Book Review: The Pastor’s Family, by Brian and Cara Croft
Croft, Brian and Cara Croft. The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 171 pages. $14.29.
Brian and Cara Croft co-wrote The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Brian 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 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.
The 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 twenty years of ministry qualify them to address balancing the “demands of the ministry with the demands of being a father and husband” and wife and mother (13).
In part one, Brian analyzes problems and 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. Some of these expectations and demands expose fears (and weaknesses) that tempt a pastor to neglect to shepherd at 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 explaining 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 has maneuvered her way through the loneliness and invisibility of being a pastor’s wife. She discusses the demanding schedules that crowd out family time and the stereotypes of the pastor’s wife. And through all these challenges she has discovered the “joys of being a pastor’s wife.”
Kudos 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 her, “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 (D.A.). Please don’t misunderstand her motives or attitude. She is not being cavalier; she is asking that pastors’ wives’ be received for their gifts and not be expected to be clones of their husbands. “It’s important for women to be in the Bible…Learn the overall picture of the Bible. Know the gospel.” But 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 book is creatively laid out and very encouraging. Brian writes a section and Cara “graciously interrupts,” offering a complementary view to Brian’s from her point of view. 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.
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. “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 thirty-plus years (that is all I will say), to contribute to this review, and here’s what she had to say: “A breath of fresh air! 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.)
Read this book. 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. They will thank you for your foresight.
If you are not yet a married man but intend to be someday and want a great gift for your wife long before your wedding day, wrap up this book with very expensive wrapping, and give it to her when she comes along. Reread it every five years until your children are grown, out the door, and married with children of their own. Then read it again. Now that I’m done with this review, I’m giving a copy to my associate who is relatively new to the ministry.
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 should not be like the riddle of a mystery novel to our churches. I believe that many of them would not mind 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 members of our church accompanied the staff. One of the speakers urged the audience to pray for their pastors because studies show they are the loneliest people in the church. (Imagine their wives. Thanks, Cara!) 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 me if that was true for me. I took a while to answer, weighing my options. I did not want her to feel the sting of regret or remorse that did not 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 this book.