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Introduction Most pastors and Christian workers face serious difficulties in the management of
their time. It is difficult to ‘balance’ all the demands which are made of them, and the nature of
their work means that there is always more to be done. Unnecessary guilt burdens many when
they are required to turn their attention to family and home responsibilities. There are legitimate
and illegitimate demands made upon them in this area, and these we will examine now.

Legitimate demands of home life

a) time spent meaningfully with wife

Making any marriage work demands time and effort; breakdown in marriage is one of Satan’s ploys
for destroying effective ministries, so Christian leaders are in the firing line in this area. It is
imperative that husbands and wives in ministry make time for each other, especially in the light of
peculiar pressures which may be upon them in terms of hospitality etc. Failure to do so will first of
all damage, then destroy communication, and with it possibly the marriage and the ministry.

Having said that, pastors and Christian workers often have special privileges regarding time with
family – e.g. working from the home base there is some flexibility in the use of time; there is
availability in times of need and/or emergency when in the case of other kinds of employment, a
husband would be at the factory or other place of employment. These advantages need to be
taken into consideration when setting aside further time for communication etc. with spouse.
Integrity and balance are key issues here.

b) time spent meaningfully with children

Similarly, a parent’s responsibility is to bring children up well and in the faith. That also demands
time and effort, and must be slotted into the weekly timetable. It is wise to guard family time as far
as that is possible so that relationships with children can be meaningful, and communication kept
open and healthy. Time for play, for discussion, for education, for spiritual instruction is vital and
the wise pastor/missionary will make such time possible. Normally time needs to be spent each
day with children, and when they get to school age, there is only the period around the evening
meal for such contact. When too many early evening activities threaten this time, some revision
becomes necessary.

During pre-school years there is flexibility about choice of day off, but after that period, Saturday
becomes the only option for a father to spend prolonged time with his children. Saturday
emergencies can steal some of these days, so the pastor should endeavour not to take extra
appointments during the children’s school years.

c) time spent usefully in rest/recreation

God made us creatures of activity and rest. Night and day are part of his plan. Business and
relaxation are both to be in the pattern of our lives. Over-activity and overwork are decidedly
harmful to us physically, mentally and spiritually, and damaging to our relationships with others.
Keeping a healthy balance here will enhance the quality of our service and may help prevent more
serious problems such as breakdown or burnout.

Time for rest and relaxation therefore must be included in the weekly timetable. Most recommend
and benefit best from a day off, but there are some who prefer to structure their relaxation time in
another way. Allowance must be made for personal needs and personal preferences, both in the
nature of relaxation activities, and the timing of them.

d) time spent in necessary household tasks

Like all spouses, the Christian husband or wife must fulfil his/her function and role in the home,
and this will include the necessary daily and weekly chores – cleaning, painting and decorating,
gardening, repairing etc. Christian leaders should be no less and no more taken up with these
responsibilities than the members of their congregation in secular employment. These activities
are valid and vital to the smooth running of the home and family. They are usually carried out in

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the ‘spare time’ of members of the congregation; often the pastor must set aside time to do them,
keeping in mind always his first priorities.

It is wise and good for the pastor/Christian worker to guard the periods of time set aside for the
responsibilities mentioned above. These are legitimate demands upon his time, and there ought to
be no sense of guilt in preserving these, always allowing of course for unexpected emergencies or
circumstances to be addressed and handled satisfactorily.
However, there are dangers in this whole area of time management, and these may be
summarised under:

Unreasonable demands of home life

a) diversion due to pampering of family

A real danger confronts Christian workers with families. In plain speech, it is the temptation to
essentially structure your responsibilities and ministry round your family needs. So trips to and
from school, or piano practice, or horse-riding etc. become the pegs on which you hang your daily
and weekly timetable. And this may or may not be best for your ministry or service. Christian
workers must honestly face the fact that those in secular work do not have the luxury of even
contemplating such a possibility, and must make other arrangements for school journeys etc.

Criticism is inevitable if members of your congregation or Christian colleagues find meaningful

contact with them interrupted constantly by the need, for example, to pick up the children from
school. Some pastors have been unwise in curtailing visits for this and similar reasons, and church
members are not blind to the fact that their own work cannot be set aside or curtailed in order to
perform such tasks.

It is possible to waste large parts of a day and a week in pampering one’s family, in over-providing
for them. Honest self-assessment is called for in this matter, and where ministry is being hindered
or harmed by over-attention to family matters that situation must be rectified.

b) undue time/effort given to family/personal projects

In many ways linked to a) above. It is not unknown for disappointment and resentment to arise
because of inordinate time given to undertakings which are perceived to be for the personal
benefit/profit of the pastor or Christian worker only [and/or his family]. Examples include: running a
family business or involvement in other finance-raising schemes; building projects (houses, boats,
caravanettes etc.); educational projects (further/post-graduate study, conferences etc.) especially
when these are perceived to have little relevance to one’s ministry; personal mission/cross-cultural
interests sometimes involving trips abroad etc.

Wisdom and tact are necessary regarding such issues. Even when the church does benefit [e.g. a
pastor undertaking the building of his own house] good communication with, and accountability to
your fellow-elders/deacons is imperative. Offence is taken when the pastor or Christian leader
appears to be out for personal profit or gain.

c) unreasonable time given to hobbies etc.

As in (b) above, honesty and restrain are imperative. Someone has said that a servant of God
should be an expert in nothing else. What is in mind is the person who appears to immerse
himself/herself in a hobby, or who has expertise which can only be gained by countless hours of
involvement in it – expert rose-growers, bee-keepers, dog-breeders etc. GOLF is a bad word in
many evangelical circles for the simple reason that some Christian workers have abused their
“time-off” from ministry, or that the Monday golf round becomes the one immoveable slot in the
weekly timetable.

Proficiency and even excellence in many areas is not invalidated here – e.g. music, art, sport.
Some are “naturally talented” in some things. But by and large the countless hours necessary to
become a recognised expert in any field are just not available to the Christian minister or
missionary without eating into his primary work.

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d) resentment of reasonable demands upon pastor
What is in view here is the situation which can arise where a spouse and/or children can begin to
resent the amount of time and attention given to the congregation and its needs. The difficulty
usually arises because of an imbalance somewhere along the line, where family needs have or are
being neglected. This can have a spill-over effect so that legitimate demands on time and
attention become the focus of resentment, rather than the illegitimate demands which we have
succumbed to or allowed to encroach into our lives.

There is nothing more destructive to effective ministry than lack of support, or worse still,
opposition from the home base. Many a ministry has been marred by this, and many prematurely
ended. Clear communication called for here – the willingness to open up the issue and clarify what
is and is not a reasonable demand upon one’s time and attention. It is vital that a minister or
missionary’s spouse is wholly supportive of his/her partner’s ministry, otherwise difficulty and
trouble lie ahead.


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