I responded to a post from my good friend, Terry Delaney. He recently authored a post “When Ministry and Seminary Collide” I responded because I have been in that situation countless times over the last six years.
I left a comment and thought it would also serve as a good post as well.
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.