Just about every minister’s spouse will tell you that when a minister says he or she will be home in a few minutes, that could be anywhere from 5-50 minutes. My wife has tremendous grace with this. After church on Sunday I frequently show up to the lunch restaurant about 15 minutes late, usually because I needed to turn out some lights or have one last conversation with someone.
Because a minister works with people in a job that has very random responsibilities, it can be very difficult to manage the tension between being doing what needs to be done at the church and doing what needs to be done at home. Let me share a few things that I try to do in order to make things work on both sides.
1. Establish mutually agreed upon expectations with your spouse. It is vitally important that your spouse understands the need to be flexible in some areas. It is also vitally important that you understand the need to prioritize family at certain times. Having a conversation about what to expect makes a huge difference. One of the difficult times for us is holiday events where I have to choose to be a husband/dad or to be a worker at an event. The reality of it is that if I am in charge of an event, I am going to have a hard time sitting with my family or participating in the event. If this reality is understood, we will avoid the disappointment and resentment that could begin to grow.
2. Don’t try to do everything you need to do. In ministry there will always be more to do. Let some things go. If you are expected to leave at 4:30, work as hard as you can and then head home.
3. When you are home, be actually at home. Sometimes we leave the office, but we don’t leave the work there. Avoid taking things home to work on and simply be present with your family.
4. Incorporate family into some of your ministry activities. I love having my son attend middle school football games with me. I get to spend time with him and connect with our middle school students in the community. My kids are also at the age where they can go with us on certain trips. Allowing your family, particularly your wife to be a part of ministry events also gives them a fuller appreciation for what you do and why it matters.
5. Take your time off. There is no prize for amassing unused vacation days. Use time off wisely to invest in your family and in the rest that you need. Remember that taking time off the right way usually involves a great deal of planning and having things covered so you can just let things go and not have the need to check in frequently.
A minister’s home life has a direct bearing on how effectively he or she can minister. You owe it to yourself, your kids, your spouse, and your church to make sure that you are doing all that you can to minister to your family. Ministry work can be very negative for a family when the family begins to feel second place to the church. Do your best to keep your priorities straight and the communication lines open.