One of the greatest things I get to do in life is being a dad to my kids.
One of the greatest things I get to do in life is being a pastor.
Both are incredible blessings in my life. And yet a tension exists between the two that can be difficult to manage. That doesn’t mean that being a dad and a pastor are opposing interests; it’s just that both are highly relational roles, and there’s only so much “Dad” and “pastor” to go around. If you’re a parent in ministry, you’ve probably felt the same tension.
Our second daughter turns six this week. Our kids’ birthdays remind me that I have one less year to parent them before they leave our home. Reflecting on that fact helps me remember that I always have things to learn about being a dad, especially as a dad who’s also a pastor. Here are a few things I’ve learned (often the hard way) about being a dad and a pastor:
I can’t be a dad and a pastor at the same time.
There is no such thing as multitasking when you’re a parent. You’re either there or you’re not. When I’m home, I need to be Dad. When I drive my girls to school, I need to be Dad. There are times when I need to be a pastor, and that’s okay. It’s what I do. I just shouldn’t do it when I’m supposed to be Dad.
My kids don’t really care that I’m a pastor.
Well, that’s not entirely true. They love that Dad knows where the key is to the rec room in the children’s wing. (If our church’s children’s team is reading this, I promise, we left everything as we found it.) But other than that, they just care that I’m Dad. One day, I hope they appreciate that their family made a habit of serving others in ministry, or even that they’d be proud of what their dad chose to do for a living. But for now, they just see me as Dad.
When work and family calendars conflict, It’s okay to let your kids win.
Ministry will take time away from your family. Evening meetings, pastoral emergencies, and occasional trips tend to chip away at family time. In addition, vocational ministry is rarely a 40-hour-a-week endeavor. So when you can, cheat your job and let your kids win. Miss a meeting. If an “emergency” isn’t a true emergency, let your voice mail handle the call. Your kids know that sometimes you’re gone for ministry, so show them that they can beat out ministry, too.
Take advantage of the flexible schedule.
Ministry is definitely not a 9-to-5 job, and that means some evenings and weekends where Dad works. But ministry also tends to come with some flexibility, too. Take advantage of that to go have lunch with your kids at their school, volunteer to help chaperone field trips, or just come home early from work so you can spend an unexpected afternoon with your kids.
Tell your kids why you do what you do.
Chances are, you didn’t get into vocational ministry for the money. Or the stress-free job. You do it because you want to make a difference for the sake of the Gospel. Tell your kids what you like about your job, why you believe in what you’re doing, and how you hope God is using you.
Make being “Dad” more important than being “pastor.”
Why? Because being a dad is more important than being a pastor. This doesn’t mean that you stop being a pastor or that you spend every waking minute with your kids. It just means that we recognize that if we have to rank the importance of our “jobs” in life, our Dad job will rank ahead of our pastor job every time. When we forget that, our kids lose.
Chime in: What lessons about being a dad (or mom) in ministry would you add to the list?