This has always been a problem in the church and especially for dedicated ministers of the Gospel. It is profoundly gratifying to know that there are men who have given themselves to the work of the ministry, and who see themselves as preachers of the Gospel. It is refreshing to see their zeal and determination to preach Christ and Him crucified.
But this comes at a price! If a minister is single, such as the late Rev. Dr John Stott and Rev Dick Lucas in London and the late Rev William Still in Aberdeen were, then there is no big problem. These were single men who had the freedom to exercise their ministries as they saw fit. They had no family responsibilities to restrict how they developed their ministries. They were single men and they would live and work as single men.
But the married minister does not have that freedom. He has voluntarily taken on additional responsibilities so he now has his wife and family to give adequate time to. He is a married man who cannot now live as if he were a single man. When he married he voluntarily undertook to live from hence forth as a married man. For a married man to live as a single man is unfaithfulness to Christ however else he might chose to describe it.
The married man's priorities are: First to Christ; second to his wife and family, and thirdly to his work in the church. His wife and family always come in between his relationship to Christ and to His church. This is necessarily the case.
I remember listening (as a young assistant minister) with bated breath to a church Moderator who was by this time into his sixties, confessing with brokenness to the fact that he put the church before his family and as a result lost his family. He was elected Moderator because he was seen as a good church man. But for him it was a very hollow honour; what can make up for losing your family for Christ when you put the church before Christ!
What a warning this was. I had to fight against the temptation to put the church before my family, and most importantly before Christ in my life. My role was to set a good example to church members and my fellow Christians. If another Christian is having difficulties in his marriage and he comes to you for counsel, and the problem is that he is not spending enough time with his wife and family, what can you say to him? How can you, with any credibility, say to this man that he has a responsibility to his wife and family when you, yourself, are defaulting in this very way.
'Manse widows' are usually found where a husband is dedicated to the service of Christ and where that same man is not fulfilling his marriage vows in the way he would expect others to do. There must surely be a ministry to 'manse widows' who feel lonely, not valued, and overlooked. These very special women will wonder why their husbands are prepared to give more time with other people than they are prepared to spend with them.
There needs to be a radical overhaul of ministry when this kind of thing occurs. That is not to suggest or imply that the church has got it wrong with respect to full-time ministry. It is to admit, however, that ministers sometimes get it wrong when it comes to apportioning their time between work and home life.