“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” 1 Timothy 3:4-5
All the qualifications in 1 Timothy for a pastor are important. Most are character qualities, and one is a skill (being able to teach). But, there is one character test for others to see and witness the shepherding heart at work, and that’s in the family. If a man cannot lead his family spiritually or take care of their needs, how will he take care of the needs of the church? This is a warning that Paul writes to Timothy as he looks for other qualified men to be elders in the churches. Many things can distract a man from pastoring his family well. It can be his job, personal hobbies, or healthy pursuits like the church. It might be an addiction, anger problem, or his own pride.
How do you pastor your family?
1. Make sure financial needs are taken care of.
I do believe God will take care of our needs, and most of us in America really don’t know what it means to be poor. But, that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from work. As a church planter, that might look like bi-vocational work where you have a secular job as you are planting. It may be funding from outside (churches, individuals, denominations, and networks) to take care of necessities. One could start a business on the side. In this day and age, it’s much simpler to start businesses especially online.
2. Date your wife.
This doesn’t mean taking the whole family on an outing, although that’s just as important. I mean just you and your wife. Find the things she enjoys doing and do them with her. Surprise her with a gift or flowers. Plan a romantic evening that she doesn’t know about. Cook for her. Sit down and really talk to her. It’s so easy to push this one to the back burner because you don’t have enough time. Make the time. Use a calendar and plan for it as you would the most important appointments on your agenda.
3. Spend time with your kids individually.
Each one of your children are special, but they don’t always feel that way when dad is doing a thousand different things 24 hours a day. Spend time with your children together as well, but find little ways to spend time individually with them. Take your daughters on dates. Teach them the proper way a man in the future should treat them. Make sure they know their daddy thinks they’re beautiful, and they’re loved. Let your boys know you’re proud of them.
4. Teach your children.
Take time to teach your kids the Bible. Tell them Bible stories. Don’t just teach them morals. Teach them the Gospel. Sit down with them on a regular devotion time. Ask them what they’re learning in church. Make Bible time a part of their normal routine.
5. Pray together as a family.
This is something we don’t do enough as a family, but it’s so special when we do. I pray with my daughter every night before she goes to bed. I hope to teach her what a relationship with God looks like by modeling it for her.
6. Take time to connect spiritually with your wife.
Sometimes, as a pastor, you are talking about theology and spiritual discussions to others every day, but, don’t neglect the time to have those conversations with your wife. I get the need to not take counseling sessions from church members home with you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your spiritual life home with you. Open up to your wife about your spiritual struggles. Make sure she gets to walk through that with you. When you have an enlightening moment about God, share it.
7. Find your wife’s love languages and love her daily.
My wife’s main two love languages are personal time and gifts. We can go grab coffee together, and I can bring her a Snicker’s bar. Sometimes, it’s just having real conversations while I’m not checking my twitter and Facebook feeds on my phone. When it comes to gifts, it’s not important that the gift is expensive. It’s the fact that I thought about her and got her something that she would enjoy.
8. Really play with your kids.
Get off the couch and get down on your kid’s level and play with them. Really play with them. Don’t just throw them in front of an iPad (which we do from time to time). My little girl pretends to make lunch for a pretend rabbit, and I pretend right along with her. We bring pretend broccoli and chocolate chip cookies to the pretend rabbit. She loves it, and we get a chance to bond over it.
9. Tend the nest.
Do your best to make your home a place of safety and security. I understand that in many places of the world, there’s only so much you can do. If you live in North Korea, safety is really an illusion. But, if you can create a safe environment, you should for the sake of your family. Fix leaks. Paint your walls. Help your family have a place to retreat to. Make it comfortable. This doesn’t mean you need a mansion or a ridiculous salary. You can make some really cost affordable improvements on a meager salary. Look for deals on Craigslist or garage sales. For home improvement needs, Lowe’s and Home Depot will often sell discounted materials (ceramic tile, laminate wood flooring, etc).
This list is endless. The main thing is make your family a priority.