Many pastors face an incredible amount of pressure to do anything but apply the Gospel to their lives. Pastoral ministry is demanding because it involves so many tasks that all demand an equal level of attention. Knowing how to prioritize tasks is critically essential. Growing up in the church and with especially having great grandparents who were ministers, I’ve heard many stories of people crashing and burning out in the ministry. I’ve also heard many stories of people putting their ministry ahead of their family. Such stories sadden us. Thankfully, Pastor Brian Croft has heard these stories as well and rather than just being saddened by them, he has been burdened by the Lord to write a new book titled The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry that addresses this issue.
If we were honest, we would acknowledge that many times we feel the need to meet with a hurting person ahead of ministering to our families. Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to minister to the hurting; however, we need to have healthy, godly boundaries. In his book, Pastor Croft writes to help ministry leaders think through what faithful ministry is about through the prism of the pastor’s heart, the pastor’s wife, and the pastor’s children. Undergirding this approach is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the things I appreciated most about this book is the honesty of the author. Brian and his wife Cara write not as people who have “arrived”, but rather as people who are by the grace of God growing in these things. In other words, they write not as experts but as people who are seeking to provide a model for how to faithfully minister in the home and in the Church.
Pastor Croft aptly notes, “The crisis of identity caused by the drive to be successful is one of the main reasons many pastors feel discouraged today” (37). This is true whether you are a Pastor, blogger, writer or speaker given we all seek our identity in something. Early in my ministry, I realized I was focusing so much on being “successful” that I was making an idol out of the pursuit of success. Sometimes I still catch myself slipping into focusing too much on what “I’m doing” for the Lord verses what the Lord is doing in and through me. That subtle difference is what Pastor Croft is talking about here. If we base our identity in Christ, we will not struggle as much with discouragement. Conversely, if we base our identity in our success, then discouragement will often rear its ugly head.
Another element Pastor Croft diagnoses is often the pastor’s real problem with neglecting his family stems “not from the demands a pastor faces but from the way he and his wife choose to respond to those demands” (43). Whatever your occupation, men do not neglect your wives. Croft reminds us, “Being considerate to your wife means understanding God’s will for how a Christian husband should relate to his wife. This involves understanding and empathizing with your wife. A husband should be mindful of his wife’s needs, struggles, and feelings” (55). This involves being intentional in pursuing her by the grace of God. Just because you are now married doesn’t mean that you stop pursuing your wife and dating her. Men, date your wives and pursue them because you love them and delight in them.
One of the best parts of the book for me was where Cara (Brian’s wife) talks about her battle with depression. Since I struggle with discouragement and depression, her comments especially ministered to me, most notably, “Let me encourage you that God knows your need. He knows where you are, and he will be faithful to you in these moments. The work Christ did on the Cross provides forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings and gives us the freedom to walk with God and lost lose his favor. The work Christ did provides healing for our souls. You are not alone in your struggle. You are not alone in your darkness. You are not alone in your pain. God is real, and his people do care. And he will bring you through this struggle with a greater love and dependence on him” (164).
Whether you are a Pastor, pastor in training, Bible College or seminary student, The Pastor’s Family has something for you. Written by a Pastor and his wife working in the trenches of daily ministering through the Word and caring for the people of God, this book is a boon of helpful and biblical insights that will stir your affections for the Gospel. Pastors and their wives need a book like this to learn how to not only care for one another, but also how to set healthy boundaries as they minister to people. Picking up this book will help you to learn to not sacrifice your family as you minister to others. Reading this book is to venture into a world where the Gospel is central, where the writers are humble and point us towards the finished work of Christ rather than themselves. This fair, engaging, pastorally sensitive and well-written book deserves to find its place on the shelves of every pastor who longs to have a healthy family and every church member who longs for their pastor and his family to have a healthy home and therefore a healthy ministry.
Authors: Brian and Cara Croft
Publisher: Zondervan (2013)