Balancing Your Family and Ministry This Christmas

Balancing Your Family and Ministry

Christmas 2020 was a difficult holiday season for my family. This Christmas season marked my final days of working in a pastoral church role. I had no potential job lined up. I was overwhelmed. The weight of the “unknown” was unbearable. I thought that this Christmas was going to be our worst one ever. However, once we got to the end of the month, my family’s response took me by surprise. “Best Christmas ever” was the reiterated phrase. When I picked myself up off the floor and asked why, the response was surprising. The reason was simple. I was actually part of it. I was there for the traditions, the baking, and the meaningful moments. For the first time, Dad was fully present for the Christmas season.

High-Pressure Holidays for Church Leaders

Christmas and Easter services have always been considered our highest priority services. These are the services where we will likely have the opportunity to share the love of Christ with people who may not normally attend church. Ministry leaders are often willing to do “whatever it takes” to make sure they present Jesus with excellence. Unfortunately, pastors and leaders can let their families come second to the ministry tasks that “need” to happen.

I don’t believe we do this on purpose. We see the needs and desires of our families, but we feel like we can’t meet those needs during this season. The fact is, our families may understand, and we may make it up to them, but should they ever be put in a position where that’s a “requirement” of having a pastor in the family? A healthy ministry starts with a healthy family. 

Balancing Family and Ministry

Let’s take a look at a section of scripture that addresses leaders and their families. The book of Timothy is a pastoral letter from Paul to Timothy. Paul had heard about some issues with false teachers in the church in Ephesus, so he sends Timothy as his representative to get things back on track. This letter to Timothy is more or less Paul checking in on how things are going and giving Timothy some practical instructions on what he should do to get the church back where it needs to be. When we read chapter 3, Paul is discussing how Timothy should restructure the leadership in this church. Let’s pick it up in verse 2 of chapter 3 where Paul is giving instructions on the qualifications of a church leader. 

READ: 1 Timothy 3:2-5

A church leader must be a good man. His life must be so no one can say anything against him. He must have only one wife and must be respected for his good living and he must be willing to take people into his home. He must be willing to learn and able to teach the Word of God.; he must not get drunk or want to fight. Instead, he must be gentle. He must not have a love for money. He should be a good leader in his own home. His children must obey and respect him. If a man cannot be a good leader in his own home, how can he lead the church?  

There are at least twelve criteria mentioned in this four-verse section of what it takes to be a healthy leader. We can see things like being willing to learn, gentle, and not having a love of money, but let’s zoom in on verses four and five. The text says they should be a good leader in their own home. If they can’t lead in their home, how can they lead the church? 

What I see in these two verses is less a cry for us as pastors to be able to control our rowdy kids, but much more a call to be good leaders in our homes first. It’s a literal qualification. It says before you can be considered for church leadership, you must be a leader in your home. So that begs the question, how can we be good leaders in our homes? Simply, a good leader at home looks like a good leader in the church: gentle, respectable, not wanting to fight, and willing to learn. Let’s take a few moments to lean into that last one and learn a bit together. 

What can we do to fulfill our role as pastors and leaders while protecting our families? While every family dynamic is different, we can take these three thoughts and figure out how to apply them to our families. 

Be Intentional with your time.

This applies to both your ministry and your family. We have to make the very best use of our time. Our calendar should reflect intentionality during this season. You may need to say no to a few meetings until after the new year. You could consider some outside resources that can be used in your ministry instead of taking a full day to write the perfect sermon from start to finish. Simply put, spend your time wisely, especially during this season. When you are with your family, be fully present. Honestly, no one enjoys quality time that includes the other person checking their phone. Put your phone away when you get home. Be sure your family is getting the best part of you. 

Communication is key.

Set the expectation for your team members and your family. Tell your teams you will be unreachable when you are with your family. This means if the texts or calls can wait, they should. Be sure to set similar expectations with your family. Let them know early in the month the days your schedule will be abnormally crazy. If you have an evening meeting, be sure they know beforehand. If you have an early morning, put it on the calendar. Did you notice there are five Christmas parties to attend? Let everyone know.

Involve your family.

Involving your family does not mean free labor. “Involvement” isn’t getting them to do the job you can’t find a volunteer to fill. One of my son’s favorite jobs in the past has been being dad’s “right-hand man”. He would be my shadow, helping where I helped, grabbing things I needed from the other room, and I would give him age-appropriate responsibilities. He would grin ear to ear seeing how much he helped dad out. Involvement could also be getting their buy-in. Everyone is more excited about something they have buy-in on. Ask them for their opinion, then ask them to take time each night to pray for the people who are going to hear about Jesus. 

These three actions can be practiced in different ways, but here is a quick example of how they could play out. Start the month by getting an old-school paper calendar and asking your family what “special things” they want to do this season. Then write them on the calendar in ink. Go ahead and include big ministry days as well. Next, you can send an email to your ministry teams to let them know what days you are unavailable. Let them know, then put away your phone. Finally, ask your family how they’d like to contribute. Find ways to make it an experience instead of a task. We’ve just taken intentional time with our family to show that they are important to us, communicated what to expect, and involved them in deciding how it looks.

You’ve likely heard it a hundred times over, your family is your first ministry. My wife always said, “I will not save the world, and lose my kids.” This season I want your family to be blown away at how much time they have with you. I want them to be shocked at how present you are when you are with them. Also, I want them to want to serve alongside you because they want to be a part of what God is doing in your community. I want you to have your best Christmas ever. Our families should never be martyrs to our ministries. Instead, let’s make them the most important ministry in our lives. 

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We recently asked ourselves, “how can we serve pastors more personally?” The Pastor Circle is the answer.

It’s a virtual small group community of pastors who understand what you’re going through and want to offer you godly support and guidance. We meet on Zoom once a month to listen to a short devotional and topic introduction, followed by a small group discussion. We hope to see you there next month! Click here to learn more.