Midwestern Seminary and LifeWay Christian Resources partnered to host the “Strengthening Your Marriage Family Conference” on Aug. 23 at the school’s Kansas City, Mo., campus.
The two-part conference focused on the theme “Leading your life, family, and ministry well,” and featured Mark Dance, who serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. The second session involved a panel discussion in which Dance, and his wife, Janet, and Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen and his wife, Karen, answered questions from those in attendance.
In the first session, Dance addressed the audience on the topic of leading at home and in ministry. He explained that the Greek term for “manage” means “to stand before or lead,” and this is exactly what pastors are called to do in their families and ministries.
“When we said ‘yes’ to God’s call to pastoral ministry, we agreed to a 2,000-year-old job description which requires us to lead our lives, our families, and our ministries well. Pastors not only want to succeed at church and home, but we are also required to: ‘If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church? (1 Tim 3:5).”
Dance added that pastors are also expected to lead their personal lives well in order to be effective in ministry and at home. Basing his thoughts from 1 Tim. 4:16, he said, “We have to be a disciple before we can make disciples, so make sure your vision to grow your ministry is not more ambitious than your vision to grow your own soul and family.”
During the panel discussion, the Allens, who recently celebrated 20 years of marriage, and Dances, who have been married for more than 30 years, addressed questions from the audience—providing insight into their marriages and families, and how they integrated those relationships into their ministry callings.
The couples addressed questions about unique challenges they’ve faced through the years, habits and routines they developed that helped them remain connected to one another, how they keep from arguments on Sunday mornings, boundaries they’ve set with their ministry responsibilities helping to preserve their marriage and family, ways to foster accountability, and how they’ve handled self-care and mental health issues.
The Allens noted that intentionality is key when remaining connected with one another. Weekly, the couple will spend time, usually on a Sunday evening, coordinating schedules and working through what the week ahead holds. This helps them know the best times for interaction, family meals/times, and allows space to manage work responsibilities and accomplish goals.
They are also very intentional to have regular date nights and family times. Dr. Allen’s travel schedule is monitored closely so as not to disregard his family or ministry responsibilities.
“I’m not working to win a travel award,” he said. “My calling here is too precious to neglect, and then my family is obviously even more precious.”
As far as setting boundaries within one’s church or ministry, both the Allens and Dances agreed this is an essential element to manage for family health.
Both Dance and Allen said they learned to schedule meetings and build in extra time on Sundays and Wednesdays to maximize those days in their ministries. This enabled them to protect other times during the week to spend with their families.
“Stacking meetings means that—especially if you have children at home—you can make those soccer games, you can be present when you’re at home, and whether there’s an official event or not, you can say ‘no,’” Mark said.
He added that it’s important to not give your “yesses” away and to work to be in control of your schedule as much as possible. “Managing means you’re leading, you’re prioritizing, and people won’t mean to cut in line. They just do it naturally. You can help them.”
The conversation turned to how spouses, especially wives, can be their pastor husband’s protector. She can make their home a place for her husband to feel safe and let his guard down. To cut down on the fear of a moral failure, Janet mentioned the ability for spouses to hold one another accountable. She noted how keeping passwords assists in this area. Also, the need for spouses to stay engaged in what’s happening around them is a key.
“It sounds like you’re policing, but it’s not,” Janet said. “You’re helping, and I have just run into so many of us girls that are so naïve. We need to stop being naive. It’s a struggle for them (men). We’re not going to understand it. We don’t even need to try to understand it. We just need to accept it and find out what they need from us and be supportive in it.”
To view the panel discussion, visit https://vimeo.com/356500329.