Balancing pastoral duties and family
Being a pastor is no easy task. As shepherd of the fold, one is expected to be infinitely available to his/her herd, despite the time of day or the mood they are in.
And though this constant accessibility may be good for the sheep, the shepherd’s family is sometimes left to deal with a father who is often unavailable to his own children, or a husband who has little or no time for his wife.
Weighing in on the issue is pastor at the Church of God of Prophecy, Joseph Emanuel Millwood. He told Family & Religion that ministers are indeed expected to be available to their members every hour of the day, each day of the week. That is, according to him, depending on how serious the need is.
“It is all about creating that balance. I’ve said it to them (church members) that I am always available if there is an emergency, but if not then they should be considerate. I say this to them they have to kinda manage their own expectation of me.
“My members tend to generally know what an emergency is, and what’s not, so I don’t normally have an issue with them.
“I remember getting a call one night after 11, to hear that someone had passed and I didn’t mind; or a husband and wife who are arguing and threatening to kill themselves,” he said, adding that he doesn’t condone calls of less importance past certain hours of the night.
Millwood explained that though his family is not always okay with his constant communication with members outside church hours, they understand his duty and do not hold it against him.
According to him, “That’s the sentiment especially of my children, as young as they are, they understand. And that, I believe, speaks volumes.”
However, Millwood noted that in addition to the calls at ‘ungodly’ hours of the night or morning, there are those after-service consultation sessions that sometimes prevent him from going home with his family, or enjoying what should have been family time.
“This happens especially after preaching a message that speaks to 10 people, and after the sermon each of them wants 20 minutes with you as a pastor.
“You see, in the rural areas, the culture is a bit different from the urban area, because the church is still considered as an integral social institution that serves the entire community and not just the location where the building is.
“And I pastor a church in a community where I am one of the few in the area, so that has great implications, and as a result of that everyone comes and wants to talk to ‘Pastor’.”
Sunday evenings are popularly known for family time. It’s when everybody is home and gets to eat together, have a drink or just chill out on the veranda for a good chat and laugh.
But this is not always the case for church leaders.
Millwood said: “There are Sunday evenings when I’m still at church and don’t get to spend time with my family. There are times when they eat before me, especially if is a big fracas that needs to be pacified because maybe a marriage is going to end or husband and wife going home to fight, and so a lot of times I don’t get to have dinner with my family during times when it would normally be a family time.
“The other thing is that everyone wants you to be everywhere. But I manage the expectations by learning to say ‘No, not right now’. So, if I need to speak with persons after church, I meet with them maybe only for an hour after which I am saying, ‘No, I have to leave’.
“Likewise, if someone calls late, I answer to see what it is they are calling about and decide if it’s an emergency and if not, I say ‘We have to talk about this tomorrow. It’s too late’.
“Though there are times that I need to make exceptions, especially in extreme cases, but learning to say no is one of the best ways to strike that balance and maintain a good family life,” he ended.