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The Open Door

 

Family has always been important to me. I think it all started with a mother and father who loved the Lord and who were supremely devoted to their children and to quality time together as a family. If there is any word of advice I could give to young ministers' families it would be to make room for your family in your busy schedule.

Time invested with your children is time well spent. In fact, it is possible to argue that your investment of time in the lives of your children is the best investment you will ever make.

My father and mother made sure that we always had vacation time scheduled as a family during the summer months. The extent of this time was generally a week to two weeks, but I remember a few times that we were away as a family for a month. Often our time together was spent traveling to and from the Southern Baptist Convention and also spending time on the beach around Panama City Beach, Destin or Fort Walton. These are the fondest memories of all.

When God called me to be a pastor, I came to understand how critical it was for the pastor to schedule time to be with his family. I also learned that sometimes one week at a time is not enough. At times it takes one week to begin to unwind and a second week to truly relax. Congregations that are caring and wise will not only allow their pastor to be away with his family, but will encourage it, even demand it.

Your pastor will be more effective as a pastor, a husband, and a father if he has quality "away time" with his family. When he returns to the pulpit he will be rested and more effective.

You will not be surprised to learn that as I had a family of my own, I would be sure that we spent quality vacation time together every year. Now that our girls are grown and have families of their own, when they reflect upon the past they have happy thoughts about our vacation times together.

They often laugh about the funny things that happened. They never fail to thank Janice and me for giving them a happy childhood. They refer to it as the best gift we ever gave them.

In between vacations, it is important to create family time together in the midst of busy schedules at home. It's not easy to do this with evenings taken up with meetings, visits to the funeral home and hospital, church activities, weddings and wedding rehearsals. I remember one year in Paducah, Kentucky when I had 32 weddings. Since I always conducted the wedding rehearsal as well as the wedding, that year there were 32 weekends with both Friday and Saturday night involvement. You can see how this quickly ate into my time with my family.

While I believe that God wants the minister to be faithful to his ministry and effective in all he does, I have never believed that God requires that faithfulness at the expense of the family. As difficult as it is, a balance must be struck.

The minister must literally plan time on his calendar for his family and protect that time as he would any other important appointment. This is not always understood, or popular with people in the church who have no comprehension of their minister's schedule. Regardless of challenges to family time, the minister must advocate for his family. Remember, this too, is a part of your calling.

The Apostle Paul spelled out the qualifications for the bishop (pastor) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Paul says that the bishop must be "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (KJV). While there may be a few in your church who complain every time you leave town, or schedule time away from the church to be with your family, your church will be exceedingly proud of their pastor's family when it is well-behaved, faithful to the church, tightly knit as a family, and deeply devoted to Christ.

This kind of family does not occur automatically. It requires dedication to teaching, training and time within the home. The result is like pure gold, a family that is a shining example before the congregation and the community.