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Time invested in ministry is primarily for God

Tonight I was skimming through some material in Doug Field’s book, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, in preparation for my youth leadership training in the Ukraine later this month. I stopped skimming when I got to the section on burnout and read it a little more carefully. With my marriage starting next month I wanna make sure I get off on the right foot by giving Dana the time she needs even if it means saying “no” to some things in ministry. I’ve heard too many horror stories about pastors’ wives resenting their husband’s ministry because of neglect at home. What I read was very refreshing, especially since it seems like I’ve already established most of his anti-burnout suggestions in my personal life. There is one suggestion, however, that I’m already aware of but convicts me again as I read it in Doug’s book.

To the nine-to-five office worker, I look like a “flake.” Some days I arrive at the office late. Some days I leave at mid-morning and don’t return for four hours. Other days I head home early. What some secretaries, elders, and parents don’t realize is that I arrive later in the morning because I was either out doing ministry the night before or will be out late that night. I leave many days at 11:00 AM and don’t return until 3:00 PM. Why? Because I have a tough time preparing my message at the church office. I’m constantly interrupted. I work best at my other office — Taco Bell — where my phone doesn’t ring and I can have my soda refilled.

The nature of youth ministry requires flexible office hours. Track your hours in case a question arises.
— page 322 —

I have a difficult time giving myself that kind of flexibility to casually drop in and out of the church office because I (unnecessarily) feel a need to let the other church staff know that I’m present and working hard. But why do I feel that? It’s not like the church places any pressure on me in this area. I’m confident they all respect me and my time. I know I’ve earned their trust, so why do I feel like I need them to see me at the church office doing work when I’ve already established that real ministry ultimately takes place in the relationships I build with students? It sounds like Doug Fields would be the kinda guy that could stay up late talking with a student about life issues and then dock the hours out of the next day by going into the church office later. Although I intellectually agree that these boundaries on our time are important, I would feel irresponsible for not showing up in the office at the normal time anyway. I may fall asleep at the keyboard, but at least I’d be there!

Instead of thinking, “Is the pastor satisfied with the hours I put in this week,” I should be more intentional to think, “Is God satisfied with how I’ve spent my time for Him?” He’s the one I’ll stand before and give an account for the time He’s entrusted to me (Romans 14:12).

I’m reminded that ministry is really for God, not just for the church. Although I definitely need to be responsible and accountable to the people in the church, I have to remind myself that I’m not working for them as much as I am for Him.


Posted on June 8, 2006

  • Jerry

    We in the ministry are “playing to an audience of One.” Love, Dad

  • That’s a good reminder to most of us in ministry. Thanks for that.

  • Ben

    right on, man. good word here — burnout is something i fell into during college — couldn’t get enough ministry action. i loved feeling used, ministry is where i found my value… it wasn’t until i signed myself up for counseling/mentoring/spiritual direction with one of my professors that i finally started to grasp the severity of my ministry “addiction.”

    all that to say … thanks for sharing. i hear ya.

    congrats on the wedding — how exciting!

    i’m 2,500 miles away from Andi, my fiance… so its very difficult, and being in full-time youth ministry on top of all that makes life interesting.

  • BERDINE

    hi just wanna say love the blog and the answers of the other youth workers, helped me a lot.i’m from south africa so please the english not so great sometimes. but i’ve got a question for you. what advice can you give me, i’m a part time youth worker (wish was full time). working through the week and on friday nights is the youth meetings. the thing is you can go to their schools and practices and so-on. i cant realy so how else can i connect with them, send them sms to remind for the evening, and to not to eat if i’ve got something special planned to eat. their are always coffe,tea,biscuits and sometimes chips and other stuff to eat.we are a small congrecation and meet at my house. i really are happy with those that shows up because i know how important it is for them (that it was for me when i was their age)if you are glad to see them and also that is my nature to always show them how much i love them. so please tim help me. great to see their is a lot of people making a difference.would like some responces. thanx again

  • @ Berdine: I did part-time youth ministry for a while, too. You’re right, it is hard because you really want to have more time to spend with the kids, but that time obviously isn’t there. You really have to work hard to keep your time priorities in line and not over-extend yourself. As much as you want to do more with the kids, remember that right now your life has other demands that you must attend to. Keep the big picture in mind.

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