Scheduling Your Spouse
“Let’s be honest, you’re going to sacrifice your family for the ministry anyway.” Said in an almost secretive tone, these words were spoken to me by a single friend and fellow youth pastor. I too was single but I remember feeling my anger rise as he said this to me. I thought that what he was saying was off base and most certainly did not reflect the way that God would call people to live their lives in any career, but especially in ministry.
Now as a married youth pastor I have to acknowledge that though I completely disagreed with my friend, I actually have sacrificed my family for the sake of the student ministry and most of the time I didn’t even realize that I was sacrificing them on the altar of “successful ministry.”
In our culture it is quite easy to find ourselves making this sacrifice. With email, smart phones, texting and all of the social media out there it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in a crisis with a parent or student that takes us away from our families even when we’re in the same room! Then there’s the fact that students don’t keep the same kind of schedule that other people do and so a text at 11:30 pm seems perfectly normal to them even when it’s something as simple as saying “hi.”
We make this sacrifice because we love Jesus, we love students and we want to see students come into a powerful, saving, life-transforming relationship with the Lord of the Universe. It’s a noble desire and a high calling, but it is not a call to sacrifice our spouses and our families for the sake of the students in our churches. As we think about this, it’s helpful to remember a few things. First, it’s the Holy Spirit who will and does bring students to faith in Christ, not us. Second, Jesus is the only person that we’re called to sacrifice everything else for, not our ministries or our students. Third, and finally, we’re told in Genesis 2:24 that “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” We’re meant to be united to our spouse as one flesh and with our spouse alone. There is nothing and no one else in this world that we are to be connected with in this way and therefore our relationship with our spouses must be placed above all other things except for our relationship with God.
But in our world, how can we do this? Mark DeVries, the Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN and President of Ministry Architects (www.ymarchitects.com) gives us some helpful advice by something he calls (admittedly unromantic) Rhythmic Week. You must be deliberate in making this rhythm work, and when you do, you will find time with your spouse increasing and your relationship growing, but it does take effort.
So how does this work? Divide each day into three sections, Morning, Afternoon, and Evening with each section being roughly four hours. This gives you 21 sections per week. We then break down those 21 sections into different categories. Here’s how they break down.
Rhythmic Week: 21 (4 hour) chunks of time
6 Sections - "Time-off"
“Time-off” That means no church phone calls, texts, emails, lesson prep, etc. Just a time to unplug from your daily work and be available to God and to your spouse. Of those six times, three must be designated as Sabbath and taken all in one day (for me, that’s Thursday). During that Sabbath day you can and should find time to be with your spouse even if it means that you schedule it far ahead of time.
5 Sections: Flex Time
Five of the remaining 15 sections should be designated as “flex time” which can be scheduled for regular monthly committee meetings, meetings with students or any other times where you might find yourself working; these are not events that occur on a weekly basis. On the weeks when you don’t have something work related going on during “flex time,” schedule a time out with your spouse, go for a walk, do something to make your spouse feel like you care for them and want to spend time with them.
10 Sections: Work Only
This leaves you with 10 remaining blocks in your week that you can schedule for programming, lesson prep, meetings, study time or whatever you need to do in your calling to minister to students to the best of your God-given ability. Working this schedule will hopefully bring balance to your work and to your life with your spouse and will also hopefully bring you to a place of being better at both.
While scheduling your spouse may not sound like the most romantic thing to do, we can see it in the same way that we schedule our time with God, spending time with Him each day. Just as we grow in our relationship with Jesus through our scheduled time we too can grow in our relationship with our spouses by scheduling time to be with them.
May God bless all of us who are married in ministry and help us balance out the time in our lives!