Dustin Neeley is the lead pastor of Crossing Church and lives with his wife and four children in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the founder of Church Planting for the Rest of Us and is regularly featured at the Resurgence. His first book, “Conversations on Gospel and Mission, Vol. 1,” will be released this Spring. Although this article from Dustin speaks primarily to pastors, its message is equally as relevant to anyone who has a leadership role in ministry.
I was lying on the floor pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around his wooden track and realized my 2-year-old son had been speaking to me for the past 30 seconds, but I hadn’t listened to a word he had said. Instead, I was too preoccupied thinking about the church—precious moments gone, never to return.
Can any other church planters, pastors, or ministry leaders relate? I thought so.
All of us know the tragic stories of wives and children of pastors and planters that grow up to hate the church. The greater tragedy is that I believe most of these stories should never have to be told. Instead, the stories exist because the leader of the home is failing to lead well.
3 Challenging Truths
Here are a few truths that I hope will challenge you to lead your family strongly while being a church planter or pastor:
1. The church can get another pastor, but your kids can’t get another dad. Like it or not, we only get one shot to raise our children. I talk to fathers all the time who lament their absence during their children’s formative years because of working too much. Even though this is often true for pastors, it shouldn’t be. Our biblical credentials for ministry deal mostly with how we lead our families and our own character, rather than how effective we are in ministry. And remember, no one reaches the end of their life saying, “I wish I had spent more time working on my blog.” Be the exception, not the rule.
2. The church can get another pastor, but your wife only has one husband—and she needs a good one. Oftentimes our wives take the brunt of the beating of our ministries: they hold us together, they hear us complain, and they hear others complain about us and experience the angst of how to handle it in a gospel way. Take it from someone who has greatly failed before in this area: do as much as you can to set clear boundaries between the church and home, and frequently check up on whether or not she enjoys being a part of the church. If she doesn’t want to attend the church where you are the pastor, then it is a problem you need to deal with.
3. A day off is not just a good idea. It is essential. “Monday Funday” is as special as a 1910 Honus Wagner baseball card at our house. It is the day we play outside, eat Chinese food at a mall, and don’t talk about the church. Our church knows about “Monday Funday” because I mention it in sermons, schedule around it, and unless someone is bleeding out in their kitchen, I do not violate it. My ministry and family are too important. Pick a Sabbath, keep it, and fight for it. Your soul and your family will thank you.
Never forget: The first flock you lead is not the one that gathers on Sunday, but the one that lives at your house. Are you leading them well?