Family Matters

When I was attending seminary and serving as a youth pastor, I had convinced myself that I was leading my family well because they were with me at the church every time I had to be there. My kids would come to the office after school and sit or play on the playground. They would attend youth groups with me and sometimes be at the church till late in the evening. The words my 7-year-old son spoke from the back seat of the car while driving to the church, yet again, have lived rent-free in my head for the last 15 years. “Dad, why is the church more important than us?” It was in that moment that God revealed to me the importance of spending time with my family, shepherding my family, and not just taking them with me to church. 

Being the Pastor of a church is hard! We have all felt the difficulty of pastoring. Most of us have wrestled with the Monday morning resignation, or Thursday night after that especially contentious meeting. We have faced personal criticism and dealt with the church member who just does not like us. And if you are like me, you have tried to shield your family from the negative parts of ministry. After all of that, we get up every day; we brush ourselves off and we do it again. Why? Because God has called us to it.  He has placed each of us in the position we are in for His purpose. 

Brandon Cox, a leadership coach who specializes in recovery from burnout, posted this in October of 2023 “I recently read that most people will lose 5 to 7 significant relationships over the course of their lifetime, but pastors lose 5 to 7 significant relationships per year.” As pastors, our families will be the only consistent relationship in our lives. With all the demands of pastoring it is easy to lose sight of the importance of a healthy relationship with our wives and children. I believe that these are the two relationships we need to focus our attention on to have a healthy ministry life and longevity in the church. A recent study showed that 24% of pastor’s families resent the church and its effects on their family. When our families stop supporting us, we are dead in the water. 

I have been blessed to have a wife in Tracy who is 100% on board with me in serving the Lord. She is my greatest supporter and without her I would have messed so many things up. She is the one who holds my arms up when I grow weary. Even with my mood swings at times and my quick temper she has stood by me. She is my helpmate. I pray that you have that support in your ministry because I don’t know how any of us could ever serve without it. Sometimes we take that relationship for granted. Church takes over our time and because we are all devoted leaders we give all our time. That level of commitment can lead to a disconnect in our marriage.

Church takes over our time and because we are all devoted leaders we give all our time. That level of commitment can lead to a disconnect in our marriage.

Tracy and I have served together for over 20 years. Since the day we surrendered our lives to God we have served side by side. We love serving Christ and his Church in all the ways we have. Everything we do is about God. There never would have been a time when we thought serving the church would be a detriment to our own personal relationship. 

It was not until about 7 years ago when some of our best friends had begun serving the Lord and His church more intentionally. We believed they had a solid marriage and were happy in their life. Then we got the call late one night that an affair had occurred. Since then, there has been repentance in this couple and God has restored their marriage and they serve the Lord in their local church. That moral failure caused Tracy and I to take a step back and say, if this could happen to them, it could happen to us. We needed to be more intentional in our relationship.

Allow me to share with you three things that Tracy and I learned we could do to strengthen our marital relationship. These are not groundbreaking suggestions. They are things that any one of you could discover on your own. Sometimes we need someone else to say it.

# 1

Study the Word of God Together

This seems like something that does not need to be said but how often do we let this slip through the cracks. One study shows that 70% of pastors only study the Word of God in preparation for the sermon. How many of us have said this about studying with our spouse; “We are in a bible study together we go to Sunday School together or we attend home group together.” That is not what I am talking about. I am saying sit down at the kitchen table and study the Word of God with your spouse. Not in conjunction with some other church function. Pour into each other. You will connect on a level that nothing else can compare with when you open God’s Word together. The same is true of your children. Pour into them by studying God’s Word together. Regrettably, this was one of my greatest failures as a parent. I did not make this a priority with my own children.

# 2

Set up regular Date Days or Date Nights

A Lifeway study showed that 71% of pastors’ spouses spend quality time alone with their spouse. 46% agreed that it is difficult to establish times for our marital relationship without having interruptions related to the needs of our congregation. If we are not careful the church will suck all our time away and we become exhausted and when we have a free day or night, we want to rest. We all need to establish a time for us to take our wives on a date. Go to dinner, take a drive, take a day, and go window shopping. Spend time together that is not focused on the church. Find some friends that are not at the church you serve in and go to dinner with them once a month. Make dating your spouse a priority. Make dating your children a priority. This is something that Tracy and I started to do well when our kids became teenagers. Every year my sons and I looked forward to spending 3 days in Denver at the State High School Basketball Tournament. We bonded more in those 3 days than we did any time we spent at home. 

# 3

Take a Vacation

78% of pastors report their vacation was interrupted with ministry duties. You have to get away from the church sometimes. Don’t read emails. Don’t call or text the church staff. Don’t pay attention to what is going on or watch the sermon from the week you were not there. Take time to rest and reenergize. Take time to reconnect with your spouse. To reconnect with your children. Your church can be without you for a week or two. Our churches need to understand the necessity for pastors to get away sometimes.

Pastors, our first ministry is to our families. It is my opinion that we need to put as much time into them in a week as we put into our sermons.

Time serving the church is time away from our families and as we all know the church can be very demanding.

Maybe pastoring has created a lifestyle in you that takes you away from your family more than it should. Maybe all the time spent working on Sermons, Bible Studies, in meetings at the church has taken you away from your family. Maybe you don’t even realize that there is a divide growing between you and your children or you and your wife. We need to take this seriously and do everything we can to strengthen our marriages. 

Pastors, our first ministry is to our families. It is my opinion that we need to put as much time into them in a week as we put into our sermons. That may not be the popular opinion but if we want a healthy marriage and a healthy family that does not resent us or the church, we must make them a priority. God did not call us to neglect our families in service to the church. 

Pastor, if you feel like ministry has weighed you down and you and your spouse have drifted apart. Reach out to me. Tracy and I founded Married4Life Ministries with the mission to Restore, Equip, and Strengthen marriages. We offer weekend retreats that will allow you and your spouse to reconnect with God and with each other.

David Smith serves as the Regional Director for Mesa Verde and Uncompahgre Baptist Association. Connect with him at [email protected].



Related articles