Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 8 “The Family”)

Denn skiingThriving leaders pay attention to their families. They put a high priority on speaking of them, spending time with them, honoring them in word and deed and living out a family commitment that surpasses the value and worth of their work and and ministry.

It’s not that thriving leaders don’t know what to do when it comes to family. All leaders, clergy and non-clergy, would agree with Dr. Nick Stinnett. In his book Building Family Strengths[i]. Dr. Stinnett asked 130 strong families to identify five qualities that contributed to their well-being and happiness. Here’s what they said: they showed appreciation for and to each other; they did a lot of things together; they spent time talking with each other; they showed a high degree of commitment to a religious lifestyle; and finally they dealt with crises in a positive way.

We church leaders know these things. We have taught them and have applauded them in other leaders. Still, the task is daunting. Giving “how-to’s” in this blog is not my focus. Often reading the lists of what we should be doing arouses guilt and does not always help us to change. Rather, my focus will be personal. Here are two photos of pastors who’ve been meeting together since 1985.


30 pastor members of our National Covenant Group 2010. I’m in the 2nd row, 2nd from the left.


Six pastors of our National Covenant Group, 2017. I’m at the far left.

This January, at our 32nd annual 4-day meeting of our National Covenant Group of 35 pastors from all over the country, we were asked by one of our pastors how many of us have children who are in the church today. Some indicated they do, with a few even serving the church as young pastors. Some of us are single whose ‘family’ consists of friends, inside and outside our congregations. But a majority of us pastor/parents indicated that our mostly grown children are not in the life, fellowship and service of the local church today. I don’t know where we pastors would be in our family life without each other. We know what it means to rejoice in, and also to weep and pray for one another’s children. My wife and I are grateful that our one and only son now in his 40’s has been loved, prayed for, picked up, driven, housed and fed by members of my Covenant Group for most of his life, especially during his high school and college days.

Now in my 70’s and not serving the church full-time, I still feel some guilt over my schedule choices that kept me from more quality marriage and family time during my 50 years of local church service. Ironically, after my wife spent decades waiting for my return home most nights from my church commitments, now I am the one who waits each afternoon for her, as she is still working full-time teaching school. I love her more than I ever thought possible and don’t seem to tire of the joy that wells up within me when I hear the garage door open. Susan comes into the house after a day of teaching, disciplining children, refereeing fights, supporting other faculty, and dealing with often irate parents. I am her number one fan. I don’t know where my life would be today with her and our son.

Denn and DavidMy family clockwise: the day we adopted David Denning (3 months old); David 2 years old at Jenny Lake, Montana; Three of us skiing; vacationing in Europe and David Denning today.

[i] Nick Stinnett. Building Family Strengths, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Neraska Press, 1979.

4 thoughts on “Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 8 “The Family”)

  1. family is everything. We need the”village” to help us don’t we – a village to help physically, emotionally and spiritually. A strong loving marriage is so important in family life. I am thankful that you and Susan were there so many for me and for John as we struggled in our family situations. You have been part of my “village” and I am forever blessed because of it.


  2. Norilee and I have enjoyed being near your family, worshiping together, and just having fun together. We have been fortunate to have known you and to be able to call you our dear friends!


  3. Pingback: Resources for Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 8 “The Family”) | Denn Denning

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