3 Reflections on Leading Your Family Well

I was lying on the floor pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around his wooden track when I realized my young son had been speaking to me for the past 30 seconds, but I hadn’t listened to a word he had said. Instead, I was too preoccupied thinking about the church. Those precious moments were now gone—never to return.

 Sadly, I bet many other pastors can relate.

All of us know tragic stories of wives and children of pastors, church planters, and missionaries who grow up to hate the church. These stories could have been avoided, in many cases, if the leader in the home had not neglected his family.

I could offer you a moralistic, guilt-driven path toward self-improvement, marked by signs along the way exhorting, “Try harder! Do better! Quit your hobbies! Spend more time with your wives and kids!” But I’m not convinced this method would lead to true, lasting change and fruitfulness. Thankfully there is a better path, along which we’re propelled by faith in the gospel. Some of the same signs may appear, but the motivation and power for obeying their calls come from a different place—the finished work of Jesus on behalf of the frail, fallen father.

Along this path, the leader recognizes that he must be led by the Spirit. As he pursues a deep, abiding love for God and his Word, he finds strength to persevere in both ministry and also the home. He sees his own failures in the shortcomings of his children and begins to develops greater humility and a deeper understanding of his ongoing need for grace. This father cries
out to his Father and finds that God is more than willing to give all good gifts (Matt. 7:11, Jas. 1:17). This leader is now ready to lead his family, keeping in mind these three realities.

1. The church can get another pastor, but your kids can’t get another dad.

We only get one shot to raise our children. I talk to fathers all the time who lament being absent during their children’s formative years because of working too much. Even though this is often especially true for pastors, it shouldn’t be. Our biblical credentials for ministry deal mostly with how we lead our families and our own character, rather than our ministry effectiveness. Remember, no one reaches the end of their life saying, “I wish I had spent more time working on my blog or book.” May we never forget: The first flock you lead is not the one that gathers on Sunday, but the one that lives at your house.

2. The church can get another pastor, but your wife has only one husband—and she needs a good one.

Our wives often take the brunt of the beating of our ministries: they hold us together, they hear us grumble, and they hear others complain about us. Take it from someone who has greatly failed before in this area: do as much as you can to set clear boundaries between the church and home. Frequently check up on whether or not your wife enjoys being a part of the church you lead. If she doesn’t want to attend the church where you are the pastor, this situation needs your immediate attention. Don’t let pride keep you from reaching out for help both
inside and outside the church as well.

3. A day off is not just a good idea—it is essential.

At our house, we call them “Monday Funday.” It is the day we play outside, eat Chinese food at a mall, and don’t talk about the church. Our church knows about “Monday Funday” because I mention it in sermons, tweet about it, schedule around it, and unless someone is bleeding out in their kitchen, I do my best not to violate it. The flock I pastor is happy to encourage this time, and I hope that yours would be as well. If not, it may be time for a short mini-series on the Sabbath for everyone’s benefit.

Though I still have a long way to go in this area of leading well in the home, Thomas the Tank Engine and I have made a lot of progress in the past couple of years. He goes around the track a little faster, and I pay better attention to my children. He and they will be gone before I know it, and I want to care for and lead my family as well as I can in the time that I have. This is what God wants, too. As the ultimate, loving Father, God is happy to lead his children as we seek to lead ours.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    I like the article but not the head-line, it reeks of unBiblical (i.e. professional) assumptions about the pastorate. The reality is that sometimes the church can’t get another pastor because it’s not just a job to be filled, like a plumber.

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  • http://deeprootslibrary.com Luke ((Deep Roots Library))

    My son Benjamin is going to be born in the next 6 weeks, and as a pastor, Deep Roots Library, and another part-time retail job, I am realizing even more how critical this is going to be once he gets here.

    I have been realizing, though, that its not as hard for me to take a day off a week as it is to set aside everything when I get home at night and actually be DONE and be present with my family.

    Thanks for the good word, Dustin!

  • Russ Kreuter

    Dustin-Good post, brother. I found myself relating to you very much, down to the wooden Thomas the Train track. Thank you for your words.

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  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “I was lying on the floor pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around his wooden track when I realized my young son had been speaking to me for the past 30 seconds, but I hadn’t listened to a word he had said. Instead, I was too preoccupied thinking about the church.”

    Good thing you don’t do that with your wife.


  • kcameron

    As a church planter’s wife, i love reading this. I’m encouraged knowing my husband frequents this site and will most definitely click on his story ;-) (due to the thomas photo – thomas and his fellow choo-choos are big in our home). Im also encouraged by the fact that this is where the Spirit is prompting church leaders to move. Ministry in all facets of life.. home included and prioritized.

  • http://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/ SLIMJIM

    This was quite edifying for my soul!

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  • Jeremy Bias

    While I am helped and in full agreement with your article, I find it hard to reconcile it with a Gospel Coalition article from May 15th about the same topic which took what to me is a different approach, even up to the point of the author balancing leading a church plant with his wife facing an aggressive form of cancer. The advice he was given by his pastor seems at best questionable, at worst hurtful. Any thoughts on how to navigate the two articles?

    May 15th article link: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/tgc/2012/05/15/embracing-the-biblical-tension-between-family-and-church-ministry/


  • David Moles

    The points of spending priority time as a Father and a husband are in deed valid. However the “tragic stories” alluded to in the second paragraph aren’t always due to inadequate fathering or husbandry. Sinful people may choose to reject the godly home in which they were raised for a number of reasons. In my almost 4 decades of ministry I’ve seen families where three kids turn out to be godly men and women and 1 child slides into drug abuse, homosexuality, etc. These parents obviously did something right as evidenced by their faithful three kids. It weakens the teaching and appears a bit naive to claim to avoid “tragic” outcomes are totally the result of poor parenting and husbandry. I caution the author to not make such sweeping claims as to results which ultimately he can’t control but do affirm his emphasis on parenting and marriage priorities.

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  • http://christiandatinggateway.com Mervyn @ Christian Dating Gateway

    Read your post with great interest and value highly the information you kindly offer. Look forward to learning more. Many thanks.

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