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?