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Pastoral Ministry: The Balance Between Study & Family

By December 11, 2018April 29th, 2022Discipleship, Ministry & Leadership5 min read

There is a time for study. It’s one of the benefits of pastoring or teaching the Bible in any capacity. My favorite part has always been the preparation.

I love to spend the time to really know a passage or book.

Even though I may have taught it before, I feel like I could go deeper. The 2,000 years that separates my culture and the first century only adds to the need and the excitement. I can find myself transported to another time, digging like a commentary-archeologist, into the finer points, to better understand the context and the message so I can present it to our church in a way that they can best benefit from it.

One day I was looking into the question of how we got the Gospel of Matthew. It’s a fascinating question that fills many scholarly books. According to the Greek Apostolic Father Papias (60-160 AD), it would seem Matthew may have begun a work written in Aramaic or Hebrew. The implications are written sources much closer to the events, possibly in the 30s AD, not long after the resurrection. In my enthusiasm and apologetic preparation for the next time I meet someone with a late oral tradition Gospel-legend argument, I was broadsided by a much more important question. “Dad, what’s my favorite cake?”

In defense of my daughter, this was not one of those random questions. It was close to her birthday, and there has only been one cake she’s ever asked for. She was a winter baby, and growing up in France, she’s always loved those holiday foods that only make their appearance for a short time. Her favorite cake? Raspberry White Chocolate Ice Cream Cake. That already sounds heavenly, albeit a little strange for winter. Yet, context is everything. Around Christmastime, there is a cake in France called the Bûche de Noël. It’s traditionally made of of cream, chocolate, light sponge cake and brilliantly decorated in the form of a log that one might find in a great hall from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My daughter, who has always had excellent culinary taste, prefers the ice cream version. And so our family tradition was born.

Back to my “deer-in-the-headlights” moment—in that brief second of historic-theological wandering, I was brought back to the present day by a much more important question. To my shame, I forgot the answer. Was it Cheesecake? No. Was it Molten Lava Cake…no. There has only been one, and when I remembered, I was blessed with an early Christmas present/lesson from the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I believe this is foundational for us. It’s vital for the people we teach, it can be a great tool when we share our faith, and to be honest, it’s necessary for our soul. We need to study, and in a day when intellectual laziness can not be tolerated. Our calling is an eternal one. The delicacy of studying God’s word shouldn’t contradict with spending those precious moments with those whom He has entrusted us with. But there is a time when Raspberry White Chocolate Ice Cream Cake is far more important. It’s certainly more delicious.

Practically speaking, this is where I’ve learned the art of the schedule.

Writing out my hours in my calendar has helped me immensely to know when to quit. I’ve also shared this schedule with my kids, asking the older ones their thoughts and coordinating with their schedules, so we can have moments together. Incidentally, the question about my daughter’s favorite cake was asked at a time when I’d largely gone overtime, and in her eyes, I was fair game. Ministry is filled with too many surprises to be too rigid about a schedule, but having a plan helps.

In the end, Raspberry White Chocolate Ice Cream Cake represents for me the people we love and who walk with us in our lives. Far from a distraction, Psalm 127:3 reminds me that, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

Certainly, diligent study doesn’t exclude finding time to enjoy our kids. The two are not in competition, neither are they mutually exclusive. In fact, one day when I pass the ministry on to a younger pastor God calls, I still want to have an invitation at the table to enjoy Raspberry White Chocolate Ice Cream Cake.

Mike Dente is the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Paris located in Paris, France. He received a Master of Theology from Faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en-Provence, France and is continuing his studies as a doctoral student (D.Min.) at Western Seminary.