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Marriage, Children and Ministry

 —  June 17, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.06.12Yesterday we talked about the single life in ministry, so it seems fair we would share some insights with the married segment of youth workers, too. We both fall into this category ourselves—Kurt with one kid left in the house and Josh in the throes of four in elementary school. Talk about a crazy house!

Here’s what we’ve learned serving with families over the past 20 years.

Aim for health—not balance.
Speakers for years have said that you have to keep a balance in your ministry and your family, and to be honest…it just isn’t possible. You can strive for balance and keep the values front and center, but at the end of the day there will always be a tension in these areas. This competition for attention should just remind us to keep working hard as a pastor and as a spouse and parent.

The crazy world of church work really doesn’t allow a traditionally “balanced” lifestyle. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for a healthy marriage and family in the midst of the crazy. We’ve discovered that balance is elusive, but health doesn’t have to be.

Embrace seasons of ministry.
In youth ministry there are busy times and super-busy times. Typically we understand the “busy season” of ministry mentality and ask our families to endure them for the sake of the church. But rarely do we ask the same of the church and ask it to endure a season of focused ministry and attention on our families. This is SO much easier to type than communicate to a supervisor or church board—but it is better than the alternative of burnout or marital failure. Practically, it means take every vacation day you’ve got. Rest on your day of rest. Don’t be out every night of the week and certainly don’t count summer camp as vacation time.

Invest in your marriage.

Don’t just take a family vacation; make sure you plan a getaway with just your spouse as well. At some point you will make more significant investment in your marriage—when it is failing is when most people choose to jump in. Why not do some preventative work now and jump on a marriage retreat or hit up a conference to help you navigate this incredible-but-challenging life you are called to.

Over communicate to your spouse.
Another way to help keep balance in your marriage and ministry life is to communicate well about what is happening in the ministry. Don’t blindside your spouse. Talk through upcoming weeks that are rough or a particularly challenging month. Make it clear when and where the family vacation is going to happen.

Let your kids become insiders.
If you’ve got kids, let them run the place. Don’t let them run wild but give them some perks being a PK—access to the soda machine, unrestricted time on the youth room’s Xbox, or whatever can be given to them to make them feel special instead of like a nuisance to the church.

What advice would you give youth workers who are balancing youth ministry, marriage and kids?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Josh Griffin

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One response to Marriage, Children and Ministry

  1. My advice would be to embrace unique family traditions! We can’t take weekend camping trips or drive to church together, but we do get to enjoy a lot more breakfasts together than most families, and we get to hit up theme parks and other places on my weekday off…. No crowds! Yes there are challenges to having a healthy family in misery, but there are big blessings, too.

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