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When You're Pulled in 1,000 Directions

Dick Gruber

The pastor doesn't think you work hard enough. Your spouse wants to see you twice this month. The nursery coordinator quit today. And this is Monday! What might happen the rest of the week?

On days like this, screaming may help, and staying away from sharp objects is a practical consideration. You begin to wonder where family life ends and ministry begins. How can anyone possibly juggle the pressures of family, children's church, Sunday school, recruiting, staff relationships, and still remain Christian?

Relax. There is hope. God didn't call you into children's ministry only to allow you to perish in the busywork of it. Here's what works for me when I feel 1,000 needs attempting to pull my life apart.

Prioritize. A friend of mine once bragged that he kept a 15-minute slot open in his daily schedule for his wife. My reaction to that is twofold. First, thank God he set some time aside for his wife. Second, does she mean so little to him that her only contact is determined by a Day-Timer?

Relationships are the foundation of any ministry. Relationship with God is first. Following close behind is your relationship with your family. And finally is your relationship with the church. In my priority list, my wife, Darlene, and our children have top place over any church person or activity. Your ministry in the church and community will only be as strong as your personal relationship with God and your family.

Once you've established the top priorities, prioritize the church-related programs, meetings, writing assignments, and expectations that crowd your daily schedule.

Play. Take advantage of your day off and vacation time. In the first several years of my ministry, I worked eight days a week. My doctor once predicted I'd be a "fat, dead pastor at the age of 40." His prescription for me? Take off on my day off. "If you have to, get out of town," he said. So I did.

Even Jesus, the busiest itinerant preacher of his time, spent time at rest. He went to quiet places away from the crowd for refreshing. Jesus needed a Sabbath and so do you. Approach your day off and vacation time as God-ordained rest periods. Rest in the Lord and you'll be more productive for the church and the kingdom of God.

Pray. So often the confusion felt when you're pulled 1,000 different directions can be turned to peace through prayer. Spend time in prayer. God wants to do the work of the ministry through you. As you pray, you'll receive a freshness of spirit and vision. And remember, without a vision, the children's worker perishes. Daily communication with God will increase your ability to handle the stress of daily administration.

Proceed. I was ready to quit one day. Workers had dropped out, recruiting was a BIG problem, and Sunday was coming. I called my friend Bob Hahn, who was a Christian education pastor in another part of the country. After sharing my tale of woe and expecting Bob to sympathize, I was surprised by his response.

Bob reprimanded me, "Dick, you need to remember that Jesus cared about his children before you were their children's pastor. He will care about them long after you're gone."

Proceed bearing this truth in mind: The ministry belongs to Jesus. He said, "On this rock I will build my church." He didn't say, "On this rock you will build my church." Spending every waking hour doing ministry is not what Jesus has called you to do. He wants you to participate with him to reach the children he loves more than you can even imagine.

Probe. Probe or search for another view. Call a friend. Bob helped me gain a proper perspective when my vision was vanishing. Find a positive Christian friend who's not afraid to tell you the truth. Counsel, fellowship, and party with this person. Pray for and with this person.

My first counselor and friend is my wife. In addition to talking to her, I try ministerial friends like Bob. We all need a good friend who'll help us see problems from another angle.

What do you do when you're pulled in 1,000 different directions? Become Gak in the hands of God. Allow God to mold you through these times, getting you in shape for ministry. Prioritize, play, pray, proceed, and probe.

The dream is possible! You can be successful in ministry, know your spouse and children, and stay true to the calling of God.


Dick Gruber is a children's pastor, husband, and father of four in Minnesota. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

6 Great Getaways For Children's Ministers

Several years ago I took my family on a real vacation. We flew to Florida and enjoyed a week of fun and camping at a major theme park and its adjoining campground. One day while sitting at our picnic table, my then 15-year-old daughter said, "Thanks, Dad. This is the first time I can remember that we went on a vacation that wasn't tied to your ministering someplace."

This scene could happen to any of us. But it doesn't have to. Try these fun ideas to focus on your family.

  1. No Purchase Necessary -- Go to a shopping mall or department store and try on all the clothes you wish you could afford. Take your time. Enjoy the experience of wearing expensive outfits only senior pastors can afford. Important note: Don't buy a thing!
  2. Tennis Anyone? -- Find an outdoor sport you can enjoy with your family. We go sledding in the winter because it takes no athletic ability to ride a sled down a snowy hillside. In the summer, we play tennis. The racquets and balls don't cost much, outdoor courts have no rental fee, and even my 5-year-old likes to hit the ball around.
  3. Zoomania -- Buy a pass to a zoo. We've found this to be an excellent investment. The zoo is a great place to learn about God; we never tire of seeing the incredible variety of animals God has created. And in two or three visits, the cost of the pass is recovered.
  4. A Room With a View -- Save money and spend one or two nights in a hotel or motel in a nearby community. I always look for a clean place with a scenic view and an indoor swimming pool. My kids love this.
  5. Star Light, Star Bright -- Take your family out on a warm night and look at stars. Make sure it isn't cloudy and that you're well out of the city lights when stargazing. This doesn't cost a thing and can be a lot of fun. Try to find constellations, shooting stars, and satellites.
  6. Picnic -- There are wonderful city and state parks in or near every community. Grab your Frisbee, a blanket, a six-pack of soft drinks, and a bucket of chicken and drive to the park. Playground equipment, climbing trees, and good restrooms are prerequisites for a good time.
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