When Ministry and Seminary Collide

The family seems to always lose!

This week, the first week of classes, has been an extraordinarily busy week. For many seminary students, I am sure this is a true statement. For seminary students who either work in a secular job or a ministry at a local church, this is even more of a true statement.

This week, my church hosted a mission-intensive week we called “My Jerusalem Week.” We worked on our own facilities as well as worked around the community. We had something going on from 8 am to 9 pm each night from Monday through Friday. In addition to this, I had to continue to focus on my own area of ministry with the forthcoming church “school” year fast approaching.

As I stated earlier, this was also the first week of classes at Southern Seminary as well. I am taking Baby Greek which meets four days a week. I now have homework every night which has not happened in over 14 years! Plus, the class is at 7 am which is far too early to be learning a foreign language if you want my opinion.

I remember I wrote a post here at GtS back in March about how to avoid losing time with your family. Well, I must confess that I have failed miserably since June when Krista lost her job…again. This week it was made abundantly clear to me that my family must take priority over ministry and school. However, there is a season in both ministry and school where your time is demanded over your time with family. The problem is when both of these occur in the same week. Perhaps Paul was talking about just this situation when he wrote 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.

My challenge, to myself and to you, is to maintain a proper balance in life. Devote your precious, fleeting time to your family whenever you can. Yes, your relationship with God is of the utmost importance, but your time at the office or in the classroom should not affect your relationship with God. If you fail with your family, then I believe you will not have much of a ministry.

My question is how do you strike a balance? I know how I sometimes strike a balance, but I also know I fail regularly. Please, I would love to drink from your well of knowledge and experience in this area.

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Terry Delaney
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  • I like reading Tozer, but I have since learned that his devotional style was not exactly family-friendly. He pretty much alienated his wife in the pursuit of God. I don’t think that is the way it is supposed to be.

    I take 2 classes/semester, work full-time, and have a wife with a 5 year old and a 1 year old at home. This question of balance is a key one for me.

    One thing that helps me is to use my lunch hour for study. I can’t do everything with that time, but I can read. I can write short response papers. I can do language homework. Look for ways to redeem the time.

    Regarding Greek, find some way to have your flash cards with you wherever you are. I have mine on my Palm OS device using Pocket Scholar (or Mini Flash, I can’t remember which it is called right now). I review flash cards when I walk from my car to my desk at work. I am in a big office, so I also review flash cards when I have to walk from one end of the building to the other. It’s amazing how many you can get through in 5 minutes. Make sure that you make time for Greek every single day if possible. That is, of course, assuming that you want to learn it and not just get through it.

    My family time is usually from the time I get home from work to the time the kids are in bed. I occasionally spend time with my wife after that (and we do date nights sometimes too), but usually my time from 8:00 – bedtime is also good time for me to work.

    My struggle is that I also want to enjoy my kids. However, during the semester they feel like a burden sometimes. I just want them to nap or go to a friends’ house when I have work I need to do. That is a tough part of the balancing act of seminary!

    The point is that you need to look for ways to use otherwise wasted time. However, with all that being written I also find it challenging to have some quiet time besides my morning devotions. I jog regularly and while that is not exactly quiet time, it is a chance to unplug. That is important too.

    Jasons last blog post..Open Theism

  • Trying to strike a balance is always difficult when you have many things competing for your time (family, ministry, work, seminary) All of these are important, it is just how you manage them. I am no expert by any means and what I do now, may not work next week or next year, but it is an attempt.

    Family – I try to spend time with my family everyday as much as possible. I leave fairly early in the morning for work/seminary and get home around 5:30 or 6. My son and I go get the mail and I play with him usually until dinner. Dinner- We eat dinner together every evening. I think I have only missed very few meals with my family because of a work or seminary issue. This is important, especially if you are gone all day either at work or seminary.

    Ministry – This is a less defined area for me because I am not in full-time vocational ministry. I serve at the church where we are members. This involves many different things. I usher for the evening services every other month (August, October, etc) I am also on the rotation on our AV (Audio-visual) team for our PowerPoint slides before and during our services. That responsibility involves being available for both services only once every five weeks or so. I serve along with my wife in the 2 yr old nursery once a month on Sunday Mornings during the church service. The things I just listed are very predictable because they are scheduled in advance and involve a consistent pattern (monthly, etc.) I also serve as the chairman of our Missions Committee (we meet once a month on Sunday evenings after the service). I am also an assistant ABF(Adult Bible Fellowship) teacher. These things are important, but they can be managed. I always let my wife know what is going on the week ahead so she can be ready for it.

    Work- I work a job where I have to “punch the clock” so I have to make sure that I get my 40 hrs in. I do not have the luxury of coming and going as I please, like the salaried people. It is even harder to get the 40 hrs in during seminary semesters, but it works because I have a boss who is flexible in this regard. Also, I work a schedule that allows me to have Friday afternoons off (after 1:30 pm) which does allow me more family time.

    Seminary – in the early days when I was taking more credit hours, between this and work, I was stretched thin. Now, I am only taking two classes a semester for the next two years in order to complete my MDiv. I will still have to read, study, write papers and I usually did those things after dinner and took a self-imposed break one half-hour before my son’s bedtime, so I could spend that half-hour with him and my wife. Once we got him in bed, then I went back to my studies.

    What would derail this is if I let any one of these things get out of whack… Does it happen, sometimes, but I have to be very intentional about all of them. It is all about time management, scheduling, prioritizing, etc. I am far from perfect and I am willing to adjust what we do, but for now it works… What could improve the situation. If I was working in full-time ministry where I had a bit more control over my time (i.e. not having to be in the office at a certain time, not fretting if I took a 35 min lunch instead of 30 mins). Right now at this stage, I am not in full-time vocational ministry, but I do see that those in that arena, have much more time flexibility than the average white or blue collar worker, working a 9-5 job.

    Terry Langes last blog post..Traffic Drivers

  • Keep challenging us, Terry. Your journey back to pastoring has been a joy to watch unfold (from afar), as God works in unpredictable ways (by our standards, which don’t matter). Child of God, husband and father … and all other roles are further down the list.

    Jeff Pattersons last blog post..Music: Telescope

  • I also want to point out that I made a recent change that has created a bit more whitespace in my life. For the past two years there has been very little room for anything unexpected. Now I don’t have a lot of extra time, but at least there is a little bit in case something comes up. I also think I may even have a bit of recreational time. That should help things as well.

    Jasons last blog post..Counting the Cost

  • Terry-my prayers are with you. I juggle 3-4 jobs at a time and take 9 hours a semester. It is tough!!!

    I did greek all last year and I am starting Hebrew next week, the lesson I have learned is to make sure you spend around an hour a day working on it.

    What I have found out to be helpful in time management is two things, blocking off my schedule for each task that needs attention (school, my 3 steady jobs, family, homework) and sticking to that. It allows me to know what I am doing. The second is to buy David Allen’s “Getting things done”, it is a great approach.

    chads last blog post..Red State Update at Saddleback

  • I understand this post completely. Not sure exactly how, but I understand it completely. We’re all in the same boat – young pastors and seminary students seem to be horrible managers of time!

    Speaking of GTD, I have the book if you want to borrow it, dude.

    Stephen Newells last blog post..Top 100 Books

Written by Terry Delaney