Your family always should come before your youth ministry! Yes, we believe this, and we hear it taught all of the time, but are we living this out? That is another question in and of itself. I thought that I was living it out, and doing a good job at it, but over the past couple of years, I have tried to improve this idea of balancing my family and my ministry.
I think it is important to recognize up front that if we are not careful, ministry will overtake your life. It will dominate your time, money and life. The confusing part is that ministry is a good thing, but it still can become an idol in your life when not in the right place. Many youth pastors are required to work in the office from 9-5 or something like that. Then, when they get out of the office, they are headed to the games of their students for the night. You have activities on the weekends (many of them lasting overnight). Church is on Sunday, which can become a long day for youth pastors. We have two services at our church, and I am here on Sunday morning from 7:30-12:30. That is a long day. Then, we have an evening service as well. When you are home, it is easy to be checking your email on your phone, responding to parents’ Facebook messages and sending out texts. Before you know it, you are working and doing ministry for almost 60-70 hours a week.
I now have two kids! Working the above schedule will not sit very well with my kids and spouse. They need my attention. How do we balance this job and our families? Here are a few practical tips for you that I am currently learning:
1. Limit phone usage when you are home. When you have a smart phone, it is easy to be on your phone all evening. This is a good easy place to start for you: Just limit the usage. Now, the idea of completely turning your phone off would be awesome, but we live in a day where we silence them by vibrating, etc. When a ministry call comes in at night, I am working on dealing with those calls during the day, and focusing on my family when I am home. I get tons of text messages regarding ministry, and I do not have to respond right away. We as youth pastors feel pressure to respond to people right away, but YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Remember this, and it will help you balance your family and ministry.
2. Schedule your week out. For instance, if you have an all nighter on Friday, and it goes through Saturday, find time in the week to spend with your family. If your senior pastor does not understand this, and demands you still be in the office, that is a problem. If I am gone all day on Friday and Saturday, I am trying to schedule my week to where I am home some during the days of the week to offset being gone all weekend. Have a plan ahead of time with your weekly schedule, and include your family in there as your top priority.
3. Limit excessive busyness. I always heard that in youth ministry, you need a big event a month. Well, that is good, but a lot of work. I try to do an event a month, but not always a huge event. Limit busyness. We tend to get busy in areas that are not necessary, and many times forsake our family time because of this. I do a yearly calendar, and I am working on being more missional and purposeful in our events instead of throwing things on the calendar just to look like I am busy.
4. Learn to say NO. This is the hardest thing for me. I am not good at this, but if you want to balance your family and ministry, you will have to learn to say NO. People will demand your time all week, and before you know it, you have spent little time with your spouse and kids. The way to avoid this is to say NO. Someone else can get the job done. Allow someone else to do things every now and then. Life can go on without you.