I never fully realized how much of a struggle it would be to balance family and work life. I thought being a Youth Pastor meant my family would somehow be integrated into the work I do. This is true sometimes; however, my kids are young and require a good deal of attention. We do not have family nearby for frequent help. Every time I leave for a mission trip or youth event, I get separation anxiety more than my kids do. More than one Sunday I have felt the tension of greeting a new person at the door while simultaneously yelling at my kids to put the fire extinguisher down! My time and attention is split which is hard for my personality that feels the need to be fully present in whatever situation I am in. My prayer life consists of me asking God for wisdom in how to balance family and ministry life. God showed up in a conversation with a student I have been mentoring.

Page and I have been spending Sunday mornings walking to get breakfast before church. I love our time together and I often experience God speaking to me through her. Page is constantly dealing with complicated layers of a broken family. When Page and I were going for a walk one morning she was processing with me all the brokenness in her family. I advised her that just because she comes from brokenness doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be for her future family someday. She then said, “You and your husband are pretty much the only good examples I have of a healthy relationship. You both are just such good friends and loving parents to your kids. I hope to have this someday.”  I was sad that she didn’t have more positive examples in her life of what a healthy family looks like. I was also a bit surprised that she thought so highly of my marriage and family. My eyes filled up with tears the more I reflected on her words. She doesn’t realize how often I feel like I am not doing enough for my family or for the teenagers at church.  Does she know how much I feel like I fail at being a good mom or a good wife sometimes? Reminding her we are not perfect, I also thanked her for these words of inspiration. This conversation with Page made me realize that one of the best ways I can minister to teenagers is simply by loving my family with the love of Christ. Young people are always watching, taking mental notes, and learning form what we do. They need positive examples of healthy families and relationships in the midst of all the brokenness.  I have forgotten how powerful it can be to simply be an example of hope and goodness through our own healthy relationships.

Since Page said this to me, at the last youth event I noticed myself in a posture of peace instead of a posture of tension. Our youth group had a beach day, and my husband brought along my own kids as well. Normally, I would feel a strong obligation to spend every moment with the teenagers at this type of event. However, I took time on beach day to simply play with my kids and be with my husband. I remembered that being present with my family is a great way for teens to see God’s love in action. I finally felt peace in this moment of balance between youth ministry and family life.  

Samantha Tidball
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