1Q interview: Balancing Family & Ministry

Jacob Eckeberger
August 19th, 2014

Original photo by HomespotHQ.

More and more I hear youth workers struggling with a rhythm of life that allows them to balance their family and the needs of ministry. In this 1Q interview, I asked 3 incredible youth workers to offer some practical insight by responding to this question:

“What practical ways do you balance family and ministry?”


Brandi Manes is the Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX.

I think balance in ministry is a difficult thing to define. When my daughter was a baby, I was constantly worried about balance and I drove myself crazy! I felt guilty at work because I wasn’t with her, and I felt guilty at home because I needed to be working. I spent so much time worrying about balance that I wasn’t giving my best to any of my roles. Ministry ebbs and flows with the seasons, the days, the minutes. Family and personal time does, too. So instead of worrying about balance (and essentially adding it as one more thing on my to-do list) I have found that the key is to be fully present where I am, wherever that may be. When I’m on a mission trip with a bunch of middle school students, I am all in with the hammers and the drama and the midnight snacks. When I’m with my daughter playing the chef/superhero/swimming game she made up that day, I enthusiastically wear the hat and the cape and the flippers. Some days will be heavy on the ministry side and some days will be heavy on the family side, so in the midst of all of it I try to give myself some grace. I won’t do it perfectly. But I know that it’s good for my ministry when my personal time is fulfilling, and I know it’s good for my family for me to do a job I’m passionate about.

Matt Fogle is the Student Ministry Pastor at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, IL.

I asked a older/wiser/better looking believer that very question this past month and he said, “Balance?!? Are you kidding me? I’m just trying to keep it between the ditches!” I personally “keep it between the ditches” by setting firm sabbath days and daily habits with my family and then allow ministry to fill in the gaps. Fridays and Saturdays are my days off and my wife Jen and I call those our Fogle Family Fun days. We go with our two kids and massive dog to parks, splash pads, meals with friends, museums, etc. Playing together weekly is important to us in our rhythm as a family. One of our holy habits as a family is set bed time routines. We read the Bible, tell stories, laugh together, and then my wife and I pray before we fall asleep together. I say “no” to a lot of ministry opportunities in order to say “yes” to my family and I know looking back decades from now I won’t regret that!

Brian Aaby is the Director of YS Search and YS Coaching for Youth Specialties. 

Oh the irony of being asked this question, this week…

The question: “What practical ways do you balance family and ministry?” The confession: I thought I knew. I had the answers. I was wrong!

Just this week my wife and I had the 10 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. conversation about this very subject. In reality, the discussion itself is the answer.  We just were not on the same page… I think ministry had distracted us just enough to accidentally grab two different playbooks. Communication, which is a strong-suit in the Aaby home had become the Achilles’ heel. So, we got back to the basics, and here’s where I’ll get practical for anyone reading.

We do a “check-in” on Sunday night. We compare schedules, talk strategies with our kids and most importantly pray together as a couple.
Make dates a priority. I love having stuff to look forward to on the schedule, well, so do my wife and kids. So I schedule dates with each of them individually (and often).
Where you are, be there. In order to do this (and especially for protecting family time as family time) I deleted Facebook from my iPhone, we don’t have our phones at the dinner table, etc.

Thanks for the ironically timed wake-up call. My family appreciates it!

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.