Brian and Cara Croft. The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: MI. Zondervan, 2013. 171 pp. $16.99.
Brian Croft has been the senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2003. He is also the founder of Practical Shepherding, a website dedicated to being “a gospel-driven resource center for pastors and church leaders to equip them in the practical matters of pastoral ministry,” and is the author of numerous books in the Ministering the Master’s Way series. Brian and Cara have four children. Cara serves alongside Brian by teaching and discipling the women of Auburndale.
Their book is divided into three parts that encourage pastors and church leaders to faithfully serve the church while faithfully serving their families. Brian and Cara’s 20 years of ministry qualify them to address balancing the demands of the ministry with the demands of being a father and a husband, a wife and a mother (13).
In part one, Brian offers practical solutions for the pressures of pastoral ministry that might lead to family neglect. Church and home are a constant swirl of expectations and scheduling demands, many of which expose fears (and weaknesses) that tempt a pastor to neglect shepherding his home. Brian accurately writes:
A pastor’s heart is no different from any other heart (in desiring significance, or success). A pastor’s neglect of his family cannot simply be blamed on the pressures, demands, and unrealistic expectations that have been placed on him. In the end, the struggle he faces—and the neglect of the family—has one root cause: a sinful heart. (45)
In part two, Cara becomes the dominant voice as she explains the struggles of a pastor’s wife. With refreshing openness, Cara—who distinctly remembers not saying “I do” to becoming a pastor’s wife at their wedding—reveals the struggles she has faced, both personal and as “the pastor’s wife.” She describes how she’s maneuvered her way through the loneliness and invisibility of being a pastor’s wife, and she discusses the demanding schedules that often crowd out family time. Through all these challenges, however, Cara has discovered the “joys of being a pastor’s wife.”
I am grateful to Cara for her helpful candor. For instance, she relieves pastors’ wives of the notion that they need to be theological giants. If someone were to ask, “How is your soteriology formed by your convictions about the doctrine of predestination?” Cara would reply, “No hablo seminary.” She likes Austen (Jane); Brian likes Carson (Don). Please don’t misunderstand her motives or attitude. She is not being cavalier; she’s just asking that pastors’ wives be received for their gifts rather than being expected to be clones of their husbands. “It’s important for women to be in the Bible,” she insists. “Learn the overall picture of the Bible. Know the gospel.” But a pastor’s wife should never be afraid to say, “I don’t know. Let’s go talk to my husband” (85).
In part three, Brian returns to address the needs of children. Here is a treasure trove of down-to-earth suggestions for fathers who serve as pastors to enrich how they pastor their families.
Each of the three parts concludes with a reflection from a close friend on the theme of that section. Pay close attention to these, especially the anonymous “Thoughts from a PK” who also became a pastor (149–50). My wife and I intend to ask our own to children to read that reflection and offer their feedback.
The Pastor’s Family is creatively laid out and deeply encouraging. Brian writes a section and Cara “graciously interrupts,” offering a complementary perspective to Brian’s. Cara writes a section and Brian interjects some thoughts for a pastor about his wife’s needs. The whole tone of the book is easy and conversational, as if you were at their kitchen table talking over how to respond to ministry and family demands.
Two Great Strengths
The book has two great strengths. First, it is honest and clear about the problems, pressures, and joys pastors and their families encounter in the work. As the Crofts write, “This book is meant to equip pastors to shepherd their family through the difficulties and sufferings they will encounter in ministry, not try to avoid them” (15).
Second, Cara. Cara’s honest and sometimes blunt—but never harsh—explanations will do good for a pastor and especially his wife. I asked my wife, a pastor’s wife for 30-plus years, her thoughts on the book, and here’s what she said: “A breath of fresh air, and a must-read for every young woman called to be a pastor’s wife. This book will help you to embrace your role for God’s purposes and glory.” This comes from a woman who has faced the same challenges that Cara and every other pastor’s wife face. (Like the time a man working on the crew for our new building came over to our house to use the shower before he went home for the night. He brought his own towel! He thought the home we lived in belonged to the church, and someone told him to consider our shower his shower. My wife handled the situation skillfully.)
Who Should Read It?
If you are considering the pastorate, are already in seminary, just received a call to a church, or have been there a few years, read this book. If you have friends new to the pastorate, give them this book. (I’m giving a copy to my associate who is relatively new to the ministry.) They will thank you for your foresight.
If you aren’t married but hope to be, and you want a great gift for your wife long before your wedding day, wrap up this book and give it to her when she comes along. Re-read it every five years until your children are grown, out the door, and married with children of their own. Then read it again.
It occurs to me that there is one more audience who should read this book. I suggest giving this book as a gift to your church members. The pastor’s home shouldn’t be like a mystery novel riddle to our churches. I believe many of them would appreciate knowing these things, because they care for us.
I have anecdotal evidence to support this statement. At a recent one-day conference on prayer in the local church, a few of our members accompanied the staff. One of the speakers urged the audience to pray for their pastors, since studies show they are the loneliest people in the church. (Imagine their wives!) Pastors, the speaker went on to say, have very few, if any, close friends. One of our church’s dearest praying saints was sitting next to me. She turned to ask if that was true for me. I took a while to answer, weighing my options. I didn’t want her to feel the sting of regret or remorse that didn’t belong to her. So I simply said, “Yes, that is often true.”
She thought about it. She patted my hand with a knowing smile and returned her attention to the speaker. I suspect she has been praying for us more urgently than she was before.
In case you missed it: read The Pastor’s Family.
Editors’ note: This review originally appeared at 9Marks.