Dear Seminary Dad,
If you’re reading this letter, it’s because you’ve taken steps in obedience to God’s call on your life to shepherd His people. You are aware of the many things you don’t know and are humbly seeking knowledge to step into your calling. If you are a husband and father, you take this step with the support and the responsibility of your family. As you are being equipped to shepherd a flock one day, remember the first flock God has given you to shepherd, your family.
I’ve been a seminary wife for three years. Two and a half of those were spent living in seminary housing. The Lord has blessed me with the friendship of many seminary wives. Because I’m walking alongside so many future pastor’s wives, I’m able to see a common concern that develops due to the nature of seminary life. It’s a problem that my own husband and I must constantly battle.
The life of a typical seminary dad involves graduate level coursework, a full-time occupation, marriage, parenting, and service in your local church. The energy and discipline required for this kind of schedule are exhausting and can launch a family into perpetual conflict. While you spend your time providing for your growing family, attending classes, studying, and writing papers, your family can be neglected. Perhaps you think your wife can handle it effortlessly without you. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself this is just a season, and eventually, you’ll be able to be more present at home. Secretly, you might even like the escape that work and classes give you from the less than glamorous job of disciplining young children.
You must remember that your beautiful wife is the one left to manage the home without your help. Perhaps she is juggling diapers, school lunches, parent meetings, carpools, and soccer without your support. She may be helping with homework, making bottles in the middle of the night, and cleaning up the kitchen before she falls into bed. Likely alone. Or perhaps she is the one sending the children off to school, daycare, or a friend’s home so she can work to support the family while you are in school. She manages as many things as possible while you finish your degree as quickly as possible so you can move on to the “official work” of ministry.
Without intentionally loving your wife like Christ loves the church, these scenarios become commonplace. Date nights become the exception and not the norm. Conversation with your wife becomes a mere exchange of valuable information and not the words that best friends share. Your wife can get lonely and become susceptible to the enemy to fill her loneliness with things that do not honor the Lord. Finances are tight. Romance is a distant memory. Stress is abundant. Chaos rules every day. Does any of this sound familiar?
Your wife and children need you. God gave you to them, and they are yours to shepherd.
My husband wrestles with how to balance all the demands on him. We have tried and failed in many ways. We have crashed and burned on more than one occasion. I’ve resented his time spent studying while I run raggedly from one task to the next. He has taken out his anger on me as he’s missed yet another ball game. We have fought. We have made up. But we do not give up. We have four sons from ages 10 to 16 with an adopted daughter from Uganda soon. On top of his classes, we homeschool, lead a small group, and I work part time while he works full time. We disciple others and make time for friends and dates. We are busy, and we go to bed exhausted. But we are in this together. We are a team.
Neither one of us ever feels alone. Both of us know the other one will be there if needed. Our home is one of order and not chaos. We fight with each other but mostly for each other daily. We rely on the Holy Spirit to convict us when we take out our frustrations on each other and His grace to trust Him as we struggle. He won’t let me ignore him, and I won’t let him disrespect me. We depend on each other for that accountability. We depend on our local church to help when we need it. We are transparent about our struggles and ask for prayer. We are recipients of grace and are desperate for more and more each day.
My husband never takes more than two classes per semester. We’ve learned that his presence at home is more valuable than graduating quickly. Seminary isn’t a stepping stone. We’re serving in our local church. This isn’t a season; this is our daily walk in obedience. We want to do it well, not quickly.
My husband shepherds our boys and me. He leads our family in devotions and spends time individually with each of us. He counsels me through my fears. He has epic Nerf gun wars with our boys. My husband isn’t perfect, but he is shepherding at home.
Dear Seminary dad, recognize that while you are preparing to be a shepherd for God’s people in the future, He has already made you a shepherd of your people today. Your season right now is not a mere stepping stone to launch you into ministry. You are already doing critical ministry. Your home is the best training ground for shepherding people. You have much to learn and much to teach there. Don’t get so focused on the flock in your future that you forget where your feet are planted today. You have a flock. Shepherd them well to the glory of God.
1 Timothy 3: 4-5 says, “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?” If you don’t know how to manage your own family, how will you be able to care for God’s church?”
Don’t belittle the importance of God’s command for elders to manage their own families well as a qualification to care for God’s family. Elders are to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).
Shepherding starts at home. As you prepare to proclaim the gospel, work diligently to ensure that your marriage and family are demonstrations of it. Strive to hear these words from God, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matt. 25:21). Are you, seminary dad, faithful over the little flock you’ve been given?