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

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