Dear Pastor, Ministry Worker, or Non-Profit Person:

Before I decided to work in ministry, part-time though it may be, I went around and talked to a lot of folks that I know in ministry. From pastors, to people who do other full-time ministry or charity work, one particular warning kept popping up: your first ministry is to your family.

Take your ass home.

Are we family here? Let’s be real then: you ain’t that important to Kingdom work. Yes, we are called to be missional and join in a ministry of reconciliation, but you aren’t irreplaceable. The work will be there tomorrow. You can’t sacrifice your family, (especially) not even in the name of the Lord or doing His work.

Consider this a welcome to leadership lesson two. It took me a long time to get comfortable (well, first that I’m a leader, and then) with the idea of what it means to be a leader in the Biblical sense. Being a leader doesn’t require sinless perfection. It doesn’t require academically qualified or highly skilled (we may not outright say it, but we tend to expect our leaders to have initials after their name if they are going to speak or write). A piece of paper doesn’t make anyone a good leader. It’s more about their character. Their honesty (with people and money). The stability of their personal/family life. An ability to teach. A maturity as a believer.

Take your ass home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got next to zero self-control in this area. Left to my own devices, every waking moment would be filled with me volunteering for one group or another. My wife is already suspicious that I may be committing “ministry adultery” with all of my recent writing about Outreach, Inc. (Though, combining it with existing ministries is fine. However, she is, for real, tired of me volunteering for things, be it writing or “in the name of the Lord”). Here’s how we solved the problem for us: she’s in charge of my time. It’s similar to submitting to who is gifted in what area.

She’s better at balancing a checkbook and making (and sticking to) budgets, so she runs that aspect of our life. My heart and mind want to prioritize my family, but it’s funny how “work” can make us lose sight of these things. To ensure that I wouldn’t, I asked her to hold me to account for making sure I spent however much time she needed me to at home (this includes regular date nights). I have a day job, I work for the church, and I write – to which she’s been quite sacrificial in accommodating. To ensure that my time/priorities don’t topple out of order, for every “new” venture I decide to adopt, I have to drop something else I do. She also gets a veto on how many evenings I book up with “stuff” (everything we do gets cleared on the Family Calendar Board), because neither one of us wants to be constantly “busy”. It’s our system, but I know how this “mutual submission” talk makes some folks nervous, so your mileage may vary.

The bottom line is that too many of us think that we’re indispensable. That we have to be at church, our ministry, our vocation, our whatever, from sun up to sundown. Yes, sacrifice is often required and there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. However, your family is not that sacrifice. Tuck in your kids and kiss your spouse because if you’re neglecting your family, you’re neglecting your first ministry.

Take your ass home.

Love and kisses,