If you are like me, you don’t have any problem thinking about your students and ministry… a lot! What I need help with is prioritizing those I love most, my family. God gave them to ME to love, shepherd, and parent. Here are 6 things that have helped me on my journey:
- Don’t let your students occupy the HEART space reserved for your spouse and kids. We love college ministry, that’s why we do it… but we have to love and prioritize our family more. Be motivated for them. Be energized for them. Work to find delight in them and their growth, even more than your students.
- Don’t let your students occupy the HEAD space reserved for your spouse and kids. We have to juggle a lot of things in the college world: Leadership team, events, fellowships, school administrations, churches, ministry stakeholders… the list goes on and on. I have been guilty of not thinking about my family with the same diligence as ministry. Praying for your family each by name is a great way to remedy this. You start to remember the things in their life as you pray. You think about your kids’ tests and friends, your spouse’s work and ministry. Be mindful of their struggles and celebrate their victories!
- Don’t shelter your kids from the hard stuff. You don’t have to give all the specifics, but these can be great opportunities to help teach your kids about abuse, healthy boundaries, stranger danger, dealing with emotions, etc. Here is an example: “Hey sweetie, let me tell you why daddy had to leave last night before bedtime. I was helping a student whose friends got her into a bad situation. Does that sound like they were good friends to her? No. God wants us to have friends that help us be godly. But you know what, even when we mess up, God is always there to help us.”
- Fill your family calendar BEFORE your ministry calendar. You know the natural rhythms of ministry: the critical first three weeks, spring break, annual events, etc. Mark those down, then give your family schedule first planning priority. In ministry, we take special time to do planning and pre-planning with our student leaders, we should also give that same effort for our families! Plan family fun days, vacations, time-with-each-kid days, etc.
- Be home when you are home. Richard Baxter says “Be much with God and be much at home” (Reformed Pastor) Turn off the phone, don’t answer the texts, tell your students you are not answering texts from 6-9 or whatever you decide. Don’t regularly give students that rare time with your spouse after the kids go to bed. It’s at night when our students finally slow down and start thinking, planning, or worrying. It may be important, but most times it is NOT urgent. Students probably think you don’t have anything going on at night either, so they call or text. ”Do Not Disturb” mode can be a real blessing to your family!
- Invest in yourself and your family. Prioritize your time with God and the spiritual leadership of your family. Pray together. Encourage one another. Even simple devotions at night or in the car yield great fruit over the span of a year. Nurture your marital friendship and intimacy. Schedule some time for yourself to seek the Lord. Try scheduling a 3 or 4 hour block every month to be alone with God. It does wonders for your soul!
Don’t give up. Don’t beat yourself up. You are not alone! God is with you. He has called you, and He will equip you for this high calling!