By Mark Dance
Those who’ve recently transitioned into a new church or ministry are probably experiencing a mixture of excitement and relief—along with a dash of anxiety and panic.
Your family is likely experiencing this same range of emotions, so you might need some encouragement right about now.
I’ve pastored four churches and can attest that the “honeymoon period” was less of a honeymoon for my family than it was for me.
Since all pastors are required to lead and manage both our families and ministries well (1 Timothy 3), here are a few ways you can help both during a ministry transition.
ASK YOUR FAMILY WHAT THEY NEED.
The most effective way to lead your family is to listen to them. Peter eventually learned the art of listening, then passed on this sage advice to us:
Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way…so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (CSB)
In the first months of your ministry, there’ll likely be many people jockeying for your attention. Don’t make your family compete for your attention.
Be intentional about carving out time for each person who lives under your roof. Give them the same attention you gave to the search team that invited you there.
TELL YOUR CHURCH WHAT YOUR FAMILY NEEDS.
If you’re within the first six months of your new ministry, consider this the best time to clarify expectations with your new church. Be specific about what you’re asking church members to do for you and your family.
The Apostle Paul often asked churches to pray for him, so don’t be shy about asking the intercessors to call out your name, as well as your wife and kids, in prayer.
Remind your church that there will never be a day when your family goes off the enemy’s hit list.
Remind them your family is going through several emotionally exhaustive transitions at the same time: a new career, house, school, and church.
Collectively, these transitions can be quite overwhelming. Your family’s need for personal space will make sense to those who care about you.
In my last pastorate, I made a mistake by saying “yes” to just about every ministry opportunity that came my way. I remember arriving home some days so exhausted I had absolutely nothing left to give my family.
Ministry families don’t need to choose between suffocation and isolation. Since isolation is one of Satan’s favorite schemes against pastors and spouses, your family must be encouraged to develop friendships regardless of their connection to your church.
Some enthusiastic church members will innocently assume that means “the more friends, the merrier.” Covenant friendships happen naturally and slowly, so your church must know upfront that you and your family cannot—and should not—be everyone’s best friend.
My wife was fortunate to have a few loyal friends at each of the churches I’ve pastored. Janet is a card-carrying introvert, which means that a few close friends are all she’ll ever want or need.
A good pastor will shepherd his family flock first, which creates a fantastic discipleship opportunity to model the work/life balance your members are also striving for.
Busyness will easily rob your family of the opportunity to enjoy the transition instead of merely enduring it. Help your family to know that “no” is an acceptable option for some of the church events.
Ultimately, everyone wants their new pastor to win both at home and church in this transition, but nobody has more control over it than you do, so lead on!
MARK DANCE (@markdance) serves as director of Lifeway Pastors. He speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats–often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net.