It’s often said that being a minister is the hardest job in the world. This is true, particularly if you’re also trying to balance family life and other responsibilities with your ministerial responsibilities.
However, if done correctly, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience that allows you to spread God’s love to others while providing a stable and healthy environment for your family as well.
If you’re considering becoming a minister and have children or other responsibilities, then you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure the strain on either aspect of your life is well balanced. The good news is there are ways of balancing both roles so your family doesn’t have to suffer from having less attention than it needs. Remember, however, that our first ministry will always be our families.
So here are some things to remember.
1. Make sure everyone understands what the responsibilities of being a minister are (and are not)
Simply clarifying this can make it easier to juggle the two roles.
The first step is to be clear with your family and congregation about what your expected ministry responsibilities are and how much time you have available to them. Make sure the congregation understands those expectations. Whether your ministry role is full-time, bivocational, trivocational or volunteer, a formal job description helps make those expectations clear to everyone.
Then make sure everyone in your family understands those expectations. You also should discuss how much of that time can be devoted to family activities. Use this as an opportunity to plan a weekly schedule. For myself, one big thing in my schedule is that by 5 p.m. every day, except for Wednesdays or emergencies, I’m off “work” and at home with my family. Each week I also have at least one day dedicated to just time with my family that I protect (and that I have asked other leaders in our church to help me protect). Make time for both roles by setting aside specific times during the week to focus on them. Time-management is key!
It’s important to establish these boundaries early on because it will help avoid resentment in the future, particularly if your spouse or child feels like they’re getting less attention than others. You may even find the congregation you serve appreciates you setting the example of the importance of family. It really is a point of just being honest with everyone.
2. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have
Be honest with yourself about how much time you have available for both roles. You may be bivocational, trivocational or covocational too. Maybe you’re also a full-time student or have volunteered to serve on boards or with community organizations. Many ministers live like this. You must be honest with yourself on the time you do have and spend it well. It’s OK to say “No I can’t commit to that right now” or even step down from something you may be doing to be better at how you serve in ministry and your family.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. We can’t live as ministers with a Superman mentality and think we are strong enough, fast enough and wise enough to do it all. God is the one who can do it all and, well, you are not God.
Don’t overcommit yourself because you think you can do it. Evaluate how what you are already doing may suffer if you take on more. Then, learn to say “No.”
Stay focused on what you are called to. Some things we think we need to do really can become distractions or simply be “another thing” taking us from our home or our ministry roles.
3. Successfully juggling roles in both family life and ministry requires self-awareness, communication, understanding and practicality
— Self-awareness: It is important for you to be able to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. This can help you decide what role God has called you to fill in the family, versus the role He’s called you to fill at work or in ministry. Self-awareness also enables you to understand your emotions so they don’t negatively impact others or yourself.
— Communication: This affects how one balances roles effectively because it helps ensure that expectations are clear and understood by all parties involved. Communication between children and parents should always be encouraged so everyone knows where each other stands on various issues related with living together under one roof versus personally living apart from one another (e.g., college student needing space while still having parental guidance). In addition, communication between spouses helps ensure that what both partners expect out of life together remains intact despite any changes occurring throughout a marriage over time (e.g., one spouse wants to move while the other doesn’t).
— Understanding: This plays an important role in maintaining balance because we must understand when certain situations require compromise, rather than simply following our own preferences no matter what happens next at home or in work/ministry settings. Practicality comes into play here too: knowing which tasks within each environment are most essential requires understanding about what needs done before tackling anything else.
While many ministers face the challenge of balancing family and ministry responsibilities, it’s important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is finding balance in your own way – through prayer, reflection and honesty (with yourself and others) about how much time you have available for both roles. Remember that your family is your first ministry. No matter what happens with your current ministry position, your family will always be your family.
As 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus show us, if the pastor’s family is not taken care of and falls into disarray, we will find ourselves no longer qualified for ministry. So find the balance you can where you can serve those God has given you for His glory.
Published September 9, 2022