Family Time In Ministry
Working in ministry, especially as a youth pastor, is a unique beast. The hours are odd. It’s definitely not a 9:00am – 5:00pm kind of job. There are late nights, early mornings (especially when travelling far away in a church van for a mission trip with a bunch of teenagers), and a bunch of weekends. There are games during dinnertime and crises that pop up, pushing out sleep.
This is one of the joys, and one of the complexities, of ministry. Life doesn’t stop, and neither does ministry. But, just as ministry doesn’t really ever stop, family should not be sacrificed on the altar of ministry. There are certain things we must do as youth pastors, lay leaders, volunteers, etc. in order to first be ministers and spiritual leaders in our homes.
Here are five specific things to remember when considering the pace and challenge of ministry:
1. Guard your family time
There is no substitute for time. Endless debates abound regarding whether quality or quantity time is better, and the answer is going to also depend on what season of life you’re in. I am pretty newly married (just over four years) and have an almost two-year-old daughter. My family doesn’t just need quality time—they also need quantity time. It’s important to take all of this into consideration.
When you are home, do all within your power to be fully present. Finish all your emails at work. Take your time in responding to texts and emails, and even hold off until the next work day if they can wait.
If you don’t guard your family time, no one else will either.
2. Learn to Sabbath well
I recently heard AJ Swoboda talking on a podcast about Sabbath. He mentioned that Sabbath is something written into the fabric of creation, and even atheists need a Sabbath!
If you want to be effective and not burn out, taking a Sabbath is an absolute must. Sometimes this is tied with your day off (see more in the next point). But, sometimes the Sabbath is simply disconnecting at the end of the day. You need to disconnect at times from the demands of the job and take a breather, pursue a hobby, connect with friends and family.
3. Religiously take your day off and spend it with your family
This is one thing to be legalistic about. Don’t apologize for taking a day off, and do whatever you can to not compromise this day. There are times when it may have to switch around a bit, and one day may need to be exchanged for the other. Again, seasons of life and ministry will mean different things for this day off, when it is, and what it looks like. But, one thing that must happen: you must take it!
When you take this day off, use it for what it should be used for: resting and connecting. Use this time to Sabbath from your work and connect with your spouse or children or friends. Use this time off to get away and connect with the Lord in a new, refreshing way that you’re not always able to do.
Whatever you do on this day, make sure you take one each week.
4. Go on vacation
This can be hard, especially depending on the ministry context you’re in. When I first started out, I had a very hard time being away. I felt like no one else could quite do things right, and I felt like things just didn’t go well when I was gone. As I had been there longer, I felt more and more comfortable being gone because I trusted our leaders and volunteers. They had been trained and shaped and understood more of what we did and why we did it.
Take a vacation! Things can’t derail too much in just one or two weeks. Take the time you’re allotted, and make the most of it. Don’t bring your phone or computer, or at least turn them off and disconnect from your email. Be fully present.
5. Include your family in your ministry, according to their gifting
This has been a really cool one for my wife and I. She has been a small group leader for as long as I’ve been in ministry. We’ve been able to go to many games, performances, plays, musicals, and do life with students together. This has been great for us to stay connected and also be unified in ministry together.
The one warning is this: don’t force a spouse or child to be involved if it is not something they are gifted in. This could have the opposite effect and push them away from the ministry and church. Allow even for them to be uninvolved, if necessary. Each family and child is different. Play to their strengths.
If you missed the pattern, one of the most important things to remember when protecting your family from the constant connection of ministry is to be fully present when you are with them. Wherever you are, practice the art of being fully present and giving your all. It will make a big difference.
USED WITH PERMISSION FROM BEN MARSHALL
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.