Ministry and Parenthood are two extremely challenging jobs to do successfully by themselves. How, then, can you possibly even think about doing both of them at the same time, yet alone, be successful at both of them? This topic is a personal passion of mine as I have been married for almost 10 years and I have 4 adorable daughters who resemble my beautiful wife in so many ways. In the 12 years I have been in full-time ministry, I have been a minister and a father to an ever-growing family (one that is hopefully no longer growing for good) for the past 8 years.
One of the hardest adjustments for me in ministry was when we had our first daughter. Before she was born, I felt that I could do a lot as I had all day open to do meetings and contact work with students. Then, I would go home and my wife and I would have a quiet evening to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. When we had our first daughter, everything changed. In particular, having a baby in the house directly impacted how I did ministry (I’ll explain more a little bit further down). In some ways, I was bummed by the adjustments I choose to make and I was envious of those youth ministers who could still do those things. It was as if I felt that they were being more effective than I was because they were freer to do those things.
I discovered that was and is not the case. Just because you have a family (and an ever growing one at that), does not mean you cannot and should not be effective. It just means that it may look different than it did when you were single and without a family. The question is how do you balance a new and/or growing family with a growing ministry at the same time?
When my wife and I were pregnant with our first daughter, I polled a lot of ministers and youth leaders who have been in ministry a long time and I asked them how I could balance family life and ministry and still be effective at both. The overwhelming answer I got was to choose my family first. That is not to say that sometimes the decision and choices you make between ministry and family are not going to be hard ones, but when you answer family first, it needs to be more than just mere words you say. It is easy to say, “My family, not my ministry, comes first”. But, the proof in the pudding. Do your actions verify what you say? Will your spouse be able to say that you care more about your ministry or your family? Because of this, when you choose your family first, it will affect how you do ministry in a variety of ways.
How #1: It affects your Schedule
The first way a family first mentality affects your ministry is that it affects your schedule. A perfect example is night time contact work. As a single adult or even young married person, it is easy to spend multiple nights out a week hanging with students or going to games or plays. If you are accustom to that, once you have a child, you probably need to cut back. You don’t have to cut back completely because those are great contact work and relational times you need with the students. But, that does mean that you should pick and choose your events you go to as night time, especially with young children, need to be family time together.
Night times are huge productions for a families. Not only are you and your spouse getting ready to unwind for the day, but when you have children, night time means teeth brushing, baths and settling them down for bedtime. It means reading them books or doing a devotional and praying together. Doing this with one child challenging enough, imagine trying to do this with 2-4 children. Even with newborns, the evening time is a great family time together that you don’t want to miss out on too much. Your nighttime work strategy needs to be adjusted so that you can be at home more at nights and minister to them. Why continue to do ministry with other children from other families not your own and sacrifice a more long lasting ministry with your own family?
Another way it affects your schedule is that you will rarely have those 9-5 days anymore. Now, stop laughing. I know that there are no 9-5 day youth ministry jobs out there. But, what I mean is that your schedule becomes more in flux than ever before. For instance, sometimes I sacrifice some early morning or later afternoon meetings to either take my children to school or pick them up. Sometimes I feel guilty going home from work at 3 pm to pick them up and spend time with the family. But, in the big picture, as long as I do my work and get it done, my conscience is clear. See, I make up for this everyday as I get up at 5 am to begin working on messages, vision, working on emails and doing other administrative things. I know it is kind of psycho, but I get a lot accomplished then. For me, those are work hours I am logging in so that I can take off early to spend time with the family. It is not 9-5, but in all reality, as I mentioned earlier, are there any 9-5 ministry jobs out there?
Because choosing family over ministry affects your schedule, you have to be creative with your time. Some examples of being creative with your schedule are:
- Get up earlier in the morning and do some admin work or send some emails. Or, if you are not a morning person, stay up a little bit later, after the children are in bed, and do a little bit of late night work.
- Invite students to come to your house to hang. You don’t need to go grab food somewhere or chill at someone else’s house. Invite them over to do that and they get to see a good example of Christ in your family life.
Now, this is just one way choosing family first affects your ministry. My next post will conclude this topic with some other areas that are affected when you begin a family. But, as you can see, choosing family first just means that you alter how you do ministry. Youth in your program are not going to die because you have a fewer hours a week to spend with them. Sure, they my complain or poke fun at you, but in the long run, what you model to them by choosing your family first is so much more important. You can still get your job done and be effective in your work and ministry life at the same time.
TAKE A MINUTE and…
- If you have children, how can you adjust your schedule this week to make sure you are being effective in both ministry and family time?
- How can you go that extra step with your family today? What can you do today that will show them that you care about them?