When the Pastor’s Family Avoids the Pastor’s Church

When you’re a pastor and your family comes to visit,
but once again makes excuses why they can’t stay for church.

Or is that just me?



“I think we’ll leave before church,” my mom said. “We want to get home before midnight.”

Here’s the thing: my parents live about five hours away and my church ends at 11am. Unless they stop for food for eight hours, there is no possible way they would get home after midnight.

My parents have been to my church one time together, and that was within the first months of me preaching here. Since then one of them has been to a Sunday morning service three times.

This would make sense if my parents were atheists or Mormons or something, but no. My parents are not only long-time Christian folk, we are all in the same denominational affiliation. But they won’t come to my church.

But that’s not all. My wife’s parents have been to my church twice. And, also, just so we’re clear on timeframe, I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years now. In twenty years they’ve been to two church services.

This used to really bother me. It still kind of hurts. At the same time, now it’s more a game for my wife and I to make bets about when they will leave and what the excuse will be this time. Oh, and by the way, all of our parents are currently retired. It’s not like they have anything they need to get back home for.

Nope, they just don’t want to come to my church.

I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. It could just be me. It could be the content of my messages or my delivery or my humor. It might just be the annoyance of listening to the punk kid preach at ya. I get it. I see why that would be hard. But here’s the other thing: my brother in-law is a pastor and my in-laws go to his church multiple times a year. They know people on a first name basis in his church, while knowing no one from our church. And he’s only been at his church for three years. So it has to be more than just a kid preaching.

I’m always told the verse “the prophet is without honor in his home town.” That would make sense except for my brother-in-law shoots that theory to pieces. It depends who the prophet is I guess.

Perhaps my church is the culprit. We’re not a typical church. We don’t have fancy programs and buildings and decor. We don’t have a praise team and largely avoid contemporary music. I know there are worship preferences at play. But I’m your son!

Does it really pain them so much that they can’t endure my church for one hour a year? Apparently. I had no idea how painful my ministry could be to relatives.

I threw this tweet out there to see if other pastors had this experience. Sure enough, quite a few did. One guy said his parents couldn’t make it to his church because his dad had to get home in time to put the garbage out. He says his parents live four hours away.

I’m not the only one who puts up with this. My dad, who used to be a pastor, used to complain that his parents and in-laws never listened to his preaching. Funny how he is annoyed with his family on that but that’s still not enough to get him into my church.

Ministry is hard enough, but to get rejection from your family over it is completely unhelpful. You don’t hear about this sort of problem addressed at fancy pastor conferences or in pastoral ministry books. But this is a deal.

I’m a grown man. I don’t need my mommy’s approval. But it would be nice to know there’s some support out there somewhere. Many Sundays I have gotten hurt by people in my church and it would be nice to call a parent and unload a bit, but I can’t. It’s a layer of comfort and support that does not exist. I don’t know how much difference it would make, how could I? I have never had it. Having that underlying subconscious thought in your head that “even my family thinks I suck at this” sure doesn’t help though.

Anyway, I’m just stating a fact of pastoral ministry I’ve never heard dealt with before. I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m also not sure what would be worse: having my family stay away from my church or having them in it!



If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
–Luke 14:26-27

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