so it seems that there are a couple really different views of the relationship between family and ministry for those in ministry.
i've always stuck close to the view that relationship with God comes first, then your spouse, then your kids and then your work or ministry. my dad used to tell me when i was just thinking about entering full-time ministry, "you'd be better off as a used car salesman than with a wife who does not support you in ministry." (nothing against used car salespeople!)
but point taken. an unhappy wife, spouse or family that is falling apart or even just not given what they need is no way to go about things. and probably even more so if you're in a vocational, all-eyes-on-your-family kinda of place in ministry. (which would be....um...about all of it.)
in the past, there have been lots of guys who for various reasons have left their family high and dry in search of the next ministry breakthrough. i remember reading in college about D.L. Moody in a biography. he did just that and it didn't set right with me...probably because of my dad's voice in my head. but now, i wonder if dad's on to something.
a question i often wonder is, "what level of sacrifice is appropriate for a family?" let me be honest. it feels to me that most of the "sacrifice" of vocational ministry falls not on the minister, but the family. the time away from home, the lack of emotional energy left for the family at the end of the day, the hard to contain work/homelife distinction all end up robbing the family mainly.
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5). i know this is talking about providing financially (which may exactly apply if in FT ministry!), but how much more important is it to provide spiritually and emotionally? from jesus' teaching, i would guess that he would say, VERY!
of course there's the whole jesus-says-to-leave-your-wife-and-children passages. i read those as jesus asking them to either 1)give up allegiance to them or, 2) give up the right to have a wife and children. i can't see jesus asking people to leave their wives and young children, especially in light of the fact that jesus, on the cross, is still caring and providing for his own mother.
so is it right to take time and emotional energy that is necessary for your family's growth to give to others in ministry? is it right to knowingly put kids or spouse in harm's way? what level of "taking from the family" is wise? of course i trust in God. but let's be honest, we're making decisions that affect not just our own lives, but other's too. it's one thing to trust God with our own life or death, but quite another to make the decision for another.
maybe physically dangerous and emotionally demanding ministry should be saved for those that are single. or maybe the expectations should just be lowered. (and maybe that might be an internal, spiritual adjustment for married ministers who try to do too much!) maybe that's what paul talks about when he suggests to remain single for the sake of the kingdom. maybe married people are trying to minister like they're single and sometimes end up single as a result of it.
would a soldier take his family to the front line of a battle? or what good soldier would have a family and then leave for the rest of his family's life?
i don't think either is a good option.