Ah, the ever-present struggle: the balance between your ministry at the church and your family life. You may feel like you’re always having to adjust to find a better balance – and really, you should feel that way, because there’s never a time when you’ve “arrived” at the perfect balance of family and ministry. Both will always be needing your attention in different ways throughout each day.
Here are some practical things I’ve noticed that can help you in your family life while still being in a ministry position:
- Protect your day off.
When I first started working on staff at my current church, I had several things that were ministry-related, but not directly related to my ministry position at the church. Because of that, I relegated them to my day off. Before I knew it, my day off was filling up fast, leaving less time with family.
There will be times you just have to take that day off to get something non-work-related done. There will even be times when you may be called in to the church on your day off, due to special meetings or circumstances. That’s ok, but don’t make a habit of scheduling all sorts of activities on your day off. Do your best to keep that day free. Take the time to enjoy being with your family! Do something together!
- Go home for dinner!
When the end of the work day rolls around, go home and play with your kids and eat dinner with your family! Talk to your spouse. There may be times when you need to stay late, but make them as infrequent as you can. Don’t make a habit of making your wife have to keep dinner warm late, getting home when the kids are already in bed, or showing up too worn out to spend quality time because you’ve been pulling an all-day, all-night “work-athon.”
- Put away the phone.
It’s so easy, even after we’ve left the office, to let that one text or email pull us back into “work mode”. One thing I’ve tried before is to put my phone in a separate room as soon as I get home, and not pick it up until after supper. This gives me an hour to play with my son, talk to my wife, and enjoy dinner together without being interrupted by the ding or buzz of a text or email.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Often, especially when your spouse does not have a ministry position at the church, they can feel “out of the loop.” It can be frustrating for a wife when her husband is constantly telling her, “Oh, yeah, I’ll be home late tonight because of this meeting,” or “We need to bring a meal to this activity,” on the day of the event, when he’s known about it for three weeks in advance! Let her know as soon as you know, if it’s something that affects her! This shows her that she is important to you, rather than making her feel like an afterthought to your ministry.
- Be all there!
This goes in hand with the point about your phone, but when you’re with the family, be all there! Don’t be thinking about who you’re going to schedule to speak at that conference or working through the bus problem you’re having. Play with your kids, spend quality time with your wife. Try not to take work home as much as possible. It’s true that you never “punch out” of ministry, but it’s also true that you never “punch out” of being a husband or father either! There are some things you can leave at the office and pick up again at work the next day. Let them know they’re important by spending quality time together.
- Include the family.
Whenever possible, include the family in your ministry! Your wife may have some great ideas for that youth activity when you’re drawing blanks. Your kids may instantly soften the hearts of people whose doors you knock during soul-winning. Make them a part of your ministry. You can’t do it without them, really.
I’m not perfect in any of these things, but they’re simply things I’ve noticed that can help as you strive to be the right kind of spouse and parent while in ministry. Remember, your first ministry is to them. Make them a priority, and you won’t regret it!