Brian Croft and Cara Croft. The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 176 pp. $ 16.99.
by Jonathon D. Woodyard
When the Apostle Paul lists the qualifications for pastoral ministry he indicates that a pastor must “manage his own household well” (1 Tim 3:3). Brian and Cara Croft take this responsibility seriously. Their new book, The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, calls pastors to faithfulness in this area. The book offers rebuke, encouragement, and practical advice to help pastors (and their wives) be faithful stewards of their homes.
The reality is that many pastors are so caught up in their ministries that their families are often, and at times unintentionally, neglected. According to the Crofts, many pastors “may have developed effective and deliberate discipleship structures in their local church ministry, but for some reason they cannot do so in their own home” (114). They ask, “Do you have a plan?” (114).
The Pastor’s Family is short and most readers will find that they can work through it in a few days. The book is divided into three sections made up of two to three chapters each. Part I identifies the problems pastors and wives face and offers gospel-centered solutions to those problems. In Part II Cara writes to wives and Brian includes a chapter with his own thoughts on caring for your wife. Part III focuses on shepherding children both individually and collectively with an eye towards the future. There is much to be commended in the book, yet I will keep my commendations to three areas that I am particularly thankful for.
One of the strongest aspects of this publication is the interaction that Brian and Cara have within the pages of the book. Brian and Cara often “interrupt” a passage in the book to offer “gracious interruptions and insightful additions.” Cara inserts comments spelling out the implications for wives in response to something Brian has written. Likewise, Brian does the same for husbands/pastors when Cara writes to the wives.
I found this particular approach to the book to be a healthy model of biblical complementarianism. The reader not only has the chance to read about how the Crofts have sought to work together in the context of ministry, but the structure of the book itself gives us a picture of a healthy ministry relationship. Brian welcomes the input of his wife, just as Cara welcomes the input of her husband. As pastors seek to manage their homes—which caring for their wives is a large part—this model of gracious interaction is worth imitating.
Brian and Cara both root their writing in the Bible, theology, and church history. Their writing is brimming with biblical depth and theological maturity. Yet, the authors do not leave the reader with mere abstractions. Brian and Cara have provided solid exegesis with helpful points of application. This is clearly seen in the numerous places that Brian and Cara offer action steps to take, principles to remember, or ways to apply what the reader has just encountered. The Pastor’s Family is an enormously helpful tool in the toolbox of the pastor. Thabiti Anyabwile rightly calls this book “a kind of field manual” (10). The Crofts’ work is truly needed today as pastors and their families face busy schedules and high demands.
The Pastor’s Family is also a balanced book. Brian states, “although this book calls ministers of the gospel to prioritize and sacrifice for the sake of their family, it should not be taken as an endorsement of the notion that we can avoid the hardship of sacrifice in ministry” (15).
Evangelicals are witnessing a healthy renewal in pastors seeking to care for their families. Family worship, date nights, discipling your kids, etc., are common conversations today. Yet, lest the pendulum swing too far, the Crofts are honest about the sacrificial nature of ministry. The life of pastoral ministry is unique. Challenges with time are real. In the effort to manage the home well, pastors and wives must not forget that they will be called to make sacrifices that others do not in order to fulfill the God-given task of shepherding the church. While the Crofts call pastors and their spouses to work together in managing the home, they are honest about the sacrifices that ministry will call them to make. They strike a good balance between the priority of the family and the rigors of pastoral ministry.
The Pastor’s Family is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. Brian and Cara have called us to stand in the tradition of men like Samuel Pearce, John Broadus, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Richard Baxter, and B.B. Warfield—men who faithfully discharged their ministry both inside the home and the church. I am reminded that the responsibility to shepherd my family well is a prerequisite for the privilege of shepherding the church. Brian and Cara have reminded us that our failures are covered by the gospel and there is hope for the future. Pastors will find The Pastor’s Family a remarkable help as they seek to faithfully lead their family and fulfill their ministry.
Jonathon Woodyard is a graduate of Boyce Bible College, a current student and teaching assistant at Bethlehem College & Seminary, and a pastoral assistant at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He also blogs at jonwoodyard.wordpress.com. He and his wife Gina have two sons and live in Minneapolis, MN.