1. Keep God first.- I alluded to this earlier but since it is some important I want to expand upon it more. God is what makes everything in our lives work. Without Him we are nothing. And the moment we start to turn away from Him everything else starts to fall apart. I can almost guarantee you that if you look at any minister, or anyone at all for that matter, whose family has fallen apart, and they or their spouse had stopped spending time with God at some point along their journey. This is why you must make sure that you are daily making your relationship with God your number one priority so that you can be better in tune with your spouse. Then from their you can know what decisions you need to make in your ministry.
2. Set boundaries.- Once you are in tune with your spouse and have a clear understanding of what they desire and expect, you then need to set boundaries in your ministry that align with what you have discussed. You need to make it clear when you will be in the office and when you will not. You need to clearly communicate how many nights a year you can be away. You need to tell your students at what hour your cell phone is off. Will there be times when these boundaries get crossed? Of course there will be. At times in ministry we have to go above and beyond because it is what we are being called to do in that moment. But too often we get pulled away or overstep what should be a boundary for reasons that are unnecessary or could wait until tomorrow. Maybe it is a teen in crisis because they got dumped and they'll "never love again." It can probably wait until tomorrow. Maybe it is that event that "we have done since we laid the first bricks of this building." Maybe it is not needed anymore or you do not need to be there the whole time. Whatever it is, look for those boundaries, set them clearly, and then follow them. And for those rare occasions where you need to cross them, clearly communicate to your spouse when this is happening and why.
3. Have accountability. - You need someone in your life that is not only holding you accountable to stick to your boundaries but who is also holding you accountable to stay away from sin. Because none of us is above temptation. But just because we are tempted does not mean that we have to sin. We can have a way of escape as scripture teaches us and part of that escape I believe is accountability. You need to find someone you trust that will meet with you regularly and allow you to share your struggles. Because every time you see another fallen minister you need to realize that they probably did not have accountability in their life. And that could easily be you if you choose to walk through this life alone. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Get help. - This includes your accountability partner but is about much more than that. If you try to be the only one doing ministry you will eventually burn out and fall apart. You need leaders who are equipped and empowered to do ministry. If possible, find a willing college student who will be an intern for free. If they won't do it for free, squeeze a few pennies out of the candy budget to buy them a burger every week. It is not that I think an intern is that important, but it is the bigger picture that I believe help is important. Even if you are in a small church, you cannot do this alone. You cannot be at every event and every crisis. You need leaders and others who can take on some of that load for you at times so you cannot only be with your family more often but can stay in the ministry for the long haul.
5. Make your youth ministry a family.- This is important because honestly this is what students want. They want to feel connected and that they belong somewhere. And when you are so close that you are a like a family you can be honest with one another and you also want to support one another. So if you are close with your students you can be honest with them about the fact that while they are important to you your family comes first. But hopefully, by making your ministry a family, your family can be a part of what is going on in the ministry and the students in your ministry can be a part of what is going on in your family from time to time. This way you are doing life together so that many of these other things, the help, the accountability,, the boundaries, just naturally take place as you truly become the family of God.
I know this has been a little long but it is so important to me that we keep our families in tact. Because every time a family falls apart it sends a ripple effect throughout our culture, especially when it is someone in the ministry. I do not want that to be you. I want your family to be strong and hopefully these tips will help. And please, let us know how you are making sure to keep your family strong in the midst of this thing called youth ministry and let us know how we can help you in that process.