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Youth Ministry Essentials: Balancing The Demands Of Ministry And Family


I'll admit it: I like when I'm in the super market or the mall and someone from church (even if I do not know them) comes up to me and says, "Hey, Chris. How's it going?" It's flattering. Something about being known gives a little boost to the ego.

But then there are times when I want to just blend into the crowd.

Honestly, if I'm on a date night with my wife, I'd prefer not to be interrupted by someone asking me, "When's the next summer camp?" (Of course, there are times when an interruption to family is appropriate, like in the case of a community crisis or an immediate church need.) The idea of "personal time" is something that represents a struggle for all of us. There is tension when it comes to how we live out our different roles: when do we play the role of youth minister, and when do we play the role of spouse and parent? It can sometimes feel like we're in high demand. The line between our vocation and our personal lives gets blurred, crossed, or flat out wiped away.

It's an ongoing challenge to make sure we're faithfully carrying out our ministerial calling, yet still giving our family top billing.

I found it necessary to create some rules to protect what's most important. Here are a few I try to live by:

Rule 1: When I'm Home I'm Home

With a few unique exceptions, when I get in the car to head home, I'm done with youth ministry. I've told my leaders that unless it's an emergency, if they are going to call me on a Friday or Saturday (off days) then it better be social. My work laptop stays in the office or in my bag. Blogging is done at designated times so it doesn't interfere with family. Obviously, emergencies will occasionally come up. But for the most part, when I am at home, I am fully at home.


Rule 2: Communicate When You Are Needed

There are going to be times when you're needed outside the normal work hours. It might be a special event or even a crisis. Some of these are scheduled and should be noted in the family calendar, while others will pop up out of nowhere. Communication is the key to navigating these extra demands. You need to clearly communicate with family what your role and obligations are to the church. It's not always going to be easy, but we can prevent major issues if we communicate with those we love.


Rule 3: Social Media Is About My Job, Not My Family

I try to keep my family out of the social media spotlight. Those of you who follow me on Twitter or read my blog know that I'll make comments from time to time about my family, but that's rare. And if I do it, it's done with permission. It's not that my family has anything to hide. It's just that the line between transparency and "TMI" can be grey when it comes to family. I try to protect it as much as possible.

Do I live these rules out perfectly? No. Do I try? Yes. Will you agree with my rules? No. But, I would suggest you sit down with your family and talk about the tension between family life and your church responsibilities. Even if you've been in ministry for years, take some time to sit down with your spouse and even your kids and decide:

  • What days (and time) are sacred to family?
  • What time do you need to be home to help out your spouse or child?
  • What seasons are most busy at work?

Those are my rules, and I need to abide by them, yet, be flexible at the same time. It's an interesting balance, but it's working. And I my efforts are building trust at home, as well as at work.

What are the rules that you abide by to protect the sanctity of your family?

About the Author

Christopher Wesley

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. With over 9 years of youth ministry experience you can read more about his journey on his blog at

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Chris: Right on as always with this stuff, man. Just a little push back here. I really dislike the term balance. Yes, it does fel like a balancing act, but it's not the right word. I believe the right word is "sacrifice." Because to order our priorities correctly, sacrifice is required, not balance. Sometimes I must sacrifice my ministry ego to take care of my family. And yes, sometimes my family sacrifices for the sake of our ministry, such as when a date with my wife is interrupted by a pastoral emergency, or when a funeral falls on a previously scheduled family day. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for encouraging us to make our families a priority, as it should be! Oh, and it was great to meet you amazing YM 360 folks this weekend; Chris, sorry we never were able to meet up...maybe next time!
by: Benjer McVeigh March 7, 2011 5:08 pm
hahaha . . . Benjer, great point. Chris might be the innocent party. I think I might have added the term in the editing process. :) You make a very good point, though, as always. Really enjoyed meeting you this weekend at SYMC. Thanks for stopping by. You're a good one!--Andy
by: andy@ym360 March 7, 2011 7:18 pm
Andy no need to apologize because Benjer I'm going to push back on your comment because I think it brings up a good discussion. The reason why ministry is a balancing act is because of the tension involved. You make a good point about situations where family time is sacrificed and when work time is sacrificed, but the emotions going on behind some of those decisions aren't black and white. The discernment in the process is learning how to balance the tension by embracing it. I don't know if that makes sense, but either way we are just pulling hairs. I'd be curious what others think on the term balance vs. sacrifice in regards to this subject? Benjer, sorry I didn't get a chance to meet with you, next time.
by: Chris Wesley March 7, 2011 8:20 pm
It is times like these that I find myself a little jealous. I am a bi-vocational Youth Minister at a church that does not even have space for me to have an office. While I am okay with this, it does create an issue where all of my work (in the planning sense) is done at home. Also, because we are foster parents, I find that family seems to always take precedence over work (there is no room for "office space" in our house, either) and I am often left scrambling to do some last-minute prep that should have been done yesterday.
by: Greg Thrasher March 8, 2011 12:14 am
Greg, That definitely makes for an interesting dynamic and the tension between work and home must be tough. Sometimes it isn't a space issue but how you schedule out your time, with that said if you want to contact me via twitter:chrisrwesley or Facebook maybe there is something I can help you figure out. Peace and God Bless, Chris
by: Chris Wesley March 8, 2011 8:55 am
Greg, I am very much in the same boat as you. My position, fortunately is full-time, however it is with a new church plant that is only about a month old. Just in the first month I have felt much of the same stresses and difficulties in keeping family time and work time separate and meaningful. In many ways, I commend you for keeping family over work because this has proven to be a difficult point for me at times. My excitement about the growing plant and all the planning that goes into it sometimes makes family time difficult. I am pretty new at this, but I have found that scheduling out the day and sticking to when things are supposed to take place such as work, family time, and personal time alone with God has helped to make everything work a bit smoother. Definitely not as smooth as I, or my family would like, but its getting there. Brian
by: Brian Remsch March 8, 2011 10:19 am
Greg, Man, I just want to say that I am inspired by your faithfulness. Giving your life to the church as a bi-vocational youth worker is such a challenge. And then to open your home to children who are so in need . . . man, that's just awesome. I'm saying a prayer for you right now, that God assure you of His presence today and remind you that your life is having a Kingdom impact far beyond what you can see. Let us know if ym360 can ever do anything for you or your ministry.
by: andy@ym360 March 8, 2011 10:24 am
Greg, you are awesome. Thanks for setting the bar in terms of organizing your priorities, and for loving with Jesus' sacrificial love. In fact, I'm going to just shut up at this point and ask you to share more. My wife and I will pray for you and your family this week in our family devotions!
by: Benjer McVeigh March 8, 2011 1:39 pm
Awesome post! I won't go into detail, but today I was feeling guilty for opting out of something for a family reunion and this just affirmed that I was doing the right thing putting family first and giving them my time. Thanks for the great reminder! Vickie
by: Vickie March 8, 2011 2:15 pm
Hey Vickie, Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are doing well.
by: andy@ym360 March 8, 2011 2:37 pm
Vickie so glad we could help you take that guilt away. You should never feel guilty for putting family first. There will be times when they won't come first (see Benjer's first comment). Greg again you'll be in our prayers and as before let us know if we can serve you.
by: Chris Wesley March 8, 2011 7:02 pm