Let’s face it. Pastors usually work when other folks are off. We work weekends. We work holidays. Sometimes, we must cut our vacation time short due to a death or another emergency. As pastors, we understand this is part of our calling. Most of our wives understood this when they married us and adjusted accordingly. But what about our children? They had no choice in the matter. The rhythm of their lives isn’t quite the same as that of their friends.
We are coming up to Easter, undoubtedly one of the busiest weeks of the year for a pastor. In a church I once served, there was an Easter week in which we hosted a Wednesday Lenten Luncheon for over 100 folks from the community, a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service, followed by a 24-hour prayer vigil to pray for those we invited to our Easter services, a sunrise service, and two other Easter morning services. Thankfully, there was no evening service! And I forgot to mention that on Palm Sunday the week before, we welcomed new members in the morning and had a Children’s program at night (which I hosted).
It makes me tired just thinking about it! Depending on your faith tradition, your Easter week probably resembles what I just described.
So where does a pastor’s family fit into all of this? Though your children didn’t “sign on the dotted line” to join your family, this is their life, too. How are you to manage your duties so that your family, especially your kids, don’t get church fatigue or, even worse, church resentment?
Let’s first look at the big picture
We lay the foundation of credibility as a “PP” (pastor parent) over the long haul. Easter week is very busy, but it is the exception and not the rule. The only other week on the ecclesiastical calendar that comes close is Christmas week. The other fifty weeks of the year provide a reasonable opportunity to lay the foundation for those hectic times. Here are a couple of ways to make the most of the other fifty weeks of the year.
Take your day off and make it special for your family. The pattern God established for humanity in Scripture is six days of work and one day of rest. “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exodus 34:21). In the wake of the resurrection victory of our Lord, the regular day of rest has transitioned from the seventh day to the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10). Granted, often the pastor takes a different day off because of his Lord’s Day duties, but this rhythm established in creation should remain consistent.
Throughout my years of active pastoral ministry, my day off was Monday, which became “family day.” When the children were old enough to attend school, Monday became “family night.” We followed a routine, including games, a pizza dinner, and wrapping up the day by reading Chronicles of Narnia. By the way, the congregation should be aware of and respect the pastor’s day off. Indeed, there were times when emergencies would arise in the church on a Monday, and I would have to respond, but the family understood because these were the exception and not the rule. At the outset of the article, I noted that pastors usually work when others are off. On the other hand, pastors typically have more flexible schedules than others to help take a child to a doctor’s appointment or attend school events.
Also, be sure to take your vacation time. I have met ministers who somehow thought it spiritual to brag about how few vacation days they took each year. This is nothing to brag about but something to be ashamed of. You need a break from the rigors of ministry, and so does your family. Jesus was aware of the need to “get away.” After the disciples returned from a ministry assignment among the people and reported to him, “he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31-32). No time to eat? Sound familiar? Again, there might be times when you need to adjust due to an emergency in the church, but this should be the exception and not the rule.
Enabling your family to survive during these busy times
These are important ways to lay the foundation for Easter week, but how can you enable your family to survive and thrive during these busy times? Here are some suggestions:
- Since your children will likely have extra time off that week, go to a favorite restaurant for breakfast or spend some time at a park together. Do something special to take advantage of the bonus time available to you. Also, allow them more flexibility in doing things with their close friends.
- Even as Christmas has certain family traditions, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is also a time for a family celebration. Special treats (think Cadbury!) and time with cousins and grandparents come to mind.
- Don’t compel them to attend every event that week. All the years that our church had a sunrise service, I was the only member of our family to show up, probably because I was leading it! Congregants might have noticed, but they didn’t complain. Attendance at the “all-hands-on-deck” Easter service was mandatory, but there were no complaints from family members since they understood this was the glorious celebration of Christ’s victory on our behalf and continued the pattern of “meeting together” as directed by Scripture (Hebrews 10:25-26).
- Share the burden with your staff. Don’t think you are failing if you don’t personally plan, preside over, and preach at every service. Delegate, empower, and encourage those around you to use their gifts for his glory.
Finding the right attitude
Finally, you must have the right attitude about your service. When Peter writes to church leaders he says, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). When you are serving as if “compelled to serve,” it shows. It shows not just to your congregation but to your family. Remember, these are ways that you are called to serve your congregation. Remember that these aren’t things you must do but things you get to do. Remember that your attitude, whether positive or negative, will be “caught” by your family members. Remember what a remarkable privilege it is to walk with your congregation through the consummate reasons for our hope: the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of our Savior from the dead. Then you can enjoy a long Sunday afternoon nap.
8 Daily Devotionals from Palm Sunday to Easter
Ten Ways a Pastor Can Prepare for Easter