Ministry isn’t family friendly.
I know people in youth ministry from the “biggest and best churches” in America. And I know people in youth ministry in the tiniest churches in America.
And both people have the same complaints and struggles– ministry life sucks for family life.
My response to that?
So what? Cope and deal. Do the best you can.
Ministry people aren’t alone in struggling to put family first. Any and every profession has the same struggle. Our desire to make full-time ministry this heroic effort and sacrifice to our family is humiliating to the people who make the same sacrifices to finance our vision. Not to mention– nearly half the people we are trying to reach are single parents who have to put work first in order to just keep their family afloat.
The reality is that “family first” is a marketing line that has been repeated to the point where we think it is some sort of biblical by-law. It’s hardly a biblical mandate. I seem to remember Jesus’ call to his disciples being to leave family and put him first. Offering yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) doesn’t have an out clause for parents of young children. On and on… there simply aren’t calls to a a life in ministry, biblically, that are “family first.”
It is something we believe to be true which just isn’t in the Bible.
Even in an agrarian society, which you hear family-first people constantly refer to, it’s not like dad has a stay-at-home job. Have you ever visited a farm? Family-friendly workplace is not a description I’d use to describe a dairy farm. Or a family growing corn. Or even our local organic farm that supplies our CSA.
Family-first people also reference pre-Industrial Colonial times as this idealistic time of parenting where mom and dad patiently did homework or taught a skill to their sons and daughters. What history books are these people smoking? I could point to any biography of an early American success story and their life was hardly “family-friendly.” It’s funny how revisionism is a two-way street, isn’t it?
The Secret Ingredient of Success
Success, by any definition, has not changed in its core ingredient, since the stone ages.
You’ve got to want it.
Or you’ve got to steal it.
Let’s assume that you the type of person who prefers the former over the latter.
You’ve got to want it more than the person next to you.
You’ve got to outwork, out-hustle, out-whatever everyone you know.
You’ve got to wake up wanting it.
You’ve got to lay your head down in knowledge that you didn’t want it enough.
You’ve got to throw balance out the window.
You’ve got to Cats in the Cradle it.
The bottom line is that if you are driven by some ideal of success, however you define it… it’ll own you more than you own it.
And the reality is that once most people figure out that the dreams they had as children involved all of that– they redefine happiness around a new kind of success.
That’s why “family first” is a different mantra of success.
That’s why successful people get on Oprah or Barbara Walters and tell the camera that they chased success and they lost their family and now they have regrets. But they aren’t giving success back. They aren’t returning the awards or the money. They are spending their time on easy street trying to make up for lost time.
Can I be in full-time ministry and put my family first?
Call me a heretic. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus called me to. I think in the New Testament example Jesus called us to put family second.
Fortunately for me, I’m married to a woman radical and crazy like me. Together, we get it.
Jesus first, family second.
Don’t buy the lie.