Once, before a weeknight presbytery meeting, the Moderator, the Executive Presbyter, and I (the Vice Moderator) met to finalize our strategy for a contentious agenda item. The Moderator was a retired navy chaplain, a man who had given his entire career–and, now, his retirement!–to serving in ministry. I was, like, 38. Attendance at the meeting was expected to be low, and the Moderator was irked. He delivered to me and the Executive a version of a Back-In-My-Day speech about the comparative lack of commitment to the presbytery among his colleagues in ministry.
I, a parent of a four year-old and spouse to a full-time worker, asked a couple of clarifying questions: back in his day, how many of his colleagues’ spouses worked full time? How many of them brought their kids to presbytery meetings? A look of recognition came over his face.
The cautionary tale I heard a lot during my preparation for ministry was about pastors, many of them men, sacrificing quality time with their families for their work. Once in ministry I quickly learned that the expectation of peers who had made that sacrifice could easily entice a new pastor who was eager to make a good impression to do likewise.
I have tried hard not to. Kiddo has come with me to meetings, retreats, worship services, weddings, and even protests, from before she could walk. That is the norm among most of my peers in ministry, especially the women, and it is a norm I have seen reflected among the elders and deacons I have worked with in congregations and presbyteries.
It comes with its own cautionary tale, though. Work will suffer. You simply will not have the singular focus on sermons, meeting agendas, Sunday School classes, or any other work you feel called to do, because the work of equally running a household demands more of that focus than you ever knew (a corrective: I suspect your female colleagues always knew).
A simple claim to end, then. It’s better this way.
2 thoughts on “Split-Focused Work Is Better”
Dear Rocky, I’m not a family member of a pastor, but my parents were both in the church choir growing up. I remember lots of rehearsals spent in the pews of my original home church. Maybe that’s why it seems so easy and proper now to be at church in time for choir practice on Sundays, even when I’m not helping with the reading. I hope Kiddo will grow up with that sort of comfort in being involved.
Whoops, my parents were in church choirs when they were growing up — but I was referring above to them being in the choir when I was growing up.