Shepherd’s Corner: The Balance of Family and Ministry with Youth Pastor Donnie Briggs

Youth Pastor, Elder Donnie Briggs

Los Angeles, CA – West Angeles COGIC 

When I first began working as a Youth Pastor about 6 years ago, I was consumed with being busy – and I loved it (at least I thought I did). During that period I was wearing many hats, Youth Pastor/Director, Administrative Assistant with our Young Adult Ministry, and Vice-President of our ministry’s Higher Learning Dept; enrolled in a 12-month cohort for Urban Youth Workers, and a part-time student completing my degree in Youth Ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Life was good, I was the man, and I had it all under control – until I didn’t.

In my mind I felt what I was doing was important to the Kingdom, but in reality I was burning myself out, I was neglecting my wife (even when I was home I was still at work), and I was not having full impact, or a lasting reach in the Youth Ministry. It seemed that everything that my hands touched was only growing half-way, if it was growing at all. The desire to want to do it all, and be all things to all men was causing me to fail horribly, and it was not pleasing to God. In fact, the desire to please the church, to get the pat on the back, to shake the important hands, to be at all of the conferences and meetings was leading me down a drain, and I was close to suffering from vanity.

For many Pastors, Ministers, Group Leaders, etc. – especially young one – there is increased pressure to feel that one has to literally do, and take on everything thrown their way. But if I could encourage anyone through this writing, I would say, ask God to show you which assignment(s) He has for you, and then only stick to that/those assignments. I had to literally learn to say “No” when people attempted to put me over their pet ministry projects; when someone came with a great idea, I would affirm their idea, then I would motivate them to start that particular ministry venture themselves (after-all, the vision did come to them and not to me). I would offer my expertise, advice, or whatever they needed to guide them in the proper direction, but I’d refuse to undertake any extra assignment not given by God.

If you have a family, prioritize them, never put the church before them. Share with your congregation, ministry team, department, and even Department Heads what your standard of ministry is (God, Family, and Church); ensure they will respect your boundaries and never ask you to compromise and step outside of that area.

Here’s what I do to ensure that family and ministry are well balanced: I write down all of the things I need to do for the week, and I list them by its priority. Next to each task I create a check box, and as I complete a task, I check it off. When the end of the day comes I am going home to my wife and our dog. Whatever I have not completed by the end of the day, I know there is grace to complete it the next day.

If scripture asks, “What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul…” then I ask, what benefit is there in being Employee of the Year while disappointing your family because you are not as committed to them as you are to the ministry? What do you do when your ministry is thriving, but your wife is filing for divorce, your children resent you, and your dog has run away? (Selah)
Here is my model/mantra for those who minister: Show me a person who puts family last, who doesn’t spend quality time with family, who misses special events and occasions for the sake of the church, and one who has not created boundaries, and I will show you a person with a dying and non-thriving church/ministry. On the flip-side, show me a person who puts family first, who refuses to miss out on special events and occasions, and has created healthy boundaries for the sake of the family, and I will show you a man with a healthy and thriving church/ministry.

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