There is a lot of talk about work-life balance and I must apply the same thought to ministry. My last article focused on obedience to the call of God and particularly the recognition of the priority it must be accorded as the very reason why we were born. Our ministry callings ought to guide major life decisions including where to live when to leave there, who to marry, who not to marry, what vocation to pursue, the company of friends to keep, and so on. However, in day-to-day living, we must be guided by the need to live balanced lives for all-around success.
“I will like to fix an appointment to see you in your office”, my young 22-year-old wife told me, months after we got married. I admire your church members who come for counseling and get your attention for hours at a time. She was up to ‘trouble’, I thought to myself. She is probably not enjoying the tranquility of our humble home and wants to rock the boat. “I sleep and wake up beside you every day, don’t be ridiculous”, I retorted. I had to learn the hard way after my hard line changed nothing a few years down the line. Yes, the ministry is a priority but except family is prioritized in daily life, ministry cannot be fulfilled. No wonder Paul wished singles could remain the same in 1 Corinthians 7. Getting married is committing to enormous responsibilities that require a reordering of priorities in time and financial management. Our eternal calling must not be neglected at the expense of ministry but so also must family not be sacrificed at the altar of ministry.
It is typical of Pastors to make enormous financial sacrifices in the early years of their ministries. This sacrificial mentality often remains as the years pass by. Ministers must realize their spouses make those sacrifices in the expectation that payday will come. The late Apostle Babalola of CAC was known to have lived such a sacrificial life. Many in the denomination remember his wife as difficult because of hostilities against some of the Apostle’s co-travelers. I was however privileged to learn from a very reliable source about how her husband traveled several weeks and even months at a time, leaving her at home with little, only to arrive with a large team who ate all the food in store for the children. The skewed management of resources in favour of ministry and to the detriment of the family created resentments that are only natural for a woman, more so a loving and caring mother. My wife had to make a strong case for appropriate wages to our Director of Finance and Administration when I appointed one.
While I held sway as Director of everything, I had underpaid her and even paid her lesser than some staff of the ministry. Thank God, she stuck with me in spite of her pains. I have since repented of such attitudes. They have broken up many homes and made hostile beings out of many ministry spouses. Poverty has caused many children of ministers of the gospel to resent the ministry and some others the faith in its entirety. We must make for balance.
A major part of the lack of balance has to do with the sufferings of full-time ministry. Sensing a call to full-time ministry, many of us very early in a life consecrated ourselves to a lifetime of doing nothing else but a ministry. However, many times, our ministries do not grow at the pace hoped for and the finances in tow. The result of this is abject poverty for the family. I remember acting unsympathetic when a minister approached me years ago to tell me God told him to go into the ministry full-time and after marriage instructed his wife to do the same. I asked how God could be wicked to ask the only member of the family to resign when the husband had no ministry income with the church at a size of 15 members and lacked the capacity to attract people as they worshipped in a school classroom and lacked instruments of worship. I asked that he and his wife should look for jobs and stop loafing around. All 15 members can be visited over the weekend and they can both work and make income to support both family and ministry. If the Apostle Paul could have done business to earn an income when necessary, none of us is beyond making time for business when circumstances call for it.
Loving and raising children requires spending an enormous amount of time with them. Ministry requires lots of time and travel. Family and ministry planning is very crucial as one of the partners in a marriage might have to make the sacrifice to spend more time with them. Spouses are also not chattels of decoration in the home but require our attention also. We must share our time with them appropriately. Their needs for affection must also be catered for and fasting and consecration times must be agreed together. With the wife of John G. Lake always raising the children alone and providing hospitality for endless ministry guests at her home, she died of stress and exhaustion at a young age. No wonder none of her children ended up in Ministry out of their emotional pains. I have referenced people out of my desire that we learn from their stories and not vilify them. I pray the Lord will give us all understanding.