Working in ministry is a unique and calling. Often it doesn’t include a 9:00-5:00 schedule that leaves plenty of time for hobbies and family. How do you balance a ministry schedule with being a spouse and parent?
Eric Miller, director of ministry operations for CE National, talks with Andrew and Ashton Wood about how their family works full time in ministry and balances home life. Andrew is a campus pastor with Renew Church in Mississauga, Ontario.

Andrew and Ashton Wood – Ashton grew up in Winona Lake, IN seeing her parents heavily involved in church ministry. Andrew and Ashton met at Momentum Youth Conference, married, and have been ministering at Renew Church in Mississauga, Ontario for the last 4 years where Andrew is a campus pastor.

What does balance in ministry look like for you?

Andrew shares that Ashton reminds him that their family is a priority and he makes adjustments to the way he does things every couple months or so. While it’s easy to get back into patterns of being too busy with ministry work, they’ve been growing in this area and he has begun to take more initiative and start to see some potential conflict now before it happens.
Eric mentions that he too had to shift his priorities being a youth pastor for 10 years and then getting married. The way he spends his time is different now.
Ashton adds that transitioning from no children to having a child has been a change in mindset as her and Andrew tend to be very relational and did everything together before. She shares that something they established early on was setting aside at least one night a week just for them where they weren’t doing things with other people.

How has having a child influenced your ministry activities?

Ashton shares that having a child has made it easier to relate to others in the same stage of life as well as given them some credibility. Before kids, life was a little bit easier in that it was more flexible.
Andrew explains that before having their daughter, they were mostly connected with other young adults who were more transient whereas now, they are connected more with married couples and families who have put down some roots and have the potential to be in the area for a longer amount of time.
Eric adds that having kids often makes strangers more open to talking and so this season of life can be “leveraged” to perhaps engage in more spiritual conversation with others.

What’s your goal for balance in raising kids in a ministry family?

Andrew talks about the importance of establishing rhythms and references the book, The Restless Elimination of Hurry. He has the tendency to be spontaneous and say yes to everything, but pursuing a consistent pattern and establishing weekly rhythms while still being flexible has been healthier for them.
Ashton explains how being intentional about setting time aside for them as a couple and as a family and taking a certain day of the week for Sabbath has been important for them. She saw her parents model that well growing up in a ministry family.

What does setting time aside for your family look like?

Andrew says he’s at his best when he’s protecting time with his family by turning off his phone one day a week for Sabbath—for them it’s on a Monday. As a youth pastor, Andrew used to think being accessible at all times was important, however he realized he was not at his best and his family didn’t get the best of him. Living that way means everybody will take everything they possibly can which is not a healthy way to live.
He also mentions he’s scheduled at least a ½ day to help with chores around the house which is different from a Sabbath.
Ashton add that on their Monday off it would be easy to sit around and chill, however planning in advance what they are doing to do with that day has been helpful. Maybe it’s resting, or maybe it’s doing something together around the house or going and doing something as a family (which they’ve had to be creative with due to closures from covid19).  Starting the week off well sets a tone for the rest of the week.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles to overcome in your family related to ministry?

Andrew talks about technology and how taking in content can be justified as helpful for ministry, however too much can be bad because he’s not actually doing anything with the content he’s learning.
He also adds that unresolved conflict between them as a couple can be a tension point.
Ashton talks about how her personality is more adventurous and wanting to get out and do things whereas Andrew sometimes needs to chill after his day of interacting with people. This process of deciding how to spend their free time on what recharges them both can be a lot of give and take.
She also mentions that while a they are very relational, which can be a big strength, giving to others can also be taxing and draining as well.

What are some obstacles to overcome in your ministry?

Andrew explains how not holding to a schedule and his lack of preparedness or organization or discipline has been the biggest obstacle to his ministry.
There’s so many good things you can do, so pre-determining your priorities and sticking to them is vital. Saying yes to things that are not a priority sometimes comes from a place of insecurity and pride or even a savior complex—that you can really help or fix something when that’s actually God’s job.

What is some advice you wish you had known before you got married related to ministry?

Ashton says she’s learned that really you’ll never master this and that finding perfect balance is impossible as they are always learning and changing with each new season of life.
Andrew talks about how he had read a lot of books on marriage before getting married, but didn’t have the practical experience or the self-discipline to execute what he believed was good. As a youth pastor, before getting married, people would praise the external things he did, but there wasn’t anyone to keep him accountable in self-discipline—even basic things like eating well, exercise, and sleep. These habits have a huge impact emotionally and also on his ministry as a whole.
That’s something he likes to talk about with young guys—the importance of making and keeping a schedule and doing what you say you’re going to do.

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