This is one of the top questions we have as ministry families. I think this relates to anyone with a career and a family but ministry is slightly different as ministry is the only thing that carries eternal value and truly never stops. I think often times we want a quiet night at home together, but ministry keeps knocking. At that knock, I am presented with a choice. Do I engage with willingness, do I ignore it or do I engage with an attitude? If I am not careful, my instinct is to draw a line in the sand and separate our family from the calling of ministry. As wives and mothers, I think that we often become jealous of the church and the demands that it puts on our families. If we let our emotions lead the way, we often feel like a consolation prize next to our husband's work. It creates a kind of resentment in our hearts, especially when it pulls our husbands 'away' from our children. So where is the line? Where is this invisible line of availability and too available? I believe that there is no greater job in the world than building His Kingdom but why does it have to come with this frustration and tension?
So I am going to give you my opinion and what has worked for my family. I have experienced both sides of this issue firsthand. One way kept it completely separate, the other completely blended. One lead to frustration and one lead to freedom. So my opinion is, "DON'T SEPARATE THEM!" To me, they cannot be separated. If my husband was a quarterback for a NFL team, our family would eat, sleep and breathe football. We would hang out with other football families. We would tailgate together. We would travel together. Why should ministry be any different?
I try not to separate family and ministry but I do try to integrate them. I want my kids to grow up loving the church and loving people and that means I have to be intentional about how I present it to them. They are at church and church events a lot. When they are, I try to make it special for them so that they know that church is a fun place to be. I want their closest relationships to be with other staff families and church families. All they know about church and ministry is the opportunities, not the demands or the frustrations. The church is there personal playground. Church to them, is a place where we help people. Even young children can understand that that is a good thing. This mentality also helps when daddy is working late on that big project. Now my kids are not upset and feeling left out but rather are OK because they know daddy is helping people. Change how you word things to them. They pick up on your negativity and even your jealousy.
Stop blaming your stress on ministry. Life is stressful. Don't let that seed in their hearts. It's all about how you present it to them. You set the tone for them and your house.
Take daddy dinner at church when he is working late. Have them leave cards in his desk. Take cookies to him and his team; they will love feeling apart of the team. Serve together. Show your kids what loving people actually looks like. Keep it positive. You may have to lay some ground work but it is so worth it. Obviously, they can't be at everything 100% of the time, but they will grow to love church and the people of your church because you do! It will be all they know. Isn't that the goal? I want children who grow more in love with the church; not who grow and leave it.
I also don't separate it with my husband. I am his closest friend and encourager. I see him in a way that no one else can. Being a pastor can be a very lonely, insecure place and I never want him to feel that he is alone, especially when God has graced me to be the encouragement he needs. What happens when he has a bad day, comes home feeling discouraged and he has to 'check' ministry at the door because you decided to keep them separate? All that does is separate the two of you. I want to be the wife that my husband cant wait to come home and pour out how his day went. Good or bad. Then I need God to give me the wisdom to be able to handle whatever comes out with grace and not harshness. Grace to grow and stretch instead of snap. I can encourage him like no other can because I know him like no other. Just like we can't help but talk about our kids; we can't help but talk about our ministry either. It is what we do. It's our calling. Our vision. Our heart. And we do it together. Our ministry doesn't need two Josh's. Our ministry needs a Josh and an Allison. There are things that you bring to the table that your husband will never see or think of. You can bring insight that others cant because you have a bird's eye view that others don't have. Never underestimate your input. These opportunities to talk together are not only good for your marriage but they are good for the people under your leadership. Your church will be blessed because the two of you engage and encourage one another.
You will find that this will free your marriage of tension. When you are open with each other and willing to be 'in it' together, the pressure is gone to have a perfect family night. Because you are having family moments all the time. Again, I am not saying you do not need date nights or family nights but you will find a freedom and a grace to embrace each moment- no matter how they come.
That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are in this together. Daddy and Mommy and kids. Heart and soul. I may not be able to control the circumstance all the time, but I can control my response to it. And as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord... together.