There is no union so precious and so fruitful between husband and wife as 
that of holy devotion, in which they should mutually lead and sustain each other. - St. Francis de Sales, the Devout Life

A week ago my wife, Kate and I celebrated 7 years of marriage.  I’m happy to say that our relationship is stronger than it was when we first got married.  Granted, in the honeymoon phase nothing can go wrong, but then you have that first fight.  

Just as it says in the St. Francis de Sales quote, “There is no union so precious and so fruitful…” but that union can get challenged, even in youth ministry. There will be times when youth ministry is hard on your married life and vice versa.  What any youth minister who is married or looking to get married needs to know is:

YOU CAN’T LEAVE WORK AT THE DOOR

Youth ministry is messy.  You might have a fight with your pastor, a volunteer might quit or a parent could chew you out.  No matter what you try to do it can follow you home.  Instead of trying to completely separate the two:

  • Surround yourself with people outside your spouse that will hear you vent.
  • Plan quiet time with God.
  • Find a mindless activity to work off the emotions.

The same goes for bringing home life to work.  When things are rough in married life, know that it will follow you to work.  While you can’t prevent the emotions or situations, you can build in margin to manage them.

YOUR SPOUSE NEEDS TO BE BEHIND YOU 100%

If your spouse does not respect or like what you do, then your ministry will feel impossible.  To get them on board invite, do not pressure, them to learn more about your ministry.  Invest in them by sharing your vision, take them with you to conferences and share your stories of success.  The more they see what you love, the more they’ll get behind you.  This is essential when times at work get tough.  (For more on how get your spouse on board, click here)

YOU MUST BE CLEAR ON BOUNDARIES

To protect your married life you need to set boundaries.  That means informing coworkers and volunteers when and how you might be reached at certain hours.  Sit down with your spouse on a regular basis (Kate and I meet weekly) to discuss the calendar.  Communicate when work is negotiable and when it is not.  It might be hard conversation at first, but you’ll prevent any opportunities for disappointment.

YOUR PASTOR MATTERS

The only thing worst than your family resenting your job is your pastor resenting your marriage.  The best thing you can do is make sure he has a relationship with your spouse.  If he gets to know your spouse, he’s going to better understand when work and home conflict.

If you want to be a successful youth minister you need to take your married life seriously.  Love your spouse and embrace the journey God has you on.  Ask God to continually bless what it is you do and never be afraid to seek His guidance.  If your marriage is healthy, then so will your ministry.

What advice would you give to those starting out with marriage or youth ministry?

Great resources for balancing marriage and ministry: Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?

Click. “Hello?” A not so happy parent had just hung up on me.  They wanted to see if their child could opt out of the Confirmation retreat because of the distance we were traveling.  I said, “Sorry, if there was a different conflict I could help you, but not wanting to go isn’t a legitimate excuse.”  

Being a people pleaser leads to burnout.  In fact people pleasers really have no place in youth ministry.  In the end they only: Continue Reading…

I’m not a great small group leader.  I own the conversation and ask too many closed ended questions.  Despite my shortcomings the guys in my small group like me and I love them.  The largest challenge I face is bringing them back each week.

Bringing students back is a challenge.  On top of all their responsibilities they’ll have to deal with their lives constantly changing.  To work with teenagers in an ever changing world it’s important to think:

RELATIONALLY

That means looking at the teens who attend as more than numbers.  It’s about understanding why they come and why they don’t.  To think relationally and bring teens back you need to: Continue Reading…

Some nights I just want to drown my face in a Chick-fil-a Cookies & Creme Milkshake.  Those nights usually come in the midst of a season where youth ministry feels like a job.  Instead of enduring the pain I succumb to pressure and devour the milkshake.  For a few moments I’m free and then reality comes right back.

There will be seasons when you just have to endure.  The pain might be the result of:

  • Volunteer Turnover
  • A Parent Who Chews You Out
  • Declining Attendance
  • Tension With The Pastor

Doesn’t matter what the source of the problem is, life is difficult.  To endure the difficult seasons and come out stronger on the other side, it’s important to:  Continue Reading…

I was jealous.  In my third year of ministry we booked a guest speaker on purity.  Everyone was engaged and into it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I would constantly struggle to get their attention.  I wondered, “What was the difference?” He spoke with authority.

It can be difficult to engage teenagers.  To compete with what is going on their lives is a challenge.  They are constantly told one thing over another and need help sorting it out.  Content is important, but it’s not the only thing.  If you do not know how to deliver your message with authority no one will listen.  

To speak with authority means to have control and command over your audience.  In other words people are fully engaged.  When they are engaged they will listen.  To speak with authority you need to: Continue Reading…