Churches that want to be a higher priority than your spouse

Posted on Jul 20, 2011 in Featured, Marriage

Church priorities for pastorsA couple days ago I received a phone call from a church in another state that wanted to schedule a conference call for this coming week. Unfortunately, their proposed time wasn’t going to work for me because my wife and I are going out of town for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We’re very excited about the trip because we’re driving to Mount Rushmore to go camping for a couple nights! It will actually be my wife’s first time to go camping, but even more importantly, it will be our first night away from both our kids since our daughter was born two years ago.

When I explained this to the man on the phone, he asked, “Well, is there a way you can carve out some time while you’re there to talk with us?” He went on to share that this was the only time everyone from his church’s team could get together for the conference call due to other commitments team members had made.

Honestly, I was a little shocked the man had the audacity to even ask such a thing. Had he not heard what I just said? He wanted me to make their conference call a higher priority than my wife on our anniversary trip?

How often does that happen in our churches, though? And how often do we flex instead of protecting our family priorities and boundaries?

Five years ago my wife, then fiance, and I set our wedding date on the only weekend of the summer that worked for both of our families, the facility, and the pastor who was marrying us, but it meant missing the youth group’s big summer trip. Since I was the part-time youth pastor, it was expected that I would attend this trip, so the church board members asked that I consider rescheduling my wedding or risk “possible consequences.”

Thankfully, I decided at that point that my wife and family will always come first. I ended up resigning a few months later anyway.

I definitely haven’t been perfect at keeping my wife and family my first priority, that’s for sure, but I’m trying to be consciously intentional about it.

Why are churches so quick to assume that they come first? I’m sure none of the congregation members do it on purpose, but it still happens nonetheless. And it’s so easy for us to give in, too! Maybe the pressure is self-inflicted because we feel like people need us? Maybe because we feel like we need to show that we’re worth the financial commitment they’ve made to us? Maybe we’re deeply insecure and need to be everyone’s hero? Maybe we just want to avoid conflict that may come from saying “no,” especially if we’ve said “yes” for so long?

I’m not talking about the emergencies and occasional situations that appropriately demand our immediate attention — I’m talking about the on-going pattern of letting our spouse and family slip further and further until one day we wake up and are surprised to find a wife who feels emotionally distant and children who hate the church.

QUESTION: Why is it so easy for us to put our spouses and families on hold for the sake of the ministry?

About the author,

Tim is a dad who is imperfectly pursuing his wife and children while ultimately trying to pursue the Lord's vision for his family. He's written a few books and dabbles in online video, mostly to support his primary ministry at home.

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