11 Tips for Prioritizing Family in the Never-Ending Work of Ministry

If you let it, your ministry will overtake all of your time with your family.

How can I balance ministry and family? It’s a question that burns in the hearts of a lot of pastors and ministry workers. Until Jesus returns, the work of ministry is never finished. There’s always another person to reach and another sermon to preach. If you let it, your ministry will overtake all of your time with your family.

However, as a pastor (overseer/elder) or minister (servant/deacon) in the church, the Bible says that you are qualified to do ministry based on how well you lead your family (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9). So part of your job is to make sure that your family is loved, served and cared for. If you neglect your family for the good of the gospel, you are doing more harm than good, and your ministry will eventually crumble as your family life erodes.

So how do we make sure we balance ministry and family?

Note: Your family’s spiritual life is a primary issue that I will tackle at another time. Right now, I want to focus more on time management.

Here are some things I’m learning and working on.

1. Don’t Think Balance. Think Quality.

Balance is like thinking about tipping a scale one way or the other. If I work 40 hours, then I need to give 40 hours to my family too. If not, things are unbalanced.

That’s not how it works, and it’s not always realistic. Nobody has a perfectly balanced life, and trying to get there will drive you mad. So don’t think about the amount of time you have with your family as much as the quality of the time you share.

2. Wherever You Are, Be Fully There.

It’s easy to be present physically, and absent mentally. You’re home, but your mind is at church. Don’t be with your family while thinking about your work, just like you shouldn’t be at work only thinking about your family.

Devote yourself to wherever you are in the moment, fully present, and fully engaged with the people around you. For many of us, that means putting down the phone, looking at your family, and fully engaging them in conversation or activities.

3. Work at Your Family Like You Work at Work.

If most of us worked at work like we work on our family, we would be fired.

Don’t just come home and turn on the TV and check out. Take a few minutes each week to plan your family time. Plan a project or two to do with your kids. Plan a date idea or a surprise for your husband/wife.

Your job isn’t done when you get home. When you get home from work, you are clocking into your second job as a husband or wife and a father or mother if you have kids.

4. Think Seasons, Not Hours.

Not every season is the same. In ministry, there are some seasons that you know will absolutely be busier than others. Christmas and Easter are two of them. In those seasons, your family needs to know that you will be busier. It comes with the work.

So plan on being busier during those seasons. Set that expectation upfront so people aren’t disappointed.

You will also have seasons where you aren’t as busy. In most churches, there is less going on between Christmas and New Years, and in the summer when most of your congregation is on vacation. Plan on those seasons being less busy and take advantage of them. Work less hours, take a week or two off for vacation.

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Ride the natural seasons in your church to either work more or less. And plan it in advance, so nobody is surprised.

5. Integrate Family and Ministry When You Can.

Don’t just serve the church alone. Bring your family with you when you can. Help them see the mission of the church and be partners with them in the ministry.

You may not always be serving side-by-side, but you are serving together for the kingdom. Help your family see this vision.

Just don’t go overboard where they feel like thankless slave laborers. Make sure they are serving joyfully in areas they are gifted, not begrudgingly or this can backfire on you fast.

6. Choose Your Family First.

Put your family first. If a kid has a game or your wife has some big thing that she needs help with, don’t apologize for canceling a meeting, finding someone to replace you, or even skipping a Sunday now and then.

Trust me; your family will see the priority that you place on them and feel valued and loved as they should. If you are always missing their things for church things, they’ll notice and feel that too.

7. Plan an Annual Family Calendar.

My wife and I sync up calendars on our phones so we can always see what we have planned. This has been a huge help for us.

What gets scheduled on the calendar is what gets done. So every year, sit down with your spouse and plan your annual family calendar. Put in all of the important holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, family activities, school schedules, vacations, etc.

You put your family first by putting them on the calendar first. You can then plan your work accordingly rather than try to change your work plans later, causing conflict.

8. Train Your Replacement.

If you can’t step out of your ministry from time to time without the entire church falling apart, you are part of the problem. You need to delegate authority and responsibility to others. If you aren’t taking vacations because you don’t have anyone else who can do your job, consider this a giant red flag and a flashing red light that you are heading for disaster. Stepping away from ministry to be with your family, take a vacation, or attend that dance recital is healthy for your family and your church in the long run because it will force people to be capable of filling in for you when you are gone.

9. Get Rid of Time Suckers.

Your time is precious and you don’t have much to waste. The problem is that most of us when we finally are home with the family, we get distracted by technology or other hobbies. So even when we are home, we aren’t there.

What sucks most of your free time away?

I used to have an addiction to video games. When my first child was born, I perfected the ability to feed her with a bottle under my chin while owning people online. But one day, God opened my eyes.

What was I doing?

Here I was holding the most precious and beautiful thing in my life, and all I could think about was playing with strangers on the internet. So I sold my video games that week and haven’t looked back. And you wouldn’t believe how much more time I have now for better things.

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Get rid of the time suck in your life. Cancel the TV. Cut Netflix. Delete social media. Make a rule when you go home to put your phone in a drawer somewhere and don’t pick it up.

Identify the thing that is taking you away from your family when you are with your family. Now, this is going to hurt, but you need to get rid of it.

10. Set Workday Deadlines.

There’s a sad thing that happens in most offices: Whoever gets to the office earlier and stays the latest often gets praised as the hardest worker. The sad thing is that person may be just as effective in their job as a person who works less hours. This isn’t always the case, but they may work late because they waste time chatting at the watercolor or taking long breaks, or playing on their phone.

They work late to make up for their inefficient use of time. They work less in more time when the best employees work more in less time.

More hours doesn’t always equal more work.

Do your best to do more work in the time you have rather than just work more hours. Try setting a stopping time for yourself and work hard and fast until that deadline. For example, maybe once the clock hits 5:30 pm, you leave.

Having a deadline forces you to get more done in the time you have, rather than working late every day simply because you procrastinated and need more time to catch up.

Get more done in less time, so you have more time for family.

11. Remember The Sabbath.

It’s almost funny how pastors try to follow the Ten Commandments while forgetting the fourth, which is the one commandment that says “remember” (Exod. 20:8).

Do you have one day a week set aside for rest, worship, and time with your family? If not, start here at least.

The Sabbath is about God, but it’s also about us. We need to rest. You can’t keep working every day. It will ruin your health and wreck your family.

YOUR CHURCH CAN REPLACE YOU BUT YOUR FAMILY CAN’T

I’ve worked in many churches, and I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: No matter how irreplaceable you feel you are to your work, you will be replaced.

Every job is temporary. Some day you’ll either change jobs, retire, or die. You will be replaced.

Nobody is irreplaceable. But you know who can never replace you? Your family!

You will always be the father or mother of your children. You’re the only one they have.

So if you have to pick between a job and your family, always choose your family. If you retire, move, or get fired, they’ll still be in your life. You can’t say the same for a board of elders or even good friends in a church. Once you move on, they’ll move on too, but your family won’t.

And if you drive your family away, you’ll eventually lose your church and your family.

Remember, according to the Bible, your qualification to lead a church should depend on how well you lead your family. So how are you doing, and where do you need help?

Read more from Brandon Hilgemann »

This article originally appeared on ProPreacher.com and is reposted here by permission.