Balancing family and ministry can be brutal. It is something I really struggled with when I first started in ministry and honestly it is something I still have a hard time with. You don’t want your ministry or your family to suffer but it’s hard to give both 100% all the time. Youth ministry is a gig that sometimes requires long hours, non structured hours, and can be very demanding. When things need to get done, they need to get done! But also, your family is your first ministry and they need you as well. Like I said, it is a tough balance and I have seen both families and ministries in different cases ruined because the balance was off. Here are a few ideas on keeping that balance. The truth is this post is a perfect reminder for me as well as I am literally sitting at home next to my 4-day-old baby girl spending time with my family and being where I am needed the most.
Being in ministry can consume all of your time but if you have a family you need to quickly realize that your family is your first priority (behind God, obviously). Your family is your first ministry and the last thing you want to do is make them resent ministry because it is the thing that steals their mommy or daddy. I have had plenty of weeks where I put 70 hours into ministry and those weeks are going to come but you need to make sure that you are also trading and getting some of that time with your family as well. As youth workers we have plenty of ministry opportunities that come up at very odd times, and a lot of those odd times are right in the middle of family time. When that happens it is not like you have to lose out on one or the other. That is when the balancing act comes in. Trade off “work times” and “family times”. When you attend a weekend sporting event, end up driving students around for hours on a Saturday, have an unexpected issue you have to deal with on a Friday evening, or just end up doing ministry at an odd time, that’s okay. Just trade it for family time at a spot that would usually be work time. It might look like a Monday afternoon where you come home early, or a random Thursday that you only “work” 2 hrs and spend the rest of the time at the park with your family. Trust me, if you can manage these well it will help you in both areas. But remember when it comes down to ministry or family, family is first!
The church needs to understand
The church that you are working for needs to understand there is a balance between family and ministry and you need to keep that balance. I have worked in churches that just didn’t get that youth ministry happens outside of the 9-5. I would be out with students all evening, away from my family, and be expected to be in the office right at 9am the next day, away from my family. It made keeping the balance nearly impossible unless I missed out on all of the ministry opportunities that happen outside of the 9 to 5 time period. On the flip side, I have also worked in churches where it was understood and even encouraged to manage my schedule in a way that the balance between family and ministry was kept healthy. A church that understood that ministry, and especially youth ministry, happens at odd times. It is essential that your church understand that in order for you to keep both your family and your ministry healthy they both need your attention.
If you have not already clearly defined those priorities to your church you need to TALK TO your pastor, supervisor or elder board and let them know what you NEED to do to make both of those parts of your life work well. Within the church many issues arise that are not hills to die on, but when it comes to balancing family and ministry, it definitely is. Take the time to talk about what that will look like with you and your church. If you are interviewing for a position make sure you bring up your expectations of the church being understanding in this area, it is not too much to ask, and their willingness to work with you on it should help shape your decision of whether or not you want to work there. Most churches should understand because the fact of the matter is that it is a win win. When you balance them correctly you have a better family and a better ministry.
When you get family time pour all you have into it! Stay off your phone or computer the whole time. Turn off the TV. Yea, I know you might have to miss the game but let me just say it, that’s okay. Be present with your family when you have “family time” and get the most out of it that you can. The same goes for “work time”. Don’t waste time, go hard! Take advantage of the time that you have so it becomes more valuable and is easier when you do need to trade off here and there.
This balance can be one of the most difficult things to master, and you will never be perfect at it. But when you consciously strive to keep them both healthy and not allow one or the other to take over you will be more successful in both areas.