Is Youth Ministry Hurting Your Marriage?
There are seasons when ministry is going great for me and for my family. I love these seasons. We're all involved. Sharing what happened in my day is easy and fun. And there's a feeling that ministry can’t get any better. But, there are other seasons as well. Darker seasons. Times when the tension between family and ministry grows strong. Maybe so strong you even contemplate quitting. But then the anxiety of looking for a new job crops up. Even more pressing is the fear of mishearing God’s calling. But you still can't help but wonder:
“Is Ministry Hurting My Marriage?”
Before we can answer this question, we need to know the areas where the tension grows. I've noticed the following significant areas:
We all know this, but it bears saying: a youth workers schedule is nuts. Take our days off, for instance. Some of us work one day over the weekend, while others work both. Sometimes we get one day off during the week, other times it’s two. Maybe we get our off days in a row, and maybe not. And our actual work days are more sporadic than our work weeks. Often we'll work a 12-hour day, closing shop around 9pm (which of course means not being able to put our kids to bed). Sound familiar? You probably don't need to be reminded of the toll your schedule takes on you and your family.
No one gets into ministry for the money. However, if it weren’t important we wouldn't see so many youth workers feel the pressure to seek higher pay in another field or position. If we're transparent, there are times it feels especially frustrating serving people who make twice or three times the money we bring home. Add to the fact that many people's spouses have to work outside of the home to provide additional income that will help the family just barely get by and it's easy to see how finances can be a major point of tension.
For the married youth worker, his or her family should be top priority. However, while most people would agree with this, not everyone recognizes the idea of boundaries. To the people in your church, you're a public figure. So when you're seen in public, it's easy for someone to approach you and often engage you in significant conversation. This isn't a bad thing, in itself. We want to be available to those we serve. However, when it comes to family time, there are times when it's nice to be "off the clock."
So how do we make this tension go away?I'm not sure that we can. However, we should never run from it. The better plan is to learn to meet it head on. To do so takes the following:
- Prayer⎯If you don’t pray about the situation then you aren’t willing to listen to God. You need Him to guide you through each moment of hardship and joy that you experience with your family.
- Accountability⎯God will also bless you with men and women who will speak truth into your life. You need a voice telling you when you are wrong, when you are right, and what to do about it. Trust who God is surrounding you with in your life.
- Open Communication⎯You need to talk with your spouse and with your pastor about the obstacles that are causing friction. Not every conversation will end in resolution and warm fuzzy feelings. However, if you aren’t talking, the feelings of resentment, anxiety, and frustration will grow.
- Personal Vision⎯If you aren’t crafting a vision for your life, tweaking it and praying over it, you'll always feel like you're stuck. Vision gives you a destination. And while you might see yourself as a youth minister for life, you won’t embrace it unless you write it down.
Marriage and ministry can work hand in hand, or mix like oil and water.
It’s not easy. But you probably already know this. The question isn't whether or not it can work (it can). The question is what steps you take to make it work. What do you do to address the tension that occurs in marriage and ministry?