We can be our own worst enemy. Just close your eyes for a moment and think of a time when a family event conflicted with a work event. What did you do? Did you attend the family event or did you attend the work event? My son’s birthday often falls on the same date as our Parish Advent Reconciliation Service. As the DRE/Youth Minister and the person who oversaw the preparation process of our parish children for this sacrament, it was pretty important that I attend the Reconciliation Service. But as his mom, it was pretty important that I be with my son to celebrate his birthday. So what’s a mom/DRE/Youth Minister to do?
This happens quite often in our field. We are faced with having to choose between our job and our families. For over 25 years I was the DRE and Youth Minister at our parish. I was also responsible for the preparation of four sacraments – Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. And I was Mom and wife 24 hours a day. This was a balancing act – balancing my DRE responsibilities with my Youth Ministry responsibilities; my Youth Ministry responsibilities with my sacramental preparation responsibilities; my job responsibilities with my wife and family responsibilities.
When last I checked, there was no “S” applique on my youth-group T-shirt and no super-hero cape in my closet. The big question becomes “How do you balance family and job?” I will be the first to admit, IT IS NOT EASY!
TALK WITH YOUR PASTOR
I understand that each person’s situation is different. Do you work for a pastor who insists family comes first? Or does he say family comes first but really means the job comes first? Find out! This is something you need to know so you know where you need to draw the line. Schedule a meeting with the Pastor and/or parish business manager and let this be the agenda. Just what parish events are you expected to attend? Find out what is expected of you in regards to your programming. Also, ask who covers for you in the event that you or a family member becomes sick or you have a family emergency?
TALK WITH YOUR FAMILY
You also need to sit down with your family and discuss everyone’s expectations. Do you celebrate major family events on the actual date? Or do you move the family celebration to the next available date? Find out who needs you when and where. Let everyone know why you feel called to your job. Share that you love each of them. And also explain your love of doing God’s work.
TALK WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
Build relationships with your fellow youth ministers. Bounce ideas off of them. See if you can find a mentor, someone with experience in the trenches. Ask them how they balance family and job. Our diocese holds monthly meetings where we come together, pray for each other, share ideas, plan events, etc. This can be very helpful in finding the balance.
LET GO AND LET GOD
Your son/daughter has an Award Ceremony at school. There is no moving this to another date because it is not your event. You need to be there. But you also have a service project planned with the middle school youth group. This has been on the calendar for months. You should be there too. You are torn.
Well my dear control-freak friends, it is important you realize that you are not in charge and that what will be will be. Remember who is ultimately in charge and that you are about His work. Pray! Early on in your ministry you need to identify those you can fall back on. This can be one person or a team of people that, as you need to, you can hand over the reins and be guilt-free when you join your family.
It may be possible to reschedule work events and free you up for family events. Maybe you over-plan your ministry calendar. Ask yourself, what would be the fall-out if you cancelled the event?
Sometimes you need to be aware of that fact that family comes first and you need to be able to step back from the job. I did just that this past year. God brought a new granddaughter into our family. Audrey was born with Downs Syndrome and two holes in her heart. So I chose to retire from parish ministry and be there for my family. Now, as Audrey has had her heart surgery and thrives, I am gently moving back into the ministerial arena. This decision was made after much prayer and with the support of my husband.
Remember, we are not alone in this. We have our families to support us. We have each other. Finding the balance takes work. And with God on your side, you can make it work.