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FAMILY LIFE & MINISTRY LIFE: ARE THE TWO COMPATIBLE?

Managing the tension between ministry and family is one of the more challenging items leaders deal with. How do we integrate our passion for our spouse and children (and grandchildren), and our passion for the assignment God has given us vocationally? Every leader wrestles with this to some degree. Today, Jaime Hlavin explores the matter for us. Happy reading! ~ John

Several years ago, John asked me to guest blog regarding raising children in a pastor’s home. (Feel free to read the original post here ). At that time, my children were really young, so we thought it would be beneficial to revisit this subject now that a significant amount of time has passed.

When we first discussed this, I was excited and thought, “This will be a lot of fun!” Then, I began to overthink and started to panic a little because what if the advent of middle school and high school has caused our lofty ideals on the carefully balanced rhythm of vocational ministry and family to implode and my children are irreparably, psychologically damaged?!?! Clearly, I spiraled pretty quickly.

As a young mother, I was under the impression that once my littles got older, day-to-day life, schedules, and routines would be easier.  Imagine my surprise when that didn’t happen. In fact, it got really, really complicated. My children’s issues became complex and, shockingly, I wasn’t the center of all knowledge, wisdom, and opinions for them anymore. (All of the more seasoned readers are mocking me right now).

When your children are young, every wonderful moment gets posted on social media (“Johnny came in 57th at his school’s Fun Run today! So proud!”) and every struggle gets talked about with friends or family (“We’re having a bit of a ‘mean girl’ situation at school, do you have any advice?”) It’s easy to find advice on chore charts, tantrums, homework strategies, friendship issues, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimizing those issues. They are difficult and they are real. I have a child whose tantrums and sheer force of will reduced me to tears on countless occasions. And believe me, 5th grade math was no joke either.

But then, a strange thing happens somewhere between elementary school and high school: Everyone goes weirdly silent on the topic of raising a family. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case other than maybe the deep complexity of individualized and nuanced teenage issues cause us to want to protect our children from the opinions of others. Or maybe we want to protect our parenting reputations from the opinions of others. Whatever the case, it’s very different than before. (That’s what I tell parents of very young children when they ask if things get “better.” I say, “Things get different.” And based on the blank stares I often receive in return, I’ve realized that’s probably an extremely annoying and unhelpful response.)

Therefore, writing a carefully formulated blog with three easy steps to finding the ideal rhythm of family life and ministry life with older kids was messy. I didn’t know where to begin, because frankly, the past few years of our lives have sometimes felt chaotic and out-of-control. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what my kids thought about our rhythm of life in a pastoral ministry home. So, I went back and reread my blog post from 2015. This stood out to me once again:

 “God is not calling us to win the world and, in the process, lose our families.  But I have known those who so enshrined family life and were so protective of ‘quality time’ that the children never saw in their parents the kind of consuming love that made their parents’ faith attractive to them. Some have lost their children, not because they weren’t at their soccer games or didn’t take family vacations, but because they never transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences.” – David Shibley (The Missions Addiction)

What would my family say about our ministry calling? Have we demonstrated to them a “consuming love that made (our) faith attractive” to others and “transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences?” So, my husband and I checked in with them. We asked them to evaluate how our family/ministry rhythm was working.

  1. What do they like about our ministry life?
  2. What do they dislike about it?
  3. If we walked away from ministry today, what would they miss the most? What wouldn’t they miss?
  4. How are we doing in the key areas we established many years ago? (Those were the areas I wrote about in my original blog: Be Normal; Schedule Skipping Wisely; Apologize; Don’t Play the PK Card; Let Them Be Themselves; Boundaries With the Over-Familiarity of Church People; Limit Exposure to Behind the Scenes Drama; and We Love God and People.)

Our conversation was both encouraging and eye opening. We learned that we were doing pretty well in some areas but needed recalibration in others. And we discovered that neither one of them could ever imagine our lives any other way than in ministry. (Additionally, in some more lighthearted areas, it was made abundantly clear that when it comes to apologizing, my husband is top notch and I am not. And we learned that Karis gets “really, really hungry and angry” because we take so long to leave after Sunday morning services.)

Through this process, I’ve found that ultimately, I can boil this all down to three points. The details and action items will look different for each family, but I believe that a healthy ministry family life rhythm can be enacted if you:

  1. Formulate exactly what that rhythm is going to look like for your family. Put it on paper (or into something electronic). Feel free to use ours if they apply to you!
  2. Periodically check in with your people to see how you’re doing in those areas. Be prepared for the stark honesty of children and teenagers.
  3. Recalibrate as often as necessary.

As I stated in my previous blog on this topic, it is my continued prayer that we, as vocational ministers, raise a generation of children that love God, love people, and still love the Church. We can do this by managing the rhythm of our family and ministry lives both carefully and prayerfully.

I’m rooting and praying for you! ~ Jaime

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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