Family Is My Ministry
Story by Roger Hernandez
For the first 10 years of my ministry, I was a terrific pastor and a terrible husband. I neglected my wife. I passed on the responsibility of raising my kids to babysitters. I led a church well and it grew at a rate of 100 people per year, yet I was not present as a leader in my own home. This was my story. Too bad it is repeated constantly.
Ministry is hard enough, with the added stress of issues at home. Many leaders and pastors have real trouble in their families that gets ignored, relegated or forgotten. Private problems almost always come back to affect public performance, usually in the worst possible moment. Secret monsters damage public ministry. Here are three practical solutions that have helped me, just some suggestions that could also benefit you:
1. Don’t force.
One of the mistakes I made was using my family to achieve personal ministry goals. It was more about me, than them. Now, I believe in involving the family in ministry, according to their gifts. My wife doesn’t play the piano. My son doesn’t preach. My daughter does. I had to learn to be encouraging without being demanding. Plug in your family according to their gifts, not your personal hobby horse. Respect the “no’s.”
Your job is not to look good, but to get your family into heaven.
2. Don’t forget.
My family is my ministry. That doesn’t mean I become lazy, or forget that I also have a job. But in the rare case that I have to choose, I chose my family. I have missed meetings to go see my daughter or son play, (even though the teams they were on were terrible).
One particular story is appropriate to share here. My daughter was playing a two-day basketball tournament, on a Sunday and Monday. Since their teams almost never win, I scheduled a meeting for Monday at 7 p.m. in a church. Then they started to win. They won on Sunday. They won on Monday morning, and Monday at noon. Now they were scheduled to play for the championship at 4 p.m. I had a dilemma. If I stayed for that game I would be late for my meeting. I was an hour from my house, where I needed to change, shave and shower, then drive another hour to the church in rush hour traffic. When my daughter asked me at noon, whether I would stay, I said yes, but the internal struggle begun. So, I ran the questions of whether I should stay or go through the filter I have become accustomed to using:
Is this important or urgent?
Is this good or best?
Is this permanent or temporary?
I stayed. The deciding factor was the question I asked myself: in 20 years, will my daughter remember her dad attending her game or will I feel regret for leaving her, again, and attending a meeting I don’t even remember? I stayed. They won. I drove. I showered. I changed. I broke the speed limit law. I arrived with 15 minutes to spare. Lesson learned.
Don’t forget what is really important. After the kids have gone, and after the church work has ended, you will still have your spouse. Work on your marriage first.
3. Don’t fake:
The sad news of two well-known Adventist figures had me thinking, reflecting and grieving.
First a leader has a well-publicized moral fall. Then we get news of the self-inflicted death of a former pastor/evangelist. Having only met them through media and common friends, I reflected on my own ministry, and my willingness to be open about my areas of struggle. I end this article with three final thoughts:
1. We grieve for all affected by these tragedies. Regardless of your particular views on church governance, approach to ministry, stance on women’s ordination and music, we never rejoice with the fall of a leader. We grieve and we take time to take stock of our own lives, for we dare not spend one minute pointing fingers that could be spent on own knees.
2. As leaders, anything we don’t face, trace and erase, with God’s grace, can come back to haunt us. All of us carry baggage, have weaknesses, face hurts, trials and may even have health issues that we would rather not think about. Suppressing and not addressing those Secret Monsters, can be downright deadly.
3. It seemed to me, that the emphasis of our ministry and life can reflect our unaddressed weakness. I remember several marriage counselors/speakers that had mayor issues in that area, one particular couple that was fighting backstage before the husband spoke about marriage to the congregation!
I have to analyze my ministry and my life and ask myself:
What are the mayor themes of my preaching?
What topics seem to prop up over and over in my interactions with people?
I’m I projecting a personal deficiency upon others by overemphasizing an area?
I have to make a decision, to choose being healthy rather than admired.
I need to be real with myself, God, other. I need to be healthy in my ministry and marriage. It’s my hope you can too.