Category Archives: Marriage

Pastors can be their family’s worst pastor

I know many pastors and church developers read this site, so here is a series of thoughts that I’ve been discovering or been taught. Hopefully you’ll be able to implement what is of value before you have to learn them the hard way – like I did…

You’ve heard people say, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” well, not always true. Some of the characteristics that make me a better pastor for my congregation, make me a worse pastor for my family. In particular it is being there for the congregation. Always being available is great, but if you are, your congregation and community will take advantage of you, and you will not be available for your family.

Message to your congregation/community: “You are important to me!”

Message to your family: “Other people are more important to me!”

Spouse and kids can be (and rightly so) hurt and resentful. And how can they argue?!? You are doing good and important stuff. The laundry list of the things I get dragged into each week stuns me, and the little my family hears about it often shocks them. Not only is it good and important, but it is supposed to be God’s work. How can your kids, or your husband or wife, compete with that? How can they say, “I want more of you. Don’t give so much to God.” They can’t. Well actually, they often do, but they do so through rebellion, giving up on the church, God or you.

Your kids just want a dad, or a mom. They don’t want you to be a pastor, or a superhero for St. Whatever’s.

Boundaries are part of the answer. Have inviolable time set aside for the family. Don’t just make sure you are at the important events in their lives, set aside enough space to be part of making the memorable, unimportant moments.

Don't be SuperStupid

Don't be SuperStupid

Better than boundaries is making sure the ministry of your congregation belongs to the congregation, not you. Don’t worry, you won’t become dispensable. The “S” on your chest may just be standing for “Stupid” instead of “Super.” [That’s a Rick Warren line…] There is more than enough work that you will not be able to pass off to someone else. But the truth is that God pulled the people who make your congregation together because they need each other, not just because they need you. Design the DNA to turn your people to each other. More gifts, more hands, better ministry.

And you… you can do what you are uniquely called and equipped to do. And… you can let your family know that nothing God gave you is more important than they are.

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Learning to want to love, rather than be loved

Working on my message for Jacob’s Well I got to thinking about our relationship to God and what God wants with us. God doesn’t – as far as I can see – need us for anything. Rather we were created to need God. Or let me put it this way; we were created to be loved by God. That is where the need is – we need God. By being loved by God we learn to love God back.

That led me to think about my role as a parent. My relationship with my children is rather different from my role with my wife. Maybe I’m different from everyone else, but in ‘falling in love’ and getting married I have had a great inclination to be loved by the other person. Yes, I’ve read the books and poems about the person who can’t help but always want to selflessly love the other, but i’m not that perfect… I was always so enraptured with the ‘someone specials’ of my romantic life that I mostly was in love with the idea of being loved by them, and I let them do it. I wallow in being loved by my loved one.

With my kids it changed. They were not able to love me from the start. And, truth be told, they weren’t very good at it for a long time. Oh sure, they could be cute and endearing, even devoted and wholeheartedly trusting, but that was all because of something else – my love for them. They were created to be, first and foremost, loved by me and their mom. And from that love they learned to love us. It was natural for me to love that way with them. It was what i wanted to do. it was fulfilling on its own. Sure, I wanted them to love me back – it would be miserable if they didn’t – but my love didn’t depend on it. Love with them was first and foremost about Kris and I loving them.

I wonder if it is part of God’s grand design (and this isn’t supposed to be an argument against same-sex relationships, they too can take on and raise children as their own) that in marriage we have children to perfect our understanding of love. That with our children we learn how to live to love another, not be loved by another. And hopefully we take that hard earned lesson and apply it to our committed relationships, and begin to better understand the heart of God who created us to love us.