How Can Pastors Guard Their Time With Their Families?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How can pastors guard their time with their families?

One of the things we do at Bethlehem to try to protect our families and to nurture our wives and make them feel cared for is divide the week up into twenty-one blocks of time (modules). We get that by identifying three modules a day—morning to lunch, lunch to supper, and supper to bedtime—for the seven days of the week.

Then we tell our staff to take seven of those modules off. And three of them have to be in a row, equaling at least one full day off. So you have a day off and then four more modules to work with. It could be four evenings. And if you have to be out in the evenings, then you don't come in in the mornings.

For example, this week I've been so busy that when we're done with this session at noon I could go home and watch a video guilt free. I could think differently about this afternoon, and nobody else would be on my case saying, "Why aren't you in the office?" It's because I was here until midnight last night! I didn't have last night's block free, and Noel and Talitha didn't get me then. Why not this afternoon or tonight?

We have these blocks divided up because we know that Christian ministry is totally unpredictable in many ways. So we don't say that you must take certain nights or mornings of the week off. It's just that we think you shouldn't be working for seven blocks of time.

For me I take Mondays off, and I'm focused more on Noel that day. We go out to eat together, have a date, and we play Scrabble or do some shopping. Or we work around the house on some project she wants to work on that day.

I'm not complaining about the amount of time I have for the family. I'm okay. What I want to make sure is that Noel is okay. So on these dates I regularly ask her, "Is there anything that you think we need to change? Anything with Talitha? Anything in the schedule? Anything as far as vacation? Any pattern of life that is starting to become unworkable or that is discouraging you?" And she'll let me know about whether changes need to be made, and then we make the changes, assuming we agree. And if we don't agree then we talk it through until we come to an agreement.

A pastor needs to work with his leadership, either lay leadership or other pastors, to come up with some kind of plan like we did, so that you all have common expectations. You don't want to feel guilty when somebody sees you out cutting your grass on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock or sees you at your kid's soccer game at two and says, "Oh, I thought you worked." Well you probably did work 60 or 70 hours that week, but you're going to be at your kid's soccer game.