This pastor, father and husband discovers healthier boundaries at Kerith Retreats
When Dave went to Kerith Ministry Leaders Retreats with his wife, Staci, he thought everything was fine. As a rural pastor and father of five, he knew he was tired but believed he just needed a breather. Once at the retreat centre, though, Dave realized how truly exhausted he was and noticed out-of-character patterns of getting snappy or snarky with people around him. “I felt like my bubble was about to burst at times, and it didn’t have the stretch that it normally would have,” he recalls.
Several years earlier, Dave and Staci felt God call them to relocate their family for ministry and knew it was the right move. At first, all appeared good and healthy, but Dave said he felt the pressure on his marriage and his children. “We had taken on so much and tried to create this illusion of perfection in our family,” he recalls. “There’s a lot of pressure on ministry families with this illusion of being perfect, and we are anything but perfect.”
COVID brought a lot of challenges for many families, Dave’s included. His father who lived in their previous town passed away suddenly. They were dealing with personal pain and trauma in the midst of a demanding ministry. “I couldn’t separate church from my spiritual life and our family,” he explains. “I felt I needed to always be there at everybody’s beck and call and try to figure out what is important or what is not important. Before going to Kerith, I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how I was going to survive another year because it was just sheer exhaustion.”
That exhaustion, Dave says, resulted from putting ministry above everything else. “We put everybody else’s family above ours,” he says. “We moved our family away from their grandparents to bring them here, and they lost all their friends. And then they lost their grandpa. But we had this job to do, and we kind of put the family and the kids on the back burner and put the ministry as the top priority. We didn’t know how to find that balance.”
The time with Kerith Retreats directors Merrie and Marshall was transformative as well as eye-opening for both Dave and Staci. “I’ve seen far too many pastors’ kids walk away from Christ after they graduate or after they leave home, or even partway through that. And I was not willing to let that happen to my family,” he says. “[Merrie and Marshall] help you journey through that healing process, and also to build up and strengthen your everyday life through things like Sabbath and putting your family as top priority – Sabbath is a part of loving our family.”
This imbalance had also impacted his marriage. “There was no balance in our marriage and relationship,” he recalls. “After Kerith, I now communicate with my wife every day – just pausing every day and talking, spending time with each other and just meeting her needs. It changed our marriage.”
Dave left Kerith Retreats with his batteries recharged, but it was this new context of Sabbath that helped Dave and Staci set boundaries when they returned back home to ministry. He also had a clearer understanding of his position as a pastor, a husband and a father, and the importance of healthy boundaries. He knew it was important to communicate this to the church board, his staff and his congregation. “I had a better understanding of what I needed in order to not just run in 15 different directions, and be able to prioritize,” he says. “People expect, well, it’s Sunday, you’re the pastor, so you’ve got to be working, but it’s important that my people know that this is a day for my family. Not everything is a fire or an emergency that needs to be dealt with now.”
What would Dave say to other ministry leaders in need of deep rest and healthier boundaries in life and ministry? “Invest in yourself, have your church invest in you to go to Kerith Retreats, because the church is investing in itself as well when they invest in this. If you’re married or if you’re single, you should go and experience the goodness of God and the people that want to love on you, and just be encouraged by them. It changed our lives, and it changed our family.”
Visit KerithRetreats.ca to learn more about Focus on the Family Canada’s seven-day, all-inclusive Kerith Ministry Leaders Retreats in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
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