Youth workers are amazing! As I continue to meet people and hear stories I am constantly amazed at the sacrifice, time, energy and effort youth workers put in to lead students to Christ.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at a winter camp. It was a great camp and many students encountered Christ in new ways over those 4 days. One of my favorite parts however was meeting and talking with the youth pastors that brought their students that week. I met a youth pastor who is full-time military, part-time at his church, has 3 daughters under the age of ten, runs both the middle and high school on separate nights, and oh yea, he just took over a year ago from someone who had been doing it for ten years. Absolutely incredible to see his dedication and perseverance in reaching students for Jesus.
I bring this up because the first thing that stood out to me about this guy is that not only was he there but his wife was also on the trip as one of his leaders. AND they brought their 3 daughters along to this high school camp as well. But, I mean, shoot what are you going to do when both mom and dad are on the trip and there is no family to take care of the kids. When you have a family and you are in youth ministry you are confronted with a big situation. It is something that every youth worker with a family will face, how do you balance family and ministry? Not just with camp, but overall, how do you handle the delicate balance between family and ministry? Here are a few tips for navigating that tricky situation…
1. Embrace the mix
Over the last few years I have realized that family and ministry is less of a balance and more of a mix. There will be times when family will get more of you and there are times when ministry will get more of you and while there are things you can do (which I will talk about next), it is so important to realize it is a messy mix. There is no perfect science and you cannot separate the two. Your family and your ministry are just as much a part of you and they cannot be kept separate. In my family my wife and I want our 3 daughters to understand that ministry is a lifestyle and that whether it is a vocation or not we have all been called to minister. We are blessed that our girls get to see that first hand. I never want them to feel like ministry took their dad from them or that ministry is the enemy and that is why I involve them where I can and make sure family and ministry is a mix.
2. Trade off
Like I already stated, there are times when ministry will get more of you and times when family gets more of you. It is a trade off. In previous articles I wrote about the priorities of God first, then family, and then ministry. And while I believe that still remains true in principle, and importance in your life that is not always how it will look practically. There will be weeks where every night you are busy with ministry and you do not see your kids very much at all. And that is okay, sometimes it has to happen to make the ministry work. But at the same time that is where it is so important to trade off. Talk to your supervisor and make sure there is an understanding and willingness to allow you to trade off. So, yea you were out 4 nights last week and missed time with your family, well try to trade off and maybe take a few half-days the next week. I understand this isn’t always possible and sometimes that might just be how it is. But the caution is don’t make it the norm. Find ways to trade off and show BOTH of your priorities, family and ministry, the attention they need.
3. Be present
When you are with your family, OR when you are with your ministry be present. Make the most of the time you have. Sitting on the couch on your phone while your kids are home is not making the most of the time you have with them. That time is not memorable, uplifting, or encouraging to them. They will not count that as time spent with them and when you do leave to do ministry they will feel as if they are losing because when you are with them you are not present. I admit, this is something I struggle with and have to constantly remind myself of.
4. Focus on connecting to God
While we try to navigate the messy mix between family and ministry it often feels like we are being pulled apart and running around like a chicken with our heads cut off trying to make them both work. Usually that means the first thing to go is our connection with God, we still need to remember that God is and needs to be our FIRST priority. We also need to remember that while both your family and your ministry need you, what they really need is God. We need to focus on connecting both our families and our ministries to God rather than us. Yes, we need to give both attention ourselves, but we also need to remember we are not what will save either of them.