Is It Possible to Balance Ministry and Family? (Part 1)

Youth Specialties
February 29th, 2016

How are you doing at balancing family and ministry?

For a youth pastor, the demands of ministry can be never-ending. In many ways you’re expected to be on call 24/7. Add up the time it takes to prepare each week, plan that next event, go to that ballgame/middle school band concert (yikes)/water polo match . . . often there can be little time left for family. Much has been said about fighting to maintain a healthy balance between family and ministry. But there’s a huge problem with this . . . and you’re probably not going to like it . . .

There’s no such thing as balance when it comes to family and ministry.

Wait . . . what?

There’s no such thing as balance when it comes to family and ministry. Yeah, it didn’t sound any better the second time, did it? In these posts, I want to attempt to convince you to stop fighting for balance at all.

Before you grab the tar and feathers, let me explain.

This issue is a huge contributing factor for why youth pastors leave around the two- to three-year mark. It’s also a major reason many youth pastors are discouraged and struggling to find joy in their ministry.

Take the time to read through these posts (Post 1 and Post 2) carefully (there’s a lot here), and then leave a comment at the end telling me how this will affect your family and ministry.

You talk about fighting for balance because it sounds right—it sounds like something you should be doing. So, is it really so wrong to fight for balance? Yes it is, and here’s why:

You won’t find anything in the Bible that encourages pastors to balance family and ministry.

Yes, a pastor has a responsibility to manage his family well, and spouses have a responsibility to one another. I would argue, though, that this doesn’t mean pastors and their families should strive for “balance.” I also don’t think being balanced in these areas makes you effective in either capacity.

Balance is impossible to achieve and maintain.

If you try to force balance, you’ll always be going back and forth from one responsibility to the other. You’ll also always feel as if you’re failing at one or the other.

If I tried to ride my mountain bike by flopping back and forth, I wouldn’t be balancing on it. When I do balance on my bike and ride, I pedal on each side but not equally all the time. If I find myself facing a rather large obstacle, I position the pedals so that I’m able to pedal harder with my stronger leg to take me up and over the obstacle. Life is the same way. Sometimes you need to press harder in one area.

Certain seasons of life and ministry require more of your time and commitment than others.

When you have a newborn in your home, your family requires more of your time and attention than it will at other times (especially in the middle of the night . . . right when you fall asleep . . . and the baby decides to wake up . . . just because).

When you’re new in a position or role at a church, it will require more of your time and commitment than it will later on down the road.

In circumstances such as these, if you fail to put more time into these areas, you’ll limit the joy and success that comes later. Devoting more time to family than ministry is not balanced. Likewise, devoting more time to ministry than family is not balanced either.

When you actively fight for balance in family and ministry, ministry always seems to suffer.

I’m not going to lie, even saying that makes me feel like a loser. However, I know it’s true. I’ve seen it in my life, and I’ve seen it in others’ lives. I’m not saying you should devote way too much time to ministry and let your family suffer. What I’m pointing out is that there’s a tendency to overcompensate and swing so far in the other direction that ministry is neglected.

Of course, you would say that the calling of God on your life as a parent, spouse, and believer is a serious one. You know you can’t lay your family on the altar for the sake of ministry. You also can’t neglect your call to ministry. Both callings are of importance. Which leads to my next point:

You can’t have a healthy ministry without a healthy family, and you can’t have a healthy family without a healthy ministry.

These go hand in hand. Sound like balance? It isn’t. Over time, equal time and effort to each of these will actually destroy both (see my previous points). You must spend the time and effort each requires along the way.

If your family life is in shambles and your marriage is on the brink of disintegrating, you won’t be able to effectively minister. Likewise, if your ministry is in shambles and you’re emotionally struggling as a result, you’ll be of little use to your family.

If you’re always trying to make sure you’re balancing family and ministry, you’ll always feel guilty about what you’re not currently pouring into. In the end, this is all for nothing. You fight for balance at the expense of everything. When you focus on fighting for balance, you can’t really devote the time and commitment your family and ministry need individually. And as a result, they both suffer.

There’s no such thing as balance when it comes to family and ministry.

So what should you do? How do you manage all this? Is it okay to forsake one for the benefit of the other?

The fact of the matter is that without a ministry, you can have a family. Whether or not you’re being faithful and obedient in that is really something only you can know as you seek God.

If your family falls apart, you’re likely to lose your ministry. If you’re a spouse or a parent, God has called you to that first—you must do that well. However, that doesn’t give you an excuse to neglect the ministry he has called you to. You should strive to do both and do both well.

So . . . dear Youth Pastor, please stop fighting for balance. Your family needs you too much—and so does your ministry. Your family needs your intentional focus and effort. Your ministry needs your intentional time and effort.


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JodyHeadShot JODY LIVINGSTON is a Youth Ministry veteran of sixteen years, and currently serves as the Youth Pastor of Kennesaw First Baptist Church, where he has served for the last six years. He helps equip and encourage Youth Pastors through his blog and podcast THELONGERHAUL.COM. His passion is helping Youth Pastors create a ministry of longevity that they truly love.  He is the grateful husband of Sarah and the dad of Emma, Anna, Lizzy, and Jack. He is a pastor, speaker, lover of vintage VW’s, and the owner of one “mostly white” VW Beetle. You can find him on twitter @JODYLIVINGSTON.

Jody and his wife shared more of their personal journey on this topic in a recent podcast and it’s a great way to continue the conversation past these blog posts. Check it out HERE.

Youth Specialties

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.