My husband is never home! All he can think about is his ministry and his church."
"I never have time for my family. The pressures of what everybody wants me to do arejust too much."
These typical statements are a mere reflection of a kind of pressure and pain that is experienced in pastoral ministry. "The all consuming 'ministry' seems to control our lifestyle, our home, and our future." Is there a way of resolving this conflict? Following are a few suggestions that might help balance the lives of those involved with the ministry.
Some of the factors that shape and sometimes create problems for a minister and his family are:
- Pastoral ministry is a job that is never finished. There is always one more person to see, one more thing to do.
- The demands on a pastoral couple's time are endless and continual.
- Ministers and their families have to deal with a variety of people, all of whom have differing expectations of the pastoral family.
- There are a variety of reasons why people go into the ministry, and each person has a different view of what "being in the ministry" means.
It must be remembered that pastoral ministry is not just a job or a career, It is a calling and as such, creates greater commitment and dedication than a mere job. It is imperative not to lose sight of the role God plays in this calling.
It is true, ministry is a never finished task. Pastors may have to learn that some things on the ministry "to do" list may never get done. That is all right!
As difficult as it is to admit, each person in ministry is driven by his or her own compulsions. Previous life experiences have shaped the way a person deals with ministry demands.
Pastoral ministry is usually a team ministry. One level of that team is that of a pastor and spouse. But there is another level that is often forgotten. The ministry team is bigger than the pastoral home—it includes each member of the church.
Looking for a solution
One of the most important ways for a pastor to resolve the pressures associated with the ministry is to understand his own compulsions. One's perfectionist tendencies, need for acceptance or competitive drives often compel him to do that which no one else expects him to do. Often times, these compulsions drive the pastor to even do another's job.
Once it is understood what tips the balance, the pastor needs to look at the problem in the light of the gospel. Knowing that God accepts us because of Christ and not because of our performance is the beginning of healing for our compulsive tendencies.
The next step in finding a solution is to clarify or identify the values of a pastoral team. What is important to us as individuals, families, and spiritual leaders in God's church?
The third step in finding a solution is to work together in establishing priorities. Each pastoral couple will have their own unique list and order of priorities.° bviously, one's relationship with God must be at the top of those priorities.
It is amazing to discover how often other areas fall into line more easily once room has been made for God. Maintaining a spiritual walk with God makes it easier to deal with the pressures of pastoral life. It also helps the pastor and his family relate to others in a less stressful way.
Once values are clarified and priorities are established, the parameters or boundaries of the ministry need to be negotiated. If those limits are not clearly established, congregations will not recognize ANY limits. Parishioners will simply keep looking for more help, more ministry, more work.
These boundaries need to be worked out together as a family. They should include such things as:
- regular time off
- personal devotional time
- normal weekly schedule
- family time
- office hours
- average hours per week
Obviously, all the above must be flexible and will vary with circumstances. However, clearly defined parameters form the foundation for controlling the endless demands of ministry.
It is unrealistic to expect a 40-hour week in pastoral ministry. Church members are asked to give of their time over and above their 40-50 hours of work. Can we expect to do any less? My thinking has been that I work the first 50 hours a week for my salary and the other 10 or 15 as my "service." However, to average 80-90 or more hours a week is probably downright sinful and certainly nothing to be bragging about. God does not expect that kind of sacrifice and usually those kind of hours are the result of our own compulsions.
God intends ministry to be a privilege and pleasure as we see Him work through us, not a curse or burden we have to bear. And certainly, not a cross to those around us.