For most youth workers, the start of summer ushers in a different pace of life for our families and ministries. Some of us experience a huge increase in activities and events, even as our own children get out of school and expect to have time to relax. Suddenly, our families have an increasing need for our time, while day trips, music festivals, missions trips, summer camps, vacation bible schools, and students demand our attention at work.
In the midst of all this summer season chaos, it’s difficult to strike a healthy balance between work and home life. And what we’ve noticed over the years, is that it seems to be much easier for us youth workers to increase the ways we serve our churches during the summer, than it is for us to serve our families.
What we mean is this: As the schedule is being planned, how do you divvy up your time between ministry and family? In any given week, what takes more of a priority?
For some reason, we youth workers seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to our families. We go on mission trips or camp trips and we serve people over and over and over again. These people need us, we tell ourselves. They’re poor, hurting, or don’t know Christ and must be introduced to him over hot dogs, a smoky campfire or a building project.
But yet, the people we love the most in this world—our spouses, children and immediate families—also need us. They need our focused presence in their lives just as much as our students, parishioners, and non-Christians that we serve. Sometimes we give them a night here or there, but do we do it with a good attitude? Or are our hearts turned elsewhere, our minds on other “godly” things?
Why is it harder to serve our families than it is to serve our church?
To be honest, there really isn’t an easy answer to this question. For any one person it might be a mixture of pride, a savior complex, unhealthy pressure from church leadership, lofty expectations, a true godly zeal for the ministry, and much more. We’re complex people, and there are a myriad of reasons why we act the way we do.
Take a good hard look in the mirror, if you can. Do you truly serve your family as much as your ministry? Can you say with a clear conscience that your loved ones get the best of you or do their needs often come second to ministry needs? How have you served your significant other or children today?
If the answers to these questions don’t satisfy you, then perhaps it’s time to do a little soul searching and make some adjustments in your summer schedule. Here are just a couple of ideas about how to make sure your family knows they are loved and valued just as much as the people in your church:
- Take an extra day off once a month to spend time as a family.
- Plan a special day trip with your children—with no students tagging along.
- Offer to do one of your spouse’s chores or errands.
- Give your spouse a day alone while you watch the kids.
- Take that vacation time that’s build into your yearly contract and go away.
- Plan a date night once a week with your spouse—no ministry talk allowed.
- And most importantly ASK you family what their needs are! Do your best to serve them in the ways they communicate are important to them.
– Jake and Melissa