In the relentless whirlwind of duties and responsibilities that is modern ministry, as pastors, we can sometimes forget that the most important ministry we’ve been entrusted with is the one that happens within the walls of our homes. We understand the importance of our calling to the church. Still, today, I want to talk to you about the importance of us, as pastors, spending quality time with our children, and then I want to suggest some practical ways to make those moments matter.
I am writing this to you as a pastor and a pastor’s son. I grew up in the glass house and pressure cooker of local church ministry. I know the struggles of having a father who was always on call, under the microscope, and struggled with balancing church and home. It certainly takes work. But it is critically important to put the time and effort into creating and cultivating a close relationship with your kids, not as their Pastor, but as their Dad.
Balancing the sacred responsibilities of shepherding our congregations and being present and involved as parents to our children is a delicate tightrope walk. But why is it so vital?
1. Leading by Example: We are not just spiritual leaders on Sundays; we are spiritual leaders 24/7. Our actions at home, with our children, speak volumes about our faith and values. Paul even told Timothy how important this is: “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:4).
2. Nurturing Their Faith: Just as we sow spiritual seeds in our congregations, we must do the same within our families. Engaging in spiritual conversations, reading Scripture, and praying together helps cultivate a faith-filled atmosphere at home. The point here is not to have the only time your children hear you talk about spiritual things be from the pulpit or at the church. Displaying a love for God and His Word should permeate your entire life and home.
3. Building Foundations: Our children need sturdy foundations to navigate life’s storms. Quality time with them lays the groundwork for Christian values, spiritual strength, and an unshakable identity rooted in Christ. The spiritual edification of your children is built on the foundation of the first two – your example in front of them and the spiritual nurturing you cultivate into their life at home. When this is done, it doesn’t create a division between church life and home life but shows your children how to incorporate what they believe with how they live.
4. Emotional Security: Our children should know they have a safe haven in us. By being present and involved, we offer emotional security that is invaluable in their lives. This security is perhaps even more critical for pastors’ kids because of the unrealistic expectations put upon them by the church so often. The time and attention you invest in our children will help them to stand up under the pressures of being “PKs.”
Here are some practical suggestions to help us be more intentional in creating meaningful and lasting memories with our children:
1. Schedule Family Time: Set aside dedicated family nights where ministry takes a backseat. Use this time for laughter, games, and conversations that deepen your family bonds. One thing often missing in many pastors’ homes is when the family gathers around the table for dinner. This time, daily, of talking with each other and hearing about their day, struggles, and victories is vitally important.
2. Faith in the Everyday: Make faith a part of your daily routines. Pray together, share stories from the Bible, and engage in discussions about spiritual matters. An easy and impactful way to do this is to have a family devotional time each night where you read the Bible and pray together.
3. Attend Worship Together: Despite our busy roles, worshipping together strengthens your family’s faith journey. When able, sit together in worship as a family. Encourage your children’s participation in church activities. Give them opportunities to serve and lead as they grow. Help them develop meaningful relationships with the people in your church by spending time worshipping with them.
4. Get Away Together: Plan family vacations or retreats where you can disconnect from work and reconnect with each other. These moments are invaluable for creating lasting memories. A good rule of thumb is to get away together once a quarter, if possible.
5. Support Their Passions: Show genuine interest in your children’s hobbies and passions. Attend their school events, cheer them on at sports games, or applaud their achievements in the arts. You know the importance of showing up for important events in the lives of your church members; make double sure to be at the ballgames, track meets, concerts, and presentations your children are involved in.
6. Foster Open Communication: Cultivate an environment where your children can share their thoughts, questions, and concerns. Simply listening is a powerful way to connect with your children. So often, the ones who feel the least freedom to ask questions or share struggles with us as Pastors are our own children.
7. Delegate and Prioritize: Learn to delegate tasks within the church to trusted individuals, allowing you to carve out more time for your family. Of course, there will be seasons when the ministry is busier than others, and there are certain things at church that only you can do, but when and where you can give responsibilities to others so you can spend more time with your family,
8. Take your children with you: It may sound contradictory, but if you try to divide your life between the church and home, you’ll create a war where your family loses, and your children will grow to resent the church. One of the most important things I’ve learned as a dad is that I don’t leave my kids to go and do ministry; I take my kids with me to minister. I try to involve them in virtually every aspect of the church, and I try to make it fun. Going to visit the hospital? Take one of your children with you and get them a milkshake afterward. Preaching at a local church in the middle of the week? Take them with you and let them hang out at supper after the service. Have you worked hard to get ahead at church and have a few “free” days? Take them on a hunting trip or to the mountains overnight. They pay a price for being PKs; find a way for that reality to be something special or give them something extra so that the church isn’t a threat but a blessing.
As pastors, we hold unique and essential roles in our congregations and families. Prioritizing quality time with our children is a sacred duty that intertwines with our calling as spiritual leaders. May we recognize that our most profound ministry often occurs within the sanctuary of our homes, where we nurture the hearts of the next generation.
May God’s grace empower us to excel in our ministries and families as we seek to live out our faith in the pulpit and around our own dinner tables.
Brad Whitt is pastor of the historic Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.