A Happy Life At Home

This is an excerpt from a book I am writing on ministry.

Nothing can replace time spent with your wife and kids, and it is a rare pastor who can get through life without feeling guilty over the times he has missed with his immediate family.  There is no way out of it, you and your family will sacrifice to be in the ministry, and you should. 

 

There is probably nothing better for your physical heart than to have a happy home life.  If you are in love with your wife, and she loves you, and if you enjoy your children and they delight for you to be home and involved in their lives, this indeed is joy.  There is so much to oppose the achievement of this in modern ministry life.  I will try to give some ideas to make it possible….

  1. Let’s be counter intuitive, to have a happy home you must not make an idol out of it.  Your wife and family have to see you leading them to something greater than time with you, or seeing themselves indulged with all of your attention.  The call of God, missions, ministry, commitment to a local church, justice, the poor, and love for others has to be the value system on which our families are built.  If you don’t want self-centered children than you have to model it, and far too often our quest for a good quality of life is in reality nothing but self-love.
  2. To have a happy home you have to love your wife.  If you want your children to respect you, honor your wife.  If you want respect from your wife, learn to listen to her and take her opinions seriously. If you want your children to be polite, teach them to respect and honor their mother.  Insist on obedience and respect in the home from your children and do not allow signs and acts of rebellion in their early years to go unchecked; it will pay off when they are teens.
  3. Being full of anger and giving yourself over to rage at home is neither healthy nor a testimony to your children.  Many pastors are driven people, often frustrated, and sometimes way too demanding of their wives and children.  Rage, bellowing and yelling, being controlling, and overly strict is not the same as discipling your children.  Do not call them names, except those of endearment (idiot, meathead, lazy, fool, and your mother’s child are not included).  Love and patience with affection works wonders.
  4. Nothing can replace time spent with your wife and kids, and it is a rare pastor who can get through life without feeling guilty over the times he has missed with his immediate family.  There is no way out of it, you and your family will sacrifice to be in the ministry, and you should.  However, that means the times you should set apart to be with them should be sacred to you, so set apart the time and fight hard to protect it.  I failed often at this, as do many pastors, and lay people who must work long hours and sometimes work more than one job to keep their families financially afloat.
  5. Learn how to rest. Set a day off and take it, plan vacations and take them, ask for a sabbatical and use it well.  Try not to replace real vacations with working ones, but sometimes that is the only way to get your family out of town and some place fun, so don’t despise the opportunity if that is what you have to do.  I learned these lessons far too late in raising a family.  I am grateful for every great, but rare, memory of time off fun with my kids and family.
  6. Pray for and practice a healthy sex life.  If you are married you need to not neglect each other, and neither do you need to be obsessive and selfish. Talk to your wife about your mutual needs and don’t fall into habits of neglect, being slovenly, or emotional distance.
  7. May God deliver you from pornography, and if it is any kind of problem get counseling, and help.  Protect yourself from temptation and stop thinking you are above it and can handle everything.  Watch out for counseling sessions with needy women, make sure someone else is around or in the building.  When you travel for ministry take someone with you that will hold you to godly behavior, of the same sex or your wife.  Think of yourself as vulnerable and a target for the Devil and stop listening to his lies that tell you that you are a success and deserve to be admired and can handle sexually dangerous situations.
  8. Stop obsessing over money.  One can spend way too much time worrying about how, or if, they are going to financially make it, or give way to anger about how they are not being paid enough, or how their spouse seems to have no self-control, or how their children are missing out, or about the car they have to drive, or vacations they can’t take. Pray about your money, be diligent to account for it and use it well, get advice on how to manage and budget it, and learn to be content in whatever situation you are in.  Make sure you tithe faithfully and be generous. Stop your complaining (especially in front of your wife) and learn to be grateful for what you have.  It is unhealthy to have a cheap and greedy heart.
  9. Figure out how to worship as a family and teach your children about our holy religion.  Use the catechism, Scripture memory, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, Christian stories and biographies.  Engage your children in ministry events, mission trips, and service.  Pray with and for them, at the table, when you put them to sleep, when they are struggling with issues of friends, school problems, etc.  Try to stop your bitching about all the failures of the church or the people in it, show some respect for the Bride of Christ.
  10. For your children; compliment, encourage, use good and positive words.  Stop always saying, “no!” Try to get to a “yes.” Make sure your wife and you are a team and can’t be divided and conquered by those manipulative children. Reward, gently push, ask questions, listen to their questions, don’t judge them for doubts or concerns.  Brag about them, and let them know of your pride in them.  Say, “I love you” a lot.  Let your boundaries be clear and the door always open to your heart.

Randy Nabors is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, is Pastor Emeritus of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga Tenn., and the Urban & Mercy Ministries Coordinator- The New City Network at Mission to North America (MNA).  This article is used with permission.