You’ve heard it said many times before. You’ve likely even said it to yourself. “Don’t sacrifice your family for your ministry.” You know it’s true, but you continue to struggle with the implementation. It’s not just about the preaching and teaching, but about the calls, emails, and text messages that don’t ever seem to stop. People are hurting – maybe more than ever before – and God has raised you up to be a shepherd of His people. The truth is, Pastor, that “His people” include your own family. And while your role as a Pastor is a critical God-given call, your relationship with your family matters too. Instead of a hollow New Year’s Resolution to improve those family relationships, here are three practical ways you can finally do so:
- Deal with disappointment. When people find out you are not going to be everything they want you to be, they will be disappointed. People don’t always like or respect boundaries. Never the less, they must be established. You need to set realistic expectations for yourself and for others. Do not be afraid to enlist other ministers or trusted lay leaders in your church when the needs of the church members are too great for you to handle alone. Develop a set of community resources that you can refer to so that you are not trying to solve every crisis solo. Deal with the potential disappointments church members will experience head on. You can do this by talking straight.
- Talk straight. Be honest and direct with your church members. Make the boundaries clear and set up reasonable expectations for your church members. For example, help them understand that you may not be able to make every hospital visit but that someone from the church will minister to them. Don’t be afraid to have an auto reply on your phone or email when you’re not on call, advising church members in need who they can contact. Print the appropriate contact information in the church bulletin. Ask the personnel committee or human resources for help in communicating your needs. Don’t suffer in silence. Instead, be honest about your need for time with your family. Talk straight with your family too. Let them know how and when you can be there for them, and how and when you need to be there for the church family. You well know that the call to ministry is not to a nine to five job, but you need family time too. And your family needs you.
- Dispel the past. If you’re constantly focusing on the past, you can’t really be in the present. While there is certainly merit in reviewing and learning from the past, try not to get stuck there. Encourage your family not to get stuck there either. If needed, apologize for your past absences and for any pain that may have caused to your loved ones. Then, commit to being more present in the future. Finally, follow through with that commitment. Instead of focusing on what you could have or should have done differently in the past, learn the lesson and move on. Put the past behind you and press on towards the future.
By dealing with disappointments head on, talking straight to your church members and family members, and dispelling the past, 2019 may be the year you are finally able to practice what you preach – at least as far as not sacrificing your family for your ministry goes.
If you want to learn more about improving relationships, or know others who need some practical and biblical advice, check out “Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back.” Pre-order from Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Dr. Laurel Shaler is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she serves as the Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program. Dr. Shaler writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being, and is the author of Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events and Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina. Learn more and contact Dr. Shaler at www.drlaurelshaler.com.