Balancing Family and Youth Ministry: Part 3 – Boundaries

Are you close to burn out? Do you know someone who is getting burned out? Is ministry a drain on you these days?

One of the biggest reasons youth workers experience burn out is because they never established boundaries to stay healthy. Given the changeable nature of ministry and unpredictable hours, it’s imperative that we learn to create healthy boundaries which can be communicated graciously to those around us. Here are a few I live by:

Balancing Family Ministry

1) Turn Off Technology At Strategic Times: It’s crucial to find times in our week to turn off technology and be fully present with our families. For me, mealtimes, or getting my kids to bed, I either turn my phone off or don’t take calls. As soon as the kids are in bed, I return all my calls.

2) Their Lack of Planning Is Not Your Emergency: Just because others around you cannot plan and prepare, does not mean that THEIR lack of planning becomes YOUR emergency. There will be times when it’s “all hands on deck” and time to help out. However, you will meet people who consistently leave everything to the last minute and expect a bail out… This is when it’s time to have a loving but firm conversation.

3) Day Off: First, we are called to honor God with a day off. Second, we need to recharge and fill the tank and make sure you spend time with God and your family. Yes, this is basic, it should be… But are we doing this?

If you consistently get calls from other staff or leaders on your day off, it’s important to graciously communicate that this is your day to focus on God and your family. Ask them to wait to make their phone calls next time.

4) Vacations: If you have to check your email or phone while on vacation there is an issue. If your boss expects you to check your email or phone while on vacation there is an issue too.

Here are three additional thoughts on vacations:

First, do you think that God really needs you so badly that you cannot be away from your phone or email for a week. God can handle the issues that come up.

Second, the fact that we must stay connected while on vacation could well suggest our inability to empower others to handle ministry while we are away.

Third, not being able to switch off while on vacation could suggest an unhealthy identity to ministry. Our significance should be come from whose we are, not what we do. Yes, ministry is extremely important, but is possible to build an unhealthy identity to our ministry and life? Are we are child of God first?

5) Date Night Don’ts: Don’t talk about ministry. It’s healthy to forget about ministry for a few hours, and  it’s important to communicate with your spouse that ministry is not as important as them.

6) Don’t Become Lazy: I know you didn’t expect this one, but I see too many of us being victims in ministry. Perhaps we have been through a tough time previously or currently, but it’s important to check your spirit to ensure you are not using boundaries to be lazy.

There are few more I could add to this list, but why don’t you comment and add your own? What boundaries have you established for your family? 

Phil <><

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  • UltimateYouthWorker

    Great post Phil. We agree whole heatedly. But is this truly balance or is it putting family first?
    We would argue that there is no balance. Family alway comes first.

  • philbell

    Thanks for your comment. I would say both. Given the changeable nature of ministry and how easy it is to swing toward busyness and complexity in ministry, it’s crucial to find balance by creating boundaries. Yes, this is in keeping with God, family, ministry, but I would say it is about balance too. Thoughts?

  • UltimateYouthWorker

    I know many in youth Ministers who are ready to forsake their mother, father, spouse etc for the sake of the gospel. It is really easy to do. Balance is a misnomer in our opinion. Work and family are two so incompatable concepts that it is like saying we will balance the sun and a yellow m&m. there are similarities as they are both round and yellow, but that is where it stops. Balance gives objects an equal weighting…This is untrue in our situation. My family will always come before my work.

    Check out

    for our thoughts on the subject


    for where we base our thoughts from.