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“If you never did ministry again, I am not sure I would care at this point!”

These were the hard, but truthful, words my wife spoke as she shared her frustrations of being married to an overscheduled youth pastor.

It wasn’t like I didn’t see it coming… Over many months I had blurred the lines of ministry and family. I had created an unhealthy ministry schedule in a church that was exploding with growth. My overscheduled ministry had become the enemy of healthy family time. I knew in my heart there were things I needed to change.

I had been to conferences that told me to create boundaries and to take care of my family. Even though I knew simple changes would make all the difference, I was allowing the complexity of ministry to lead the way for my family. It took a difficult reality and painful words to begin a new direction…

Here’s what I discovered: When I schedule what matters most for my family, we stay healthier and I minister from a healthier perspective. Therefore, it is imperative that I live by some simple, (yet powerful) ways of planning family and ministry. We do this by picking a regular day to make a plan. For us, it’s Monday evenings. We have dinner together and look at our upcoming schedules. During this habitual planning time we are intentional about setting aside family time.

Here’s how we schedule what matters most:

1) Plan date and family nights first. Planning these first ensures that ministry life doesn’t take over without having healthy family time. If I wait until a week ahead to plan these times, there is often no room left in the schedule.

2) Plan vacations and mini getaways well in advance. It’s imperative that we always have a getaway on the horizon to look forward to. For us, these overnight getaways or small (and cheap) vacations are what keep us going as a family.

3) Make mealtimes a priority. With so many evening events in youth ministry it is easy to miss dinner. However, it’s important to see breakfast and lunch as good family bonding times. As much as I can, I actually have started writing breakfast and lunch into my schedule to ensure I don’t miss too many mealtimes.

4) Plan alone time. Every week we try to plan ahead to see where we will both rest individually and independently. This is vital for me AND for my spouse. When we are both able to rejuvenate everybody wins! These simple plans have made all the difference to my family and ministry and are keeping me in ministry for the long haul. What could your family and ministry look like if you scheduled what matters most?

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