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Monday, September 2, 2013

"The Pastor's Family" (Brian & Cara Croft)

TITLE: The Pastor's Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry
AUTHOR: Brian and Cara Croft
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (176 pages).

Many of us will be familiar with the story. A typical pastor seeks to serve his best within the Church. He has multiple responsibilities. He works almost seven days a week. He is on call at both normal as well as odd hours of the day. Many things seem to carry a tinge of urgency in which pastors play many roles. At hospitals, he works like a chaplain. When couples have marital problems, he plays marriage counselor. At board meetings, he is both chief administrator as well as spiritual leader. At Church, he is called upon to preach, to teach, and to reach out to both members as well as newcomers. He is also on call 24x7, as many things can happen out of the blue. From conflict management to birthday celebrations, the scope of influence is far and wide. No wonder pastors need to be called. Even the great John Wesley and George Whitefield, despite their great ministries, personally face huge challenges in the family. Wesley's treatment of his wife is less than exemplary. Whitefield delays his marriage for the sake of the ministry. Many missionaries too often prioritize their mission and evangelism efforts at the expense of their own family health. For example, William Carey almost abandoned his pregnant wife when planning his mission to India.

This book is written as an encouragement to those in the pastoral ministry directly or indirectly. While there are many books for pastoral care and techniques, mostly focused on helping the pastor directly, not many are written on the care of the spouse and children, though some mention has been made in pastoral resource materials. This book-length edition is a needed resource not just for pastors, but for the pastor's family. It is meant to equip people toward setting appropriate expectations, expect sacrifices, and to cultivate a joy in service. How is this done?

First, the authors define faithful ministry as one that is anchored in servanthood. The problem is not in the willingness to serve but in the prioritizing of things to do. This added pressure often tempts pastors to allow wrong motivations to do the prioritizing for them. For instance,demands for human approval; appearance, success, significance, expectations, friendship, all are major factors in pulling pastors away from their own families. All of these point to the importance of nourishing the pastor's heart, not in worldliness, but in godliness. The latter requires frequent self-examination, repentance, loving our spouses, caring for our children, be accountable, and the display of grace within and without.

Second, the pastor's wife needs to be supported with proper expectations that are realistic. They can be lonely and overlooked too. They need the maturity to handle criticism as well as a support group to help them deflect erroneous expectations. What is most energizing is that joy is possible despite the struggles. One whole chapter is dedicated toward caring and loving the pastor's wife.

Third, the children have needs both individually as well as together as a family. As much as pastors need to shepherd their flock, they must not forget the children they are expected to shepherd as well. Engaging one on one is probably one of the most important. With biblical truth, theological guidance, prayer, sacrificial service, learning to spend time with the children must not simply be spoken. It must be practiced.

Fourth, the authors then describe several other areas that pastors need to take care of. For example, there are the four warning signs of the neglect of the pastor's family. There is the plan for worship as a family. There is also some tips on how to deal with depression, physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles.

So What?

This book is both personal for the authors and educational for readers. Beginning with a declaration that every family is essentially affected by the careers of the parents, the authors zoom in on the unique struggles and challenges of a pastor's family. Written by a couple where the head of the household is a typical full-time, fully engaged shepherd of a large Church, the life of a pastor is full and often comes at the expense of tensions within the family. Yet, there is a bitter part as well as a sweet part in the pastoral ministry. For all the sacrifices and challenges faced, the sweetness come from the overcoming of the challenges and to see how faithful God is.

While written in an easy to follow manner, each chapter ends with tough questions for both pastor and spouse to ask each other as well as to discuss together. They are meant to spur discussions and to give the pastor's family ample time and opportunity to engage with each other the struggles and consequences of pastoral ministry. Do not let the simplicity of the book's structure deceive you. This book deals with really tough matters, which sometimes may not even be resolved. What matters is that there is a resource here that will enable pastors who are down to look up to God in hope, to believe that God will be faithful to lead and to guide the exhausted pastor. Just like the beautiful Shepherd's psalm 23, pastors can be comforted to know that the LORD remains their Shepherd. He is the One who can and who will give us true rest. Through all thick and thin, through the dark valleys, the most important thing in the Psalm is that the LORD is with us. Having this knowledge and constant awareness, will indeed help not only the pastor, but the pastor's family. Church leaders will do well to understand this. A healthy pastor is good not only for the family but the Church as well.

Rating: 4 stars of 5


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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