A good friend of mine and I recently each took new lead pastor positions within a few months of one another. A few weeks ago, we chatted on the phone about our experiences with our new churches, our insights into the state of them, and our plans for leading them into the new year. For the most part, our experiences so far, ideas, and plans were identical, but there was one aspect that was almost opposite: what we had done in our time since we took our roles.
My friend had almost finished visiting every Community Group, having dinner with each of his elders and key leaders, and meeting one-on-one with volunteer ministry coordinators. I had been at my church three months longer; why had I not done the same?
Lies and Life
I began to hear the old familiar whisper, “you’re lazy”, “you’re not doing the right thing”, “you shouldn’t be leading if you don’t do all of the things your friend is doing.” The comparison game is not only the thief of joy, but the harbinger of despair.
When I shut down the lies and paid attention to reality, I recognized my friend is in a different stage of life than I am. His adult children have their own lives and his wife has a full and busy life that is intertwined with his life and ministry. I, on the other hand, have two young children (5 & 3). My wife stays home and cares for our household, but by the end of the day, she’s played zone defense long enough and appreciates my help. My children need me home, to play with them, read to them, pray with and for them, and to talk with them. None of this means I shirk my responsibilities at the church, but it does mean my life stage is one where it would be unhelpful to my family if I am absent multiple nights every week, attending daily early morning meetings, or absent from home frequently on days off.
My friend has the time, capacity, and ability to engage with his church in a more flexible and hands-on way, while I simply do not. In other words, I will still take on relationship-building activities, but it will look a little different and take longer.
Giving an Account
Hebrews 13:17 tells us church leaders will stand before God as, “those who will have to give an account.” I have often interpreted this passage as fire beneath me for not doing enough, working hard enough, or being enough like the “super” pastor across the street. But in the account I give to the Lord, will he ask why I neglected my primary responsibility, my family, because I was trying to be and do the work only he could do in the church? I truly believe God will not ask you to be faithful in one area of your life if it causes you to be unfaithful in another.
My family – raising my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and supporting and loving my wife – must take precedence over my role at church. Sure, when my kids are both in school my time outside of “work hours” will look different, but for now, being faithful where I can is what is important.
Stay Faithful to All of Your Responsibilities
What is your life stage? How are you distributing your time between your responsibilities to both your family and your church?
If your pastoral work is detrimental to the flourishing of your wife and children, your true pastoral responsibilities, you are on the fast track to burnout or disqualification. Avoid the path of trying to keep up with your brother in ministry who is in a later stage of life than you. Stay faithful to the responsibilities the Lord placed in your life for your stage of life. Care for your wife and family. In doing so you will better care for your church.