Last night our church had an event where families are invited to come and make gingerbread houses. It was a lot of fun, but it was an example of an event where the pull between job responsibilities and family responsibilities becomes very evident. It was nearly impossible to find time to help my wife and kids make a house while also spending time with the students. At the end of the day, I felt like I had missed the mark for both groups.
Trying to figure out how to balance family and ministry can be really difficult. It has definitely been the downfall of more than a few ministers. So what is the answer? Who knows, but I think one key is to establish healthy boundaries, and I have found that one of the best ways to set up healthy boundaries is to clarify expectations. By letting your family know what to expect, letting church leadership know what to expect, and knowing what they expect from you is key if you want to make it all work. I could easily spend extra hours in the office, attend a student’s event/game/recital every night of the week, and have a video game night at my house every Friday. Honestly, if I did this, I would feel like I am one awesome minister. However, not only is that stupid, it is also selfish. My family is just as much my responsibility as my job, if not more.
And this is where boundaries come in. Understand that having healthy boundaries does not mean telling the pastor that you are theologically opposed to attending a Monday evening committee meeting or that you refuse to take the students on a weekend trip because Saturdays are family days. It does mean that you don’t take students on 52 weekend trips a year. It may mean evaluating whether it is really that important to have perfect attendance for the high school basketball season. It also means taking time to eat lunch with your family some days rather than finishing up a lesson. Maybe it means letting that project sit overnight so that you can come home from the office when you are supposed to come home.
Achieving a balance between ministry and family is difficult, but when you have found a way to serve both, you will realize that balance actually helps you to excel in both areas of your life.