Are You Cheating?

Cheating is word that I typically associate with apathy & laziness.  And if I’m being honest, those are two traits that I really struggle with.  But more often than not, we find ourselves cheating when we don’t prepare, care, or share.  And when it comes to ministry and family, it’s possible that we are cheating the most important people in our lives.  As youth pastors, we live in the world of “Do I give this time to my family or to my ministry?”  On one hand, we all know that ministry can truly suck the time out quickly.  You look up and realize you were gone 4 nights last week, or 3 weeks last month.  On the other hand, you commit to being home as much as possible during the week, but then you don’t feel like you are being a team player in the church.

What gives?  Is there a way to balance church ministry and family?  I recently talked with a youth pastor who told me his summer plans.  They included doing back-to-back mission trips that actually overlap, so he’d be gone for over 2 weeks!  That’s not including summer camps and activities.  I always get weary of hearing how busy youth pastors are, always questioning…do we have to be?  I want to pose the question, do we schedule our ministries with (ours and our students’) families in mind?  Here are 3 ways that we can be better at balancing family and ministry life:

1.  CARE about Your Student’s Families (Spread Your Trips Out.)  What?  You mean I don’t have to do all my trips in the summer?!  Not only do you not have to do all your trips in the summer, it actually may not be healthy to do them all in the summer…for your family and your students’ families.  Spreading your trips throughout the year helps your students’ families with their calendar and also their budget.  When we have Middle School Camp one week, High School Camp the next, Mission Trip the next, and then trips to amusement parks, etc., we are overloading our calendar and everyone else’s (not to mention getting upset when every student doesn’t participate in everything).  I suggest moving around trips that can happen outside of summer (such as mission trips).  Camps typically need to take place in the summer, so center your summer around that.  I think it’s a great idea to plan a mission trip over Spring Break (if you have multiple schools, pick the one that draws most of your students).  This way, it’s far enough away from summer to help with budgets, and it will provide momentum for your ministry from Spring to Summer.  Most mission trip organizations may only do summer trips, but you can easily piece together your own trip (which will make it a ton cheaper as well!).  Let me know if you want any ideas on how to do that.  We’ve gone to Indianapolis, Chicago, and Nashville for $150-$200 per person each year, total.  You also could add in a weekend Fall Retreat to provide the third leg of your trip tripod for the year.  Potentially, you could plan your year as follows, having one trip propel you to the next:

March – Mission Trips ($150-200)

July – Camp ($375)

November – Fall Retreat ($75)

Truth is, when we end up cheating our family, we are also cheating our students’ families.

2.  PREPARE Ahead of Time (Create an Advance Calendar.)  Creating a weekly, hourly      calendar is crucial to making the most of your work week.  When we go into the week with no plan, we typically waste time, go into programming unprepared, and often say things like, “I’m just so busy,” or “I just don’t have enough time.”  I’ve been doing student ministry for 11 years, and the time is there, I’ve just realized that I hadn’t always used it efficiently.  So, the last thing I do at the end of the week is schedule out my next week by the hour.  I know I’m in the office Monday-Thursday, there are some meetings already on the schedule, so then I just fill in around those meetings.  What I found was, once I started scheduling my hours (I just use Google Cal/iCal to do this), I had way more time than I thought I did.  Obviously things will come up in your week you weren’t prepared for, but you can always schedule in some catch up time as well.

I’m willing to bet, the more you intentionally schedule your week, the less work you’ll be taking home or getting home late.

3.  SHARE the Workload (Empower Your Volunteers.)  Empowering you volunteers is not the same thing as delegating.  We empower volunteers, because they are gifted and capable to do certain ministry things.  The more we empower those that are called, the more ministry that can take place.  There’s nothing more beautiful in student ministry that watching amazing adults lead students in a small group setting, and essentially become their youth pastor.  They go to their games, visit them in the hospital, take them out for coffee.  We even have volunteers leading one of our mission trips this year, not because I don’t want to, but because it enables us to take 3 mission trips during the same week.

Sharing the ministry workload empowers volunteers to rise up to the calling God has put in their life, while enabling you to be more effective with your time at work and at home.

What are some problem areas you see in the way you schedule your time?  What has worked well in your life balancing work and family?


Published by Nick Ballard

Nick is the Formations Pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, MO, which is outside of St. Louis. As Next Gen Pastor, Nick oversees all of the Kids & Student Ministry as well as the . Nick has been in full-time student ministry since 2005. Nick and Blaire have been married since 2004, and they are parents to 2 awesome girls. Nick loves the next generation, the local church, and believes that God has big plans for this generation of teenagers! Nick is an avid sports fan and ping pong enthusiast.

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