Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shepherding at Home

Brian and Cara Croft, The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 171pp. Paperback.

Reviewed by Dr. Ryan M. McGraw

Today, the phrase, “the pastor’s kid,” often conjures images in our minds of a child who make unchurched children look tame. It is too easy to blame this phenomenon on the doctrine of election. While it is true that there are Esaus in the church as well as Jacobs, it is also true (if we may believe the Crofts’ testimony) that many ministers spend little time with their wives and children, neglect family worship, and do not set parameters for the church to respect in order to protect their families. Governing his own household and training obedient children are some of the primary qualifications for any man who is called to the pastoral ministry. Brian and Cara Croft’s little book on The Pastor’s Family sets a finger on the pulse-beat of today’s ministry and offers a much-needed call to encouragement and repentance.

The Croft Family
The authors – with interspersed comments from a few of their friends along the way – divide the difficulties facing the pastor’s family into three areas: the pastor’s heart, the pastor’s wife, and the pastor’s children. The ways in which the Crofts search readers hearts is greatly needed. The way in which they describe the trials that church members unintentionally create for their pastors’ families will shock many church members. This book can also help pastors indirectly if church members take the time to read it in order to know better how to assist their ministers in this vital area. Some of the solutions that the Crofts propose, such as spending time with each child individually each week, are very much needed. Others reveal the low ebb to which the ministry has fallen. For example, the authors say they now commit to practicing family worship at least three times a week. I have found that such irregular goals with regard to family worship can exasperate children by making the practice sporadic, inconsistent, and easier to neglect. However, the basic premise of the book is that ministers are called to minister to their wives and their families, even before they are called to minister to the church. In this regard, even great men who left wives and children behind and whom God used to spread the gospel far and wide were wrong and their families suffered for it. The Crofts give us a jump-start back in the right direction.

In the late seventeenth century, William Perkins urged pastors to make the ministry attractive to their sons so that more of them would desire to serve in the ministry themselves. His desire was often realized in Reformed families multi-generationally. Now it is common for a pastor’s children in many circles not only to avoid the ministry like the plague, but perhaps even the church itself. We must always hope in the grace of God to do what we cannot do in the hearts of wayward children. But we must also take up God’s call to use the divinely appointed means of grace in the lives of our children. Woe to us if we trust those means, but woe to us if we neglect them. Brian and Cara Croft, in this book, have given the church a clear call to reset the priorities of the pastor and of the church with regard to the pastor’s family. May we listen to and build upon it.

This review first appeared in the August 2014 edition of New Horizons.