Why You Shouldn’t Sacrifice Ministry on the Altar of Family

Working Late

Many young pastors are devoting themselves to their families. We’ve seen the consequences of workaholism in the previous generation of pastors. And we’ve decided to give our families the time and attention they deserve.

Many say, “My family is my first ministry.” After all, what good is it to lead others to the Lord if our wives and children resent us for it? Others say, “I won’t sacrifice family on the altar of ministry.” In other words, we won’t allow ministry to be a higher priority than our family.

And why shouldn’t we devote ourselves to our families? Ministry affords us a flexible schedule that allows us to be home when we need to be. Nobody expects us to neglect our family for the sake of the church.

A Harmful Trend
But some young pastors are at home too much. In an effort to not sacrifice family on the altar of ministry, they sacrifice ministry on the altar of family. In other words, they let their family become a higher priority than their ministry.

This shows itself in how they manage their schedule. They put in minimal office hours. They refuse to take on evening and weekend responsibilities. They treat any extra moment away from their family as a sacrifice too precious to make.

This has produced another harmful trend. There is a tendency to think our wives are the keepers of our calling. So if she says we’re working too much, then we’re working too much. Some young pastors are so consumed with keeping their wives happy that they forget their true calling is to serve the Lord!

Unfair to Your Church
Devoting too much time to your family is unfair to your church. After all, don’t the people in your church work 40+ hours a week? Don’t they spend extra time away from their families because of work?

Every job requires overtime. Every job requires evening and weekend responsibilities. Every job requires seasons of busyness. Why should ministry be any different? What does it communicate to our people if we’re unwilling to work as hard as they do? Is it true that pastors only work one day a week?

Unfair to Jesus
Devoting too much time to your family is also unfair to Jesus. After all, He left His family for ministry. And He adopted His followers as His new family. He says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

He calls us to leave our families for ministry as well. James and John left their boat and their father to follow Him (Matthew 4:22). A potential disciple wanted to say good-bye to his family. Jesus told him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

He even says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Finding a Balance
What does this mean? Does Jesus really expect me to hate my wife and kids? Does He really expect me to abandon them for the sake of ministry? Maybe, but I don’t think so. His dying wish was for His mother to be taken care of (John 19:25-27), so even He didn’t completely disown His family.

But I do think He expects me not to use my family as an excuse to slack off in ministry. Sometimes He tells us to do things that our wives and/or parents won’t like. And guess what? He expects us to do it anyway.

There are times to tell your church “no” for the sake of your family. And there are times to tell your family “no” for the sake of ministry. There are busy seasons, and sometimes you just have to tell your wife to deal with it.

God didn’t give you a family so you could disobey His calling on your life. If you neglect ministry in the name of family, then you don’t deserve to be in ministry.

How do you balance family and ministry? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!

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3 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Sacrifice Ministry on the Altar of Family

  1. Anyone who serves in the church in a leadership role needs to find a balance when it comes to family. There are situations where family comes first and when church responsibilities come first. As in other careers, there are times one needs to put in extra hours for a priority project or emergency situation. The same is the case when serving in the church.

  2. I like the symmetry between this blog and your last one! And Paul’s previous comment about Luke 14:26 was very helpful; Matthew 10:34-39 illuminates the meaning of Luke 14:26. It’s difficult for us as Americans to grasp that some people’s families intensely persecute them for their faith in Christ. But when our families support our faith, they are an asset to the church. Mark Driscoll refers to his marriage as a refreshing “oasis of En Gedi.”

    God desires our fierce allegiance, but He also “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). He wants us to delight in the gift of family that He gives us, so long as it does not distract us from him. The same sort of balance is required in things like physical fitness and academics. We can use our fitness and intelligence to serve the church, provided that we don’t idolize these qualities. I don’t know where it comes from, but this saying sums up the point well: “Good things become bad things when they become God things.”

    God bless you, brother!

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