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As someone in full time ministry it is very important to keep the joy levels high in my marriage and family as well as to be fruitful and productive in ministry. As a counselor I work with a lot of adults whose parents were in ministry as they were growing up. They are angry at God because they perceive that God took Dad away or Mom away when they were younger.
Serving my family blesses my ministry
Many of us as pastors and leaders are very goal oriented. If you are like me, you have a “to do” list and it feels very good to check things off your list! However, serving family, actually makes everything else better—especially your ministry. As your joy levels grow, personally as well as with your spouse and children, your higher joy levels give you more availability to serve other people.
When I look at that to-do list and see the projects on my plate, the number of appointments that I have to keep…those pressures are real! And, wherever there are people there are going to be relational problems and real and urgent needs. For example, for those of you who are tender and compassionate, your mercy hearts feel other people’s pain. When there are problems, you want to fix those problems. There is always this tension that exists— How do I protect my time with my family to keep my joy levels high, and be productive at serving the people and comforting those who are hurting? Within that tension, the goal is to keep your joy levels higher than your distress levels!
When distress levels are higher than joy levels
You go into “problem solving mode.” Problems become bigger than relationships. It is very easy to lose sight of what is important.
You live in the moment instead of remembering what is important. When you don’t know how to turn off the problem solving mode, you bring your work home with you.
Attention is elsewhere even though you might be spending time with your spouse and children, your mind is somewhere else.
The challenge is how to turn it off!
I don’t see problem solving as a switch to turn on or off. Rather, growing joy will give you strength to shift your focus so that when you are with your wife and children you are not still in your office mentally, dealing with projects or emails, etc.
There was a point when my wife, Jen, and I were first married, that I was under a LOT of stress and on the verge of burnout. The turning point came when meeting with a pastor friend. He said, “Chris, God doesn’t need you. He chooses to use you as His witness.” I remember saying, “Yes, of course, God doesn’t NEED me that is obvious.” But something inside still felt responsible to fix all the problems that were in my life and ministry at that point. It was miserable trying to keep a joyful foundation for my marriage and dealing with too many things, too many problems, and too much weight on my shoulders. I just didn’t feel that I could carry it all.
The weight of responsibility I was feeling impacted my health and marriage. It impacted what I had to offer at home because I was unable to let it go when I came home. I still felt responsible for the outcome of the situations even though they were not my responsibility. God had entrusted me to be attentive in those situations, but not to be responsible for the outcome. The weight was more than God had asked me to take on and my distress levels became greater than my joy levels. That meant making some drastic decisions to change our life in order to more proactively grow more joy.
An issue of maturity? I also had to take a really hard look at my own maturity. I came to understood that I was working and taking on tasks that were outside the range of my maturity and when you do that you can expect that you will crack in those places of immaturity. That was a hard time.
I can say that most of the pastors I work with feel that they are walking that line of “on the verge” of burnout or feeling they are already within the range of burnout.
What do you want your legacy to be?
One of the questions I ask leaders is, “When you look back on your life, what do you want to see? What do you want your legacy to be?” Summarize—give me three words. What are your three words?
My three words would be:
FAITHFUL: I want to be faithful with what God has given me, especially with my wife and my children and my ministry—whatever God has entrusted to me…and to have clarity on that. I want to be faithful.
AVAILABLE: I also want my children to grow up and say, “Dad, you were there when I needed you.” I want to be able to hear and know that I was available for my wife and boys, not absent. I want to be available and loving.
LOVING: Part of being available is also to express my heart so that my family knows that they are loved. Children feel loved when Mom and Dad are available. If we are not available for our children, especially when they are young, they are not going to feel loved, by me/us or by God.
In growing joy you have to be available emotionally and be mentally present to interact and attune to your family. There is no UNDO button in life! There is no REPLAY to play something over with your family. Family time cannot be regained. What we have is very limited and it goes very quickly.
Action Step—Questions to keep in mind as you are active in your ministries
Am I spending enough time to grow joy with my family because I don’t want regrets.
I don’t want my children to grow up and say “God took dad/mom away. Dad/Mom wasn’t really there.”
In thinking about your legacy, how did your parents influence your image of God? Please share your glory story to encourage others. Or, if you overcame a negative situation, be sure to include how God redeemed it!
Blessings, Chris, M.A. Theology www.thrivetoday.org/pastorsweekly.html
P.S. Big Announcement!
At the Thrive Applications Training the new book, Joy Starts Here will be released! The Beta Version is available NOW! Pastors and Leaders you can get your BETA VERSION here http://joystartshere.com/.