I’ve been a full-time, paid youth pastor for a little over 14 years. I also just celebrated 14 years of marriage. I have three children (ages ten, eight, and five—all boys). I first was a youth pastor. I then became a husband. I then became a father. But if it stays in that order, I’ll be on a road to becoming an absentee father, a divorced man, and a former youth pastor (likely in that order).
If you’re a youth worker who is married with a family, then you know the constant pressure of ministry and family. You know the pull that says, “I yearn to be a great spouse and parent first.” You know the counter pull that says, “Ministry is a full-time job and you’re a youth pastor 24/7 by calling, not by trade.”
So every summer, after the school year is behind me and before the next one begins, I evaluate. I search and dig and wrestle with where we are in ministry. I ask myself, “What did we do right and what did we do wrong?”
This year, I did some intentional evaluating with my wife too. Maybe it’s my mid-thirties calling me or the gut check that comes with the reality that my oldest is entering middle school, but whatever the reason, it was time to evaluate not just ministry, but a lot of other things too. If you can identify, then perhaps this process might help you. The evaluation is built upon the following assumptions:
- The best thing you can do for your marriage is bring a healthy you to the union.
- The best thing you could do for your kids is give them a healthy marriage.
- The best thing you could do for your youth ministry, church, and the community around you is to exemplify a healthy family.
So, with those assumptions affirmed, here are the questions my wife and I asked ourselves:
1. HOW ARE YOU?
If you unpack that question, it might look like this: How are you spiritually, physically, and emotionally? What do you need to be a child of God first and a friend, spouse, or parent second? Are you getting enough alone time? Are you healthy? Where are you hurting? What personal goals do you have at this stage in life? What can I do, or our family do, to help you be free to be who God made you to be?
2. HOW ARE WE?
If you unpack that question, it might look like this: Are we getting enough time together? Do you feel loved and supported by me? How have we grown together this last year? What lessons have we learned? What discoveries have we made? In what ways is our union tighter? Where have we become lazy? Are we becoming better lovers, friends, and teammates? Is there anything you need from me to help you be all that God has called you to be in our marriage?
3. HOW IS OUR FAMILY?
If you unpack that question, it might look like this: Do our children know they are loved and valued as a high priority? Do they get enough of our time? What are their individual needs right now? What are our plans for family vacations and days off? How is our schedule as a family affecting us? How are we managing the finances of our household? What are our future plans and goals? How is our influence in the community? How are we, as a family, growing to become more and more the people that God has created us to be?
I pray that these questions produce a huge blessing in you, your marriage, your family, and then the kingdom of God.