Most pastors would affirm our priority is first to shepherd our family, then to shepherd the church. Yet, I fear many pastors are laboring hard to shepherd the church to the neglect of their family. The Lord in His kind providence, challenged me several years ago about this as my neglect in this area had become known. However, it was not another pastor that challenged me. It was through an out-of-town friend who is a pharmacist and faithfully serves as a deacon in his local church that exposed my neglect. His effort and model to shepherd his seven children both individually and regularly in addition to their regular family worship challenged me, convicted me, inspired me, and put my pathetic efforts I had made thus far to shame.
This faithful father shepherded his seven children by taking one morning a week to meet individually with each of his children. Seven days in a week–each of the seven children got one morning each week with their dad. They prayed, read scripture, talked, and read a book of that child’s choosing. Inspired by his amazing example, I came home and established a similar model in our home that I remain faithful to this day. Here is what I do to individually shepherd my four children regularly in addition to our regular time of family worship, as well as implications attached to it:
1) Monday through Thursday each child gets a day and on his or her appointed day stays up 30 – 45 minutes later than their siblings to meet with me before bedtime. I thought they would be excited about it for a few times, but then grow bored with it. Not so. Years later, they look forward to that time more than anything, which provides a natural accountability when you are tired from the day and are tempted to skip for that evening.
2) We read the passage I am preaching for that week, discuss it a bit, then we read a chapter from a book they have chosen to read. At the end, I take time to ask them how they are doing and how I can pray for them. This is a great way to see how they are really doing and teach them what are good things to be praying for others. Then, I pray for them and take them to bed.
3) One of the greatest joys to my wife is her watching my effort with our children and lead our family in this way. The last thing she feels is left out (just in case you were thinking that). Our wives’ desire for us to make regular, deliberate, spiritually meaningful efforts to care for our children will mean more to her than I think we realize or understand. I find this especially true for our wives who are stay at home moms who labor hard in this task of shepherding their little hearts all day with little break.
4) My efforts with my children have put me in a position to challenge other men in my church to do something similar. It has been amazing the way our fathers in our church have embraced this and the way it has empowered many of them to see they can spiritually lead their families with deliberate efforts. Fellow pastors, the obvious needs to be acknowledged that you cannot challenge the men in your church to do anything you are not making a faithful effort at. Regularly and individually shepherding your children’s hearts is certainly one of those efforts that we must model for the men in our local church. Their failure to do it could be a reflection of your failure to model it.
Fellow pastors, leaders, and faithful men in the church, may the Lord use this blog post to bring a similar awakening that I needed that the Lord brought through my dear friend many years ago. Then, dear brother, act upon it and start today to back up what most of us as pastors and fathers acknowledge with our lips, but fewer actually do.