One of the greatest challenges in leadership is focusing on the right thing at the right time. Every pastor and minister has to balance competing priorities that demand attention. In this complexity, it can be very easy to lose focus and not see the forest from the trees. That’s when we need to take a step back by returning to the Bible and seeing what it says is important to healthy churches. You may be surprised at what you find!
In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul says, “He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (NLT). For Paul, successful church leadership starts with successful family leadership. Therefore, pastors and ministers must prioritize their families if they want to lead healthy churches. As a pastor and denominational leader, I have learned several valuable lessons that have helped me prioritize my family.
- Make more deposits than withdrawals. Parenting is like managing a bank account. Encouraging your kids is a deposit while criticizing is a withdrawal. It is essential to encourage your kids often through face-to-face conversations, text messages, phone calls, emails, and social media. Since your kids will inevitably make mistakes and sin, you’ll also need to make withdrawals. Therefore, it is crucial to have enough positive interactions to avoid over-drafting the relationship.
- Be present. It’s easy to get caught up in church, ministry, or work and let these things consume your thoughts, even when you’re with your family. It’s important to turn off your mind from these distractions before you walk through the door and be mentally and emotionally present when you are physically present with your family. Don’t hide behind the excuse that you give them quality, not quantity time. When it comes to your family, there is no quality time without quantity time. Being present and involved in your kids’ lives means showing up for the assembly where they speak, sing, or get an award, coaching their sports teams, and being at the school play. You need to be their biggest supporter, cheerleader, and fan.
- All work and no play can push your family away. As leaders, we can get so consumed with our work that we forget to have fun with our families. You may know Greek and Hebrew but don’t know what to do with a wiffle ball and bat. You may have memorized Paul’s missionary journeys but have never taken your family to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount Rushmore, Carlsbad Caverns, or Yellowstone. We should work at making good memories with our families. Christians are known for many things, but being incredibly fun is not one of them. Let’s change that, starting with our families.
- Be generous. As leaders, we can be so focused on being good stewards of our finances that we forget to be generous with our families. Being generous means helping your kids get started in life with college, transportation, and, if you are able, a down payment on a house. Providing for your family’s needs and wants is an essential part of being a good leader.
- Practice godliness and provide biblical instruction. Children learn by example, so if your family sees you reading the Bible and praying, they might follow your lead. It’s important to model godliness by reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. Encourage your kids to read the Bible by setting an example and offering incentives like we did with our children. For example, we paid each of our three kids $100 if they would read the entire Bible in a year. That gave them a great incentive to start reading while watching their parents do it for reasons that go beyond money. The Word of God never returns void, so investing in your children’s spiritual development is one of the best investments you can make. Pray for your kids out loud in their presence, and model giving by sacrificing for the kingdom and teaching them the biblical principle of tithing at a young age.
The key to successful leadership in the church starts with successful leadership in the home. By prioritizing our families and following these principles, we can build healthy and strong relationships with our children and set an example of godliness for them to follow. Let us strive to be present, and generous, and provide biblical instruction to our families. By doing so, we can create a legacy that will impact future generations and honor God.