I am the father of two sons, husband to a wonderful wife, and a pastor. Our sons are now young adults, both married to wonderful, godly young ladies. Both have responded to God’s calling into full-time vocational ministry, serve on the same church staff, and are raising small children. They are now on the journey many of us have taken; the journey of balancing pastoring and parenting.

Many pastors and church staff have faced the challenges of trying to balance the demands of leading a church and parenting. Here are some ways that you can bring balance to the demands of both.

  • Balance Purpose and Mission for the Church and Family. Many pastors have a tendency to focus on leading the church to fulfill its mission and purpose while forgetting to do so in the home. Pastors will experience difficulties because raising children and church members is challenging. In a survey of pastors, George Barna discovered that nearly two out of 10 (17%) pastors link their own preoccupation of being too busy with the frustrated faith of their children. About one–sixth of pastors trace the prodigal tendencies of their children back to the lack of faith modeled consistently at home (14%).
  • Balance Priorities. The first priority is your personal walk with the Lord. Second, don’t let work consume you much like alcohol consumes an individual. Don’t become a workaholic! Sometimes I sacrificed family time because my ego told me that no one else could manage what was taking place at the church . . . I was too important. If pastors are to succeed as parents, we must set ego aside, plead with God to forgive us for the selfishness it produces and ask Him for help in realigning our priorities. As the Scriptures state, “For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?” (Mark 8:36) In the context of this discussion, what does it profit a pastor to be successful in ministry and yet lose his children?
  • Keep Loving the Wayward Child. Doing everything right doesn’t guarantee a child will remain faithful to God. Countless pastors have experienced the debilitating heartbreak, disappointment, and even physical loss of a child who has strayed or outright rejected God. Pastors are not alone, nor are they immune to rebellious children.While balancing the needs of the church and other family members, pastors need to find it in their hearts to continue having compassion and to seek all avenues for reconciliation.

Wisdom from a Friend

A close friend, Lewis Miller, Regional Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, once shared this with me regarding priorities:

“You must clearly articulate the order of your priorities and affections early. I always tried to be clear with each of the churches we were blessed to serve that the order of my priorities would be God first, family second, and church third.” – Lewis Miller

Wisdom from a “Preachers Kid”

My oldest son, Nathan, shared this with me as I prepared to write a parenting article a few years ago. It is valuable wisdom for anyone who is trying to balance parenting with pastoring:

“As a father now myself, and being on a church staff, I realize how much work it was for my parents to serve the church and their family. That is a difficult balance. Miss a Sunday? Nope. Show up late to a church event? Can’t do that. Skip the Saturday afternoon funeral? Not really an option. What is an option is to treat my children and their needs with the same prioritization and love I give the church. My love is first for Christ, and I hope that my children find that same love for Christ and His church as I have.” – Nathan McClendon

A Prayer for Pastors

God, grant all pastors the wisdom to know how to lead their families, realizing that ultimately, their children are in His hands. Encourage them during the difficult and seemingly impossible times. Give them the joy and peace that can come from being a pastor and a parent.

Written by John McClendon
John is the Executive Director of the Disciple Leaders Network (BACE) and Discipleship Pastor at Northside Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN