What is the one regret all pastors should want to avoid?

There are many possible regrets.  Yet, when I recently sat down for coffee with a dear friend and faithful, seasoned pastor, he had but one regret that stood out among the rest.  It wasn’t a regret on how faithful he had preached.  It wasn’t a regret in regard to wishing he had visited more widows than he did.  It wasn’t a regret that he had not shared the gospel more.  Make no mistake.  There will be regrets for all of us who are pastors.  If there aren’t, we think too highly of ourselves and the quality of work we have done.  There is and will always be some level of these regrets in all pastors, including my friend.  Yet, there was one regret that stood out.  One regret that I saw hurt and burdened him more than any other.  Here was his regret:

“I wish I would have enjoyed my children more when they were little.”

This came as a result of a family update I was giving him.  With 4 children between 3-11 years old, we are moving from the baby stage to the little person-many fun activities stage.  I was sharing of the fun we were having, though busy.  All of a sudden, I looked up and he had tears in his eyes as he shared of this regret.  This is a man who did so much right.  He made time for his family.  He spent individual time with each of his children.  He was at the ball games and important events.  All outside appearances pointed to “dad of the year” honors.  His regret came as he confessed how much he allowed the stress and pressures of ministry to distract his mind while with them.  They probably didn’t even know it…but he did.  Now, his children are grown, out of the house, and as he says, “those days are gone.”  

I can’t tell you how affected I was as I watched the sorrow in the face of this incredibly faithful, well-known and successful pastor.  I would be a fool not to allow this man’s sorrow and regret to produce a serious “mind and heart check” every time I leave the church to go home to spent it with my family.  I can say I had been trying to be mindful to enjoy my family in each stage, but I never felt a greater burden to do so, than when I left that conversation.

Dear brothers and fellow pastors with young children.  I know there is much to distract us.  I know there is much do to.  I know there are good, godly burdens we are to carry that are not magically removed when we go home.  I also know many young pastors are working “overtime” trying to prove to the skeptics you are a good and faithful pastor.  However, heed to this dear, faithful pastor’s warning to enjoy our families in these precious stages that do not last long.  As a wise pastor once told me, “There is always another ministry…you only have one wife.”  To apply that wisdom to my friend’s counsel, “There will always be more to think about and do at the church.  Your children will only be ‘that age’ once.”

Posted in Home and Family, Oversight of Souls
29 comments on “What is the one regret all pastors should want to avoid?
  1. Eric Redmond says:

    Brian, this post is right on the money. Thank you for this dose of reality. Blessings! ECR

  2. Chad Beck says:

    All I can say is WOW! What a great post! I am humbled and at the same time convicted.

  3. Paul C says:

    Thanks for this – very timely (one of the posts I’ll print off and keep in my special binder)

    A couple nights ago I was putting my 3yr old girl to bed (I have 4 kids) and was looking at her. What crossed my mind was that it would be better to know just one or two people deeply than to be only acquainted with dozens or hundreds.

    Life is often too busy. Right now, as a young elder, I need to keep in mind exactly what you shared.

    In September I was speaking to a pastor originally from Africa who came over to the US to pastor a church for 7 yrs without his family. It was a huge regret for him.

  4. Jay Q says:

    WOW! THANK YOU SO MUCH BRIAN!

    I so agree w/ Eric, Paul, and Chad.

    I needed this. I will definitely print this off and keep it near me.

    Now praying for everyone here (Brian, Eric, Chad, Paul, Brian’s ‘dear friend,’ and African pastor)

  5. richarda2375 says:

    This post is very timely and a God send for me right now. I am a new pastor about nine months in, and I completely understand everything that is in this post. It is so easy to put the ministry ahead of family, and I have come to believe it is a tool that Satan uses to the fullest. Thanks for posting it brother!

  6. Jesse Taylor says:

    Very timely. Thanks for this reminder/encouragement/warning. As a father of 7 (1yr.-16yrs) and Associate/Youth Pastor for 10 years I need to hear this. Even more, I need to spend individual time with each of my children.

  7. Allen Mickle says:

    With an 11 month old son, this is very timely for me.

  8. biswalfamily says:

    Thank you pastor for this post. We as a family like it.

  9. Alan Kurschner says:

    Great post. Spending time with children is “sacred time” in the real sense of the term.

  10. Scott Wright says:

    Brian,
    I thank the Lord for this timeless reminder through your blog. These words are timeless. These words are true. Trust me, I know having experienced the same regrets over the years. Pastor-friends- heed this reminder and take it to heart! My wife is a great reminder/’quality-control’ when it comes to keeping ministry in check to family life. BTW, I have 4 children (from a junior in HS to a toddler). Grace & Peace.

  11. Robert says:

    I love home education, where this, along with family devotions, are wrapped up in a lifestyle.

    I love that God graciously had me fired from a very successful office job and was able to work out of the home for 5-6 years from the time my kids were 1-3 years old.

    I love pastors who cherish their family, but don’t do so in an obnoxious, public, look-at-me look-at-them way. Quiet love is the foundation for public commentary on your family, not the other way around.

  12. Jayson says:

    Great reminder. For the record this goes for ALL dads, in ministry or not!

  13. Hayden says:

    Thanks Brian. I look forward to seeing more posts (but not too many :)) from you. I am always encouraged when I visit your blog.

  14. Jeff says:

    I am a youth pastor serving a local church and several months ago I was told by my pastor that I may be spending too much time with my family (wife and 16 month old child). My last day here is tomorrow.

  15. Jeremy says:

    I’m glad I read this post. I’m so distracted when I’m with my kids, when I’m with my wife. The reality of the pressures of ministry/life are no excuse not to be fully present with my family. Lord, please help me.

  16. djsosmith says:

    I am crying right now…I still have some years left with my children but I fear I haven’t given my best years to my children.

  17. Tim Irvin says:

    I drove a truck over the road and missed 12 Thanksgivings and 12 Christmas’s. I saw little of my two sons.
    This is a common “whine” among pastors. I think it demonstrates how little most pastors know about the common man’s labors and how little time any of us have with our children.
    If the duties of “Church” keep a pastor from spending adequate time with his children then something is amiss.

  18. gloria dyet says:

    My husband is now 75. He visited every afternoon when he was a pastor. Do pastor’s visit today? I don’t know. He visited the old folks and widows. He visited members of the church and non-members. You did not need to make an appointment in those days. He was faithful and an outstanding preacher and theologian.

  19. The Pauper says:

    Great Post! The Lord released me from my last pastorate because of the effect the church had on my then 3 year old daughter – she did not want to go to church anymore. There is no ministry more important than that of being a godly husband and father. If we fail in this one area then we have disqualified ourselves from leadership in the house of God and bring reproach on the gospel (Eph 5). But oh how hard it is to resist the siren song but fight we must.
    Thanks for the great reminder!

    P.S – I found your blog through a link @ Challies.com

  20. KKMeadows says:

    Sadly, pastors are not the only ones guilty of this offense.

  21. Rod says:

    Totally agree…Even though I labor at this, many times I still feel I have fallen short.

    Thanks,

    Rod

  22. Erik says:

    Brian,

    Extremely encouraging and convicting for those of us who have little ones right now (for me, they are 6, 5, and 2).

    And, this post not only applies to those in full-time vocational ministry, but to us parishioners as well who can be easily distracted by so many others things and discover we’ve missed out on so much in our children’s lives.

    Thank you very much for such an insightful post Brian.

  23. Drew says:

    Thanks Brian! I have 3 kids ages 4 and under and this was a great reminder for me to enjoy them.
    Thanks also for the blog, I’ve been following you since you started writing and I really appreciate all of the hard work you put into this.

  24. Ken says:

    Thanks for this Brian….my little ones are out in the frigid cold right now playing catch with each other….pulling on my coat right now….thanks for your investment in my family!

  25. Preston says:

    Pastoral care begins at home. Thanks Brian. Merry Christmas.

7 Pings/Trackbacks for "What is the one regret all pastors should want to avoid?"
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