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Juggling: Can You Balance Family and Ministry?

Juggling: Can You Balance Family and Ministry?

“Daddy has to work again.” This was the one-line dagger that my two-year-old daughter stabbed me in the heart with. I had just gone back to work off of bereavement after my dad had passed away, so I was trying to catch up from all the time I had missed—I was putting in longer hours. I was working more than enough for my toddler to notice it, and when she said what she did, it caused me to reflect. Is this what I want my daughter to think of me when it comes to ministry? That I work all the time? The answer was no. But how do I manage the responsibilities at home and church? Who do I tell no? I knew that I had to make some changes, but I didn’t know which ones to make.

 I just so happened to be in grief counseling at that time, and I mentioned what my daughter said to me. Then, my counselor also dropped a one-liner I will never forget: “You might be the employee of the month at church, but that isn’t going to mean a thing to them (my family).” He was right, and that told me all I needed to know. He then began to walk me through some practical things that I could do to prioritize family AND ministry.

Comp Time 

I know some of you just read the section title and laughed, but hear me out on this. Sadly, the church isn’t the best at comp time, but my counselor gave me a great idea. He said that you have to make your own comp time. If my normal office hours are 8 am-4 pm but I have a game to go to from 6 pm-8 pm, either I leave that day at 2 pm and go see my family or go in the next day at 10 am. Now, this may not be a revelation to you, but it was to me. He said that I needed to speak to my pastor about this because being unclear is being unkind. So, I went to my pastor and explained what my daughter had said and how that messed with me. Then, I proceeded to propose this idea.

 My pastor told me that any time I was at a school campus, I was on the clock, so that would be fine. So now, that’s what I do. I don’t feel pressure to get to the office at 8 am if I was out late the night before at a school function. I will spend that morning with my wife and babies, and then I will go into the office. Doing this has given my family and me a sweet time together but also provides a great space to prioritize family.

The 8 am-5 pm Phone Rule

Like you, my phone stays going throughout the day. I’m answering texts, calls, and emails. But when I get home, I don’t answer work-related texts, calls, or emails after 5 pm unless they are urgent (you will have to define what classifies as urgent). I will leave them unread and will answer them as soon as I get to the office the next day. We don’t have to be available all the time, especially if someone just needs a table moved or a dumpster dumped. If it’s a family emergency, answer that and go! Put your phone on the mantle when you walk in, and just leave it there. I want to eventually work up to having my phone off one hour a day and one day a week. Accessibility has never been easier these days, but nobody should be accessible 24/7—not even the ones that think you are supposed to be.

 

Finish Lines

Why are finish lines so effective? Because we can see them and know that once we cross them, whatever we’re doing is finished. We need finish lines. Maybe yours is 4 pm or when you get the message written or after your last meeting on a particular day, but not only that, finish lines are important for your overall well-being as well. Use your vacation days; that’s why they’re there. My wife scheduled a one-night getaway for us in the spring of 2023 for my birthday. I had originally scheduled to be off half of the day on the Thursday we were going to leave, but my counselor convinced me to take the whole day because he could tell I needed a finish line. So that’s what I did, and what happened was that I was more motivated to finish strong because I knew I had a finish line coming that would allow me to rest without the pressures of work for a few days. Let’s face it, our jobs are very rewarding, but they can also be very stressful. Finish lines are key to maintaining a healthy work-home relationship.

 

So, can you balance family and ministry? No, that’s impossible. But you can prioritize them both. When you are at work, be all there. When you are at home, be all there. There are going to be emergencies that pull you away from home, but there are also going to be emergencies that pull you away from work. Both your family and your church need to know and deserve that you’re all there when you are there. Be present.

So, has the work/family life prioritization been perfect for me? No, but my daughter hasn’t said, “Daddy has to work again,” again.

Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:

  • Why is prioritizing home and work so difficult? What are some ways to prioritize them both that you can implement now?
  • In your own experience with trying to prioritize both family and ministry, what would you add to this article?

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Comments

Rich Douglas - April 17, 2024

I cannot stress how important this article is, especially for younger pastors. At one of my first churches, the senior pastor prided himself on how often he was called away and set aside his personal plans. At first, I believed this was the norm in ministry. But I realized it was a toxic work environment. He expected everyone to work in the same way he did. If you’re looking at churches, always talk to the person who will be overseeing you, and explain your own boundaries upfront. If they can’t agree to that, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

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