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March 2023

Servant's Heart


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Which Is More Important: Family or Church?

By Daniel A. Webster


Often, I hear the question: Is family more important than church? I believe the question itself reveals unhealthy priorities. Few people ask, Is family more important than personal hygiene? Is family more important than sleep? Meals? Exercise? For that matter, Is family more important than breathing? We do not ask these questions because personal hygiene, sleep, eating, exercise, and breathing are all considered essential to life.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports the average American spends 11 hours each day doing essential activities—sleeping, eating, tending to hygiene, etc. That is 77 hours each week. No sensible person sees taking a shower, eating a salad, or getting a good night’s sleep as a threat to spending time with the family, because these are essential to life.

Perhaps the main reason Christians view church as a threat to family time is because many do not regard church as an essential activity. Unfortunately, church falls into the same category as a hobby or social activity, something we do when it is convenient, but also something we are quick to cancel.


Church IS a Family Activity

Unlike some essential activities like sleeping and personal hygiene, attending and serving your local church is an essential activity you can do with your family. Like family meals around the dinner table, you can come together each Lord’s Day to worship. Family meals do not take away from family time, nor does family worship with the gathered Body of Christ. You will find no better way to spend the first day of the week than singing together, sharing a Bible during the message, holding hands during prayer, and giving to the offering.

Worship is not the only family event at church. Serving the church is also a great way to bring the family together. Some of our sweetest family times have been spent in the church serving Christ. Each week, my wife Kimberly and I, along with our three kids, are privileged to make copies, fold worship programs, arrange music stands, move chairs, replace microphone batteries, and set up sheet music for the musicians at the church plant where we serve. We treasure these times together.


Too Much of an Essential Thing?

Is it possible to have too much of an essential thing? Yes. If eating keeps you from breathing, it is too much of an essential thing. If an excess amount of sleep keeps you from ever getting a shower, it is too much of an essential thing. If an excessive amount of church commitments keeps you from spending time with your family, then it is too much of an essential thing.

But keep in mind, too much time at church is not an issue for the average person. In the BLS survey referenced above, 13.4% of Americans surveyed participated in organizational, civic, and religious activities (including volunteering) for 3.5 hours each week. The remaining 86.6% reported zero time in organizational, civic, and religious activities. That’s an average of 28 minutes per week per person in the U.S. Given the fact these 28 minutes are not just church involvement, I think it is safe to say the average American Christian is not dangerously close to getting too much church.

However, let me share a word of caution. As someone who has served in both volunteer and full-time ministry, too much time at church is a constant concern for the families of ministry leaders. Many pastors’ children have been wounded by parents who could not find the appropriate balance.

It is important for the pastor to lead in this and advocate for his family. Church members also need to come alongside the pastor’s family to make sure adequate time is spent together away from ministry responsibilities. This is not just a “nice” thing for churches and pastors to consider. It is essential because if a pastor cannot rightly lead his family, he is disqualified from leading the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5).


Is Church Essential?

The local church is a community of redeemed people who gather regularly to worship God in spirit and truth and carry out Christ’s mission. The church is most often described in terms of local assemblies, but it is also a universal body of all believers both living and dead. Christ promised His Church will succeed: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Those discussing whether church is essential often turn to the familiar line “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is... (Hebrews 10:25)” While this is a clear command from Holy Scripture to gather with the Body of Christ, the reason for the command comes in the phrases immediately before and after it: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works...but exhorting [encouraging] one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is essential for Christians to gather to minister and be ministered unto. In reality, much of what

Scripture commands the believer to do can only be done in the context of a gathered assembly.
You may say, “Well, I don’t really need other Christians; my main focus is my personal walk with Jesus.” The writer of Hebrews also addresses this matter, noting individual believers no longer rely on a priest, but “enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-20). As glorious as personal, individual salvation may be, the writer of Hebrews does not see this in conflict with or as a substitute for regular meetings with the body. Verses 19-23, which immediately precede the “not forsake the assembly” verses, emphasize Christ’s priestly work for individual believers, followed by the clear command to gather regularly, even more as we see the Day of the Lord approaching. In short, there are no Lone-Ranger Christians! The church is essential for personal growth in Christ, for growth of your family individually and collectively, and for the mutual health of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16).

We should not regard the church in conflict with family, any more than we regard our breathing lungs in conflict with our beating heart. Both family and church are essential. Your family needs the church, and the church needs your family. May God grant us clarity in this matter, grace when we fail, and strength to serve and worship with one another.


About the Author: Daniel Webster serves as director of enrollment and adjunct instructor of Bible and Music at Welch College. A lead pastor and associate pastor since 2003, he currently lives in Gallatin, Tennessee, with his wife Kimberly and their three children. Read more at his blog:


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