We’ve all heard the “only work on Sundays” jokes (well, some aren’t joking) over the years. But for those in full-time ministry, you know your only “workday” is not just on Sundays, but the hours can often overflow into the evening and into the weekend. Still young in the pastorate, I’ve learned lessons the hard way, and am still learning ways of balancing my precious young family with the ministry that I cherish. And, it is a question that I often ask veterans in ministry, who seem to have a great handle on balancing family and ministry. So, here are just a few practical ideas that I’ve heard from my mentors.
- Take Them With You. This may be the advice I’ve heard the most from ministry veterans. And it is to take your family, especially your kids, with you while you do ministry. Take your kid with you to a hospital visit, allow your wife to participate in counseling when appropriate, and if in youth ministry, let your teens enjoy your kids and not see them as a hindrance. *Here’s another key: Teach your kids that being in ministry has benefits too. Although daddy may have late nights, they also have a day off during the week; can take them to conferences at cool hotels, and other perks. Show your family ministry is a blessing, not a burden.
- Go On Dates. Make dating your wife a priority in your life. Put it in your schedule on a regular basis. Plan ahead for babysitting and other arrangements that need to be made. But don’t stop there; take your kids on “dates” too. You’ll see this guy in line for the new Cinderella movie this weekend, not because it’s my favorite Disney movie (Beauty & the Beast and Tangled all the way!)…but because I want to spend special time with my kids, get to know them more personally, and let them know I value time with them. But this too takes planning and intentional work.
- Take Your Creativity Home. One of my mentors laid this dagger into my heart. He asked me the question “Is your time with your kids at home as creative as your activities with your teens/children ministries?” OUCH! That one hurt. So, in the months after, I’ve tried my best to be more creative in my time with my kids. This means I’ve set up obstacle courses in the basement, taken magazines out of the mail and put together “favorite things” craft projects, and even did a neighborhood soccer camp (I had 8 little girls from the neighborhood in my front yard!)!
- Drop Your Work Off at UDF. Another friend told me to drop off your ministry at a place on your way home. Simply pray to God and ask Him to take the burden of ministry, put the criticism, the challenges, and the difficult counseling appointment at the feet of Jesus. Sure, those things will still affect you, but your kids and wife still need your best when you get home. So, my goal is to drop off the struggles of ministry at the UDF on the way home.
- Your Phone Can Be Your Enemy. Put your phone down. One pastor mentor of mine even said he does not come into the house on the phone, but will either pull over or stay in the garage to finish the call. Other ideas given are to take the phone out of the pocket or belt holder, and place it on the coffee maker or dresser (just don’t put it in the microwave). This will allow you to hear it for emergencies, but lets it go when someone liked your picture of your cat playing the piano.
Please let me know how you balance ministry and family. I’d love to learn from you!