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Skills for the normative pastor: the art of juggling

I was never a good juggler. I have no problem catching one ball at a time or even throwing and catching two balls one after another. The task becomes harder for me, however, when I have more than one ball in the air at the same time. My first six or so years of being involved in ministry while leading a family resembled my juggling skills. I experienced intermittent periods of maintenance juggling ministry and family life until eventually I would drop the ball in one area or another.

Missing a teachable moment with my daughter here, taking away time with my wife to do “ministry work” there, dropping pre-scheduled family events for church activities, or my most common drop – engaging with my family while still mentally focused on a project. Before you set your sights to open fire on my failures, I am persuaded from experience that I am not alone. Many of us are having trouble juggling our work schedules, children’s extracurricular activities, special projects, and even leisure time (what is that?!). If you are a pastor or church staff member, then you can add ministry to your long list of commitments.

Here are just a few tips to help us get better at the art of juggling.

1. Make ministry a family endeavor whenever possible.

For a while, this was a new one for me because of the church culture that I came from. In the last year or two, however, I have experienced a “double blessing” of incorporating family time more with ministry time. I call it a double blessing because I have the opportunity to work in ministry while teaching my kids about serving God and his people. Therefore, ministry is no longer something that “daddy does” but it becomes something “we do!”

2. Schedule church ministry activities early in the family calendar and family events in your personal church calendar.

Giving credit where credit is due, I must credit Dr. Deron Biles, professor of Pastoral Ministries and Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for this helpful tip. As pastors, we schedule and block out time for important ministry activities such as sermon prep, meetings, and visitation.

Why not block out and schedule something just as important – such as family time in our personal calendars?

I have noticed that whatever is not scheduled, tends to get eaten up by other activities.

Make sure family events are not eaten up by church activities. When individual ministry work is necessary, (such as sermon, counseling sessions, or meetings) then articulate and schedule them early with your family as well.

3. Go beyond preaching to your family in the corporate worship setting. Make them insiders to your scripture insights or sermon topic.

I must confess…I am a preacher’s kid (only some of the stereotypes are true, by the way). Before entering the preaching ministry for myself, one of my most cherished times with my dad is when we discussed what he was working on that week. The conversation easily turned from a sermon topic to a conversation between two believers sharing their experiences of walking with the Lord and the precious gems found in God’s Word.

This is a habit that we have continued throughout the years. After every occurrence, both of us walk away with hearts that are burning and faces that are radiant. The interesting thing about these conversations is that my dad is no longer “Rev. Berry” as we talk. He is my fellow brother in Christ.

What a practical glimpse into how we will relate to each other in heaven! I would give a thousand trips to Disney World for these moments and I desire for my daughters to enjoy the same experience in conversation with me.

Everyone wants to be an insider to some good news.

Make the members of your family insiders to what God is showing you.

Brian C. Berry

Brian is the Outreach Pastor at Eagle Mountain Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. He and his wife, Stephanie, are blessed with two young daughters. Brian is passionate about learning and communicating the Word of God so that it may be easily understood. He will complete his Masters of Divinity in the Fall of 2019 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a concentration in New Testament studies.