When a Pastor’s Church and Family Collide

I’ve had some great followup conversations and messages from Sunday’s sermon.  One came in the form of an email regarding something I said concerning PKs (preacher’s kids).

In the application section of the message, I stated:

Don’t expect pastors to care for your family at such a level that they cannot care for their own family.

Scripture is clear that pastors need to have two skill sets: 1) the ability to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9), and 2) the ability to manage one’s household well (1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 1:6).

My point was that I have seen PKs stereotyped for being hellions bent on destroying their father’s reputation, and while there are many factors involved, one recurring factor is that a child (in many situations) watches his father spend more time with other families than his own.  They grow disillusioned with the church since that is the organization that takes Daddy away, and then they eventually walk away from the church.

I said it as a reminder in our church.  North Side is great about allowing us to say “no” to certain things so we can take care of our families.

I have preached a message similar to this in other congregations, but I almost took this part out when I preached at our own congregation.  I didn’t want it sound self-serving, but it is biblical truth, and I can’t shy away from it.  Pastors need to manage their homes well, and, in order to do that, we must be present with them.

Here was the email from someone who watched the message that drove home this point:

I watched your sermon and liked your plug about PKs.  I am a PK and could identify with what you said.

While I don’t remember my dad missing any of my events, I do remember the countless arguments between my parents when we were on vacation.  My dad would call in to the church at least once a day to see what was going on and if he had any messages.  To us, it seemed that his mind was on work and not on enjoying precious times with the family.

Even throughout the years, we still cannot depend on my dad to come to certain things.  We are usually told that he will be there unless a member dies or someone is in the hospital that he needs to see.  I’m sure that you can imagine how that makes me feel.  I’m not angry or bitter about it.  I’ve just come to accept that as how he is.  I’ve had the conversation with him, but he just can’t seem to say “no” to the church.

I am not blaming him for my actions, but I was one of the statistics that you mentioned Sunday.

After graduating high school, I fell away from the institution of the church.  After all, it had taken my daddy from me.

Several years later, I did come back around and am thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Don’t get me wrong – I never abandoned God or my faith – just the institution of the church.  Seeing so much hypocrisy from “good Christians” really just frustrated and confused me.

One of my prayers for you and any pastoral staff is that when you are on vacation, truly be on vacation.  Be with your family, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I also pray that the order of God, Family, Work is obvious and that the Work, even though it’s church work, is never confused with God in that order.

If I ever needed additional convincing, I just got it.

What a powerful reminder concerning the need for pastors to be present with their families.  I know it is hard to check out, and this doesn’t give us a free pass not to be accessible to our congregations, but this is a reminder that when we are with our families, be with our families.

It’s not just on vacation days, it’s when you walk in the door.  When I have struggled with the continual urge to check my phone for updates or emails when I am with my family, I remove my phone, turn it off, or turn it on do not disturb.

Whatever it takes, make sure that your family knows that you are with them.  Make sure your wife knows you are committed to making your marriage work as much as you are the couples with which you do counseling.  Make sure your children see you be as intentional sharing God’s Word with them as you do with your congregation.

While Paul was speaking to the Thessalonian church when he wrote this, I think this verse applies.  For if members of your family are part of God’s family, they are a part of the Church.  In fact, when you are at home, you are with a significant portion of the Church.

Pastors, I pray that you can learn to apply this verse in your home:

Having so fond an affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our very lives, because you had become very dear to us.  -1 Thess. 2:8

Sunday’s Message

If you are interested in the message, you can check it out here.  If you want to hear specifically the section on preachers’ kids, go to the 34-minute mark.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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2 Comments

  1. Pastors must not abandon their families OR their congregation. It takes a balancing act for sure, but I’ve seen far too many pastors who lean too far either way, and in doing so, hurt both their families and their congregations. I’m convinced that some pastors shouldn’t be pastors due to their inability to handle this issue.

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