Family Life

Jason Chamberlain —  October 4, 2010

There is a generation of pastors ministering today who were taught that they should take care of the church and let God take care of their families. As a result, the term ‘PK’ exists among parole officers to refer to a pastor’s kid. It’s very easy to completely pour oneself into ministry to the detriment of family. After all, you’re doing God’s work, right?

What I’ve learned is that it is easy to do the same thing with seminary. Since I work full-time and am married with two children I only take two classes per semester. This also explains why I am on the fifth year of a three-year degree. It would have been nice to be done earlier, but the cost would have been too high to my family. In fact, there are times when I wonder if it is already too high.

My wife stays at home with our children. Our daughter just started second grade and our son just started preschool. The last three years in particular have been pretty taxing on my wife since our son was born. There are days when I leave the house before the kids get up and I don’t come home until they are in bed. Although they are generally well-behaved, they tend to get a little unruly when they don’t have enough daddy time. They accept the fact that I am in school, but they definitely like the breaks when I’m not.

I am committed to maintaining a personal devotional life. I also am committed to getting regular exercise as I believe it is vital to both physical and spiritual health. Plus, I want to excel at school for a few reasons. One is that I like getting good grades, though that is not the primary reason. Another is that I go to a very small school and actually know the professors. I feel like I would be insulting them if I didn’t try my best (I didn’t worry about that so much at Ohio State). But the best reason is that I want to do good work for God’s glory, just like the men who laid interior stones in European cathedrals did their best because they considered it to be an act of worship even though no one would ever see their work.

The problem is that I only have 168 hours in the week just like everyone else. I have found that I do not do well if I get less than seven hours of sleep for more than a few days in a row. How do I get things done without sacrificing my family on the altar of seminary?

One thing I do is set an early alarm. I have my devotional and exercise times before everyone wakes up. This means waking up around 5:00 AM most days. I found that waking up at the same time every day makes it easier. This is important to me because I do not want to sacrifice family time.

Another thing I do is to remain opportunistic with my time. I do vocabulary flashcards on my iPod Touch that I carry with me everywhere. I do them when I’m walking around my office, for example. I do homework at lunchtime when I’m at work. That makes me a bit antisocial, but it also preserves my time for my family. I do homework while my daughter plays with friends and my son naps. I do homework most evenings after the kids go to bed. This of course also means that I need to take time out for date nights with my wife. Funny, but God always seems to supply the time I need for that.

What I try not to do is waste any time. I used to love video games, but rarely play them anymore. I have some guitars, but don’t have much time for them either. I never watch TV and will only watch a movie with my wife. This may seem like a huge sacrifice, but I’ve found that entertainment isn’t as entertaining as I once thought it was.

Ultimately, I’m responsible for the three disciples at my house. I don’t want my kids to join the ranks of PKs who hate the church and their dads. I don’t want my wife to resent it or me. I’m doing my best to serve them and disciple them. To do that I need to remain focused on making the best use of my time.

Parents – how do you handle this?

Jason Chamberlain

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Jason Chamberlain is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree at Shepherds Theological Seminary and should be finished in May 2011, Lord willing. He has been married to Amanda for 12 years and they have two children — Lily (age 7) and Noah (age 3). He got his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University, but has never worked in that industry. Instead, he has always worked in IT doing Windows systems support. Hobbies have mostly gone out the window since starting seminary in 2006, but Jason does still play the guitar occasionally and enjoys a game of chess or backgammon when he can get one. You can read Jason's daily thoughts on Scripture at Thoughts of a Freed Captive.