This last weekend my 11 year old son, after a small disagreement regarding a trivial matter on a Sunday, asked a phenomenal question…. “Dad, what benefit is there for us now that you are a pastor”? Ouch…. that hurt….. While it sounded like a really selfish question for an 11 year old to ask, it was a great, honest, heartfelt question in the moment. After a month of pushing hard to get many things done it was a good reminder of my priorities.
Before I dig deeper into that question and my response I need to paint some background. Over the course of my career in healthcare I tried to carve out time during my busy schedule for my children. This picture above is what “Work Days” normally looked like. These were days that I would invite one of my boys to the office for an hour where we would hang out, eat ice cream from the hospital cafeteria and I would try to make them feel important. I would introduce them to people I worked with, let them draw pictures on my white board and listen intently to them. I still got work done during the time we spent together – as you can see in the picture I’m on my phone….but I intentionally carved time out of my busy schedule for them. I would also take them to Notre Dame football games or special events and we would vacation together to fun places.
Now in ministry I find it more difficult for “work days”and financially challenging to take them to larger events like football games or fancy vacations. My boys go to church on Sunday’s so they are at the place I work, but for a different purpose. In ministry you also deal with your weekends being much different than they were when I was in the marketplace. The day I’m off my children are in school or working and it can be challenging to find time to be meaningfully present.
Here are ways in which I try to connect with my children while in ministry, and I’m still working on these:
- We try to eat together many evenings – this doesn’t happen every night, but we really try hard to do this regularly.
- Intentional time – I drive my middle son to school almost every day. It’s 20 minutes together and while we don’t have amazing discussions every day (imagine a 15 year old early in the morning – not the most talkative), it’s time we get together and we do connect. Finding intentional time with each of my sons is important.
- Special Events – These take on different meanings because they are likely less frequent in ministry just due to time and financial constraints. Instead of Notre Dame games or destination vacations we go away and camp or to a state park.
- Pray Together – Must do more of this!
- Texting – With my oldest son who now has a full time job and attending a community college texting seems to be a lifeline to connection throughout the week. From comical tidbits back and forth to serious questions texting is a must.
Today after an early morning meeting and leaving before my sons got up, I went back home to eat with my youngest son and we discussed some of the benefits of my job to the family. We talked through his question yesterday and we talked about how our time together was important. It was the highlight of my day.
While there is a delicate balance between your time in ministry serving others, are you serving your family and your children well? Do they feel like they are important to you, or are you out of balance? It took an 11 year old to ask an honest question for me to recalibrate after a busy month of activity…. I appreciated his honesty and I enjoyed my breakfast with him this morning.