Everybody wins: Balancing home and campus
Spending six years working as a parachurch campus minister cultivated in me a deep passion for seeing college students reached and mobilized.
Almost 20 years later, my role has shifted to pastoral ministry in a college town, but God has continued to fuel that passion by allowing me to connect with and serve, not only college students, but also college ministers all over the world.
As a pastor, my focus when working with college ministers is to help them succeed, not just on the campus, but in their personal lives as well.
My hope is that the driven and talented people God is raising up to reach this strategic group will be healthy enough to labor for Christ for 50 years rather than the few short years many last in ministry.
I have become convinced that one of the most crucial keys to laboring for a lifetime is developing a strong marriage and family.
Sometimes Your Strength is Your Weakness
I have always admired the laser focus college ministers have toward reaching and mobilizing college students. They are fully convinced of the strategic nature of their calling and will let nothing distract them from it.
However, in order to build a healthy foundation for life and ministry, their focused commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandments has to extend to their home lives as well.
As a married college minister, you have to view your role as a husband or wife as a primary role in your life rather than as secondary to your ministry role.
Your role on the campus and in ministry will change over the years; what will not change is your spouse.
You must give your spouse not just some energy or good energy but your best energy.
Recognize that the students on campus are not the most important relationships you have. Your spouse is the most important relationship you have.
Some of you may be thinking, “My spouse understands. They are as committed to the campus as I am.” That doesn’t matter. A healthy minister will prioritize family first.
Two people with the same unhealthy priorities are not any less unhealthy.
Students Need You to Win at Home
Students are desperate to know that life in Christ actually works.
While you are helping them have quiet times, share their faith and make disciples, they also need you to show them that 5-10 years in the future it will be possible for them to be a man or woman of faith who is winning in life.
You are passing on more than spiritual disciplines; you are transferring character and life skills as well.
Too many students come from broken homes and don’t know anyone older than about 25 who is living for Christ in a way they would want to model. You need to be that model.
Model love to them. Model sacrifice to them. Model true priorities to them. Show them that God is first in your life, your family is second, and your job is after that. Those are healthy priorities.
Many of the students in your ministry will graduate into the business world. Would you recommend your family/life balance to someone in the workplace? If not, you need to change.
The fact that your job is reaching students doesn’t make an unhealthy work/family balance okay.
Submit to One Another
In Ephesians 5:21, Paul introduces his incredible passage about relationships.
He begins by telling all of us to submit to one another. In marriage this means we need to give up what we want in order to give our spouse what he or she needs.
In verse 33 Paul says that a husband must love his wife, and a wife must respect her husband. A wife feels loved by her husband when she feels secure and cherished.
There is a lot to be said here, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on this: a wife needs to know that apart from God, there is nothing more important to her husband than her.
Your current mission assignment to the campus is not more important, even though it is from God.
Your spouse is also given to you by God, and this kind of sacrificial love is what God requires from a husband.
A husband defines respect in terms of honor and sexual responsiveness.
There is also a lot to be said on this, but we will again focus on one piece: a husband needs his wife to believe in him. A wife needs to believe her husband is a great man. He will, in fact, become what his wife believes and says that he is.
Wives, be a strong encourager to your man. Let him know that no defeat in ministry will ever keep you from believing in him.
Ultimately, you and your spouse are a team. You need to work together, regardless of whether one or both spouses are working on the campus.
This is a ministry that God has called the two of you to together.
The only way the team can accomplish the goals is for the team to have unity. That unity comes from investing deeply in each other. The more deeply you invest in each other, the longer and more fruitful your ministry to students and the world will be.
Spend a significant amount of time every week with your spouse doing something that has nothing to do with ministry—a date night, a night in, a getaway, a shared sport or hobby.
Let your spouse be one of the beneficiaries of your flexible schedule. When possible plan your schedule around your spouse’s to make sure you find quality time together.
Do more than serve in ministry together. Pray together, attend church together, be in a small group together. Have a family spiritual life that is about more than the campus.
Schedule a weekend every year for a marriage retreat or conference.