After completing seminary, my husband and I had high hopes and big dreams about what ministry would “look like” for our family. Many years later, I can say with great disappointment that it has not turned out as I had envisioned. And my husband agrees. Most evenings revolve around me cooking, taking care of the kids, helping with homework,
doing housecleaning, and so forth. And you can probably guess the rest: my pastor husband is away from home making visits, doing church errands, giving Bible studies, and much, much more. He immediately answers every phone call he receives, even if we are eating dinner. He gets up early and stays up late. And, honestly, I think his joy and passion have evaporated—as have mine. I’m very concerned about him, us, our family, and the ministry. I really need direction and prayer.
Dear Dashed Hopes,
One of the greatest pitfalls in ministry is the illusion of being able to solve everyone’s problems. Add to that the attempt to do “everything” regarding routine responsibilities while keeping up with pastoral duties, and daily life can become overwhelming. What usually follows is family neglect, resulting in strained relationships. This can create a recipe for disaster.
Talk to your spouse about trying these ideas to avoid burnout:
1. Spend more time in prayer and the Word.
2. Focus on the positive.
3. Express gratitude.
4. Get in better physical shape.
5. Don’t compare yourself with others.
6. Have fun.
7. Commit to having the spirit of a servant.*
Also, implement the following practices for your family:
1. Eat together as a family.
2. Plan fun family nights.
3. Worship together as a family.
4. Go to church and on vacation together.
In addition, praying for and with your spouse will create a strong spiritual bond that cannot easily be broken. And remember that showing appreciation publicly and privately can be a real boost to a spouse.
The stark realities that exist in the life of a ministerial family must be acknowledged, but with proper planning and balance, ministry can be rewarding and fulfilling. It may be that your husband already senses a need for change in your family. If not, prayerfully ask if the two of you could talk with a counselor or pastoral mentor about practical solutions.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV).
* Tips adapted from research by Thom Rainer. See https://www.leadershipresources.org/blog/christian-ministryburnout-prevention-signs-statisticsrecovery/.