I lived for something bigger than them. Because we are committed to the local church, our children will probably be able to do many but not all the activities that everyone else is doing. And that is OK. Jesus Christ is the center of my universe. I live for him first and then my family. Don’t be child-centered.
2. Make sure the first place you live out the gospel is at home.
Based on numerous studies, those who walk away from the faith say that hypocrisy in the home or church was a major factor.
Make sure your children see the same person at home that they see in public. Children are given to shine a floodlight on the ways we need to grow. That means we as parents are regularly repenting. That means being careful not to complain to our wives about problems in the church. God has called you to shepherd people…. with problems. That’s what you and I were called to. That’s what we signed up for.
Related to that, for me, I had to get a handle on getting upset in the home. Your little children are one day going to be adults and sitting in another pastor’s office for premarital counseling. And that pastor is going to ask, “Tell me about your family of origin.” You want your children to say, as my pastor’s son said to me, “He is the same person at home that he is in public.” So get help for any sin habit that comes out in the home.
3. Finally, know that God calls you to manage/lead/rule your household well so you will learn to lead God’s household well.
1 Timothy 3:4-5 says,
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
In this verse, God directly ties pastoral oversight with learning to lead your home. Leading people involves lots of relational wisdom. There are many young guys (and old guys) who can exegete the word but not exegete people. God gives us our home as a small trainer piper cub airplane to learn about ourselves and others. He wants us to learn to lead them and move them where God wants them to go. God intends the home to be one place you learn and display relational shepherding wisdom.
One practical application of that is that I don’t just leave those parenting principles to my wife. In this verse, God says that leading at home involves the same principles as leading at church. So learn to parent well.
A lot more could be said about not forcing the gospel on our children, protecting them from crazies, or just having fun and enjoying them. But those are three thoughts. Parenting, like pastoring, is a long obedience in the same direction. I would love to hear your thoughts. What encouragement would you give pastors about their family life that might be somewhat unique to their calling?