Editor’s Note: This is the last in our short series “Married/Single in Youth Ministry.”
Kris is the Director of Ministries with Young People at Collierville United Methodist Church, outside Memphis, Tenn., and Bob is a Senior Quality Analyst with FedEx Supply Chain Services. They have three children—Melissa (married to Josh), Christopher (married to Ashley), and Laura (married to Daniel)—and NO grandchildren…just a grand-dog named Annie. They have been married for 33 years.
How long have you been in ministry? (i.e. Were you in ministry when you met?)
Kris: Four years in Jupiter, Fla.; 24 years in Collierville. No, I was not in ministry when we met.
How many churches/positions have you served in?
Kris: Just the two churches in Florida and Tennessee.
How do you keep your personal life and your church life separate? If you’ve changed your strategy over the course of your ministry, what prompted the separation and how were you able to separate the two lives or at least give them both equal attention?
Bob: It is hard to separate where ministry ends and work begins. My involvement has changed: as our children got older, the more involved I became.
Kris: It really is part of our lives and it has changed as our children have grown up. When the children were younger, I arranged my work hours around their schedules as much as possible. I was active in their schools, sports, etc. Now that our children are married, we try to spend uninterrupted time with them.
Is your personal life really ever your own? Or do you always feel the need to be “on guard?” In what way?
Kris: My personal life is not ever really my own; I have to guard my personal time, even more so for couple time or family time. I feel like we have to be out of town to really be away from everyone.
Bob: Any Christian does need to be “on guard” because everyone, especially young ones, is watching, or you never know when they are watching, whether it be your own kids or anyone else’s.
How does your spouse support you and your ministry? Is he or she your confidant and confessor, or do you have someone else for that role, making a clear divide between church and marriage?
Kris: I feel that Bob really supports me in ministry. I let him have his space when he needs it, and I let him choose what he wants to be involved in. He can be my confidant and confessor, but he does not like to be, so I do have others who I turn to for support. I have other women in ministry who I have been friends with for years, and I also have youth ministry friends who I can go to regarding ministry issues and personal issues.
Bob: Yes, I try to support my wife in her ministry and at times can be her confessor. But other times are tough when the stress of my job spills over to our home life. I have obtained my bus driver’s license to assist in her ministry, and I’ve been a Sunday school teacher for the youth when it has been hard to find volunteers.
Does your spouse play a role in your ministry (i.e. small group leader, trip chaperone, snack supper provider, etc.)?
Bob teaches Disciple on Sunday mornings and is a trip chaperone typically once a year, and he drives the bus for us when needed.
Why does your spouse play the role that he or she does? (i.e. Why does he choose to be a small group leader or why does she choose not to play a role at all?)
Kris: He chooses to do those, but at times I have to call in a favor.
Bob: Happy wife, happy life.
How, as the spouse of the youth minister, have you handled the rest of the church that may assume that youth minister and spouse are a two-for-one package?
Bob: In the beginning it seemed that I was part of the “unpaid staff” but as time went on I tried to view it as being a volunteer for the church like so many of the other people who help out in an “official volunteer” capacity.
Emergencies aside, how do you both handle times when church comes before spouse and/or family? For instance, your kid’s first soccer game vs. a youth trip? Or anniversary dinner vs. church council meeting?
Kris: We try to schedule things out if possible, but there are some conflicts that cannot be avoided. We find other times to celebrate, but there are some family times that we will not give in on and that need to be protected.
Bob: Most of the time we divided up the responsibilities so Kris could take care of the church responsibility. However, we have been blessed that there weren’t that many conflicts to deal with and that the church was flexible enough to deal with those conflicts when they happened.
Youth ministers travel several times during the year. How do you coordinate your calendars and manage that time apart?
Kris: I try to take opportunities at other times to make up for the time I am out of town either before or after a trip. I have a master church schedule that is planned a year in advance. We go over our schedules each week, check in to see who is going to be home what dates. When our kids were younger I tried to plan special days for each of them, letting them choose what to do. My longevity in youth ministry has made certain aspects easier, like having a large pool of volunteers or all ages and from various ministries in the church, so I have a solid group of people I can rely on when home and church schedules just won’t mesh.
Bob: I enjoy my quiet time. Kris does an excellent job in scheduling our calendars, and I’m sure it was tough to do.
Youth ministers (and all of those in ministry roles) are expected to maintain a certain level of belief without doubt, to love their jobs and the kids to whom they minister, and to be happy that they are able to have a job in which all you do is worship God and love kids. How do you and your spouse deal with that “happiness” myth and with the reality that sometimes this is not the job you thought you wanted? That you’re never able to truly leave work at work?
Kris: Over the years this myth has gotten easier to deal with. I do love the kids I work with; however, it is typically other ministry issues that bust the myth. There are times you just have to get away from it. I try to have time away out of town with Bob or friends at least once a year. I know there is only so much Bob wants to hear about it: I can vent to him but only so much.
Bob: I am just glad Kris is doing something she enjoys. Yes, there are some youth who give her problems, and it’s more disappointment than anything, but sometimes it is the church politics that make it difficult to work there.
You lose your Sunday which, for someone in a typical Monday through Friday job, is a family day. How do you compensate for that?
I take another day off during the week. When the kids were younger I arranged to work around their hours to be there for their activities; instead of taking another day off, I took “x” number of hours off each day.
If you have children, how has having kids changed your ministry priorities? How has the addition of children affected your work/life balance?
Children made a huge difference and I arranged my schedule around their needs. I regret there are times I was so busy I missed certain things. The time flies by so take the time to be with your family. Schedule a date night and family time and stand by those times. We are a strong family unit because we did not have family close by, so we relied on each other, and we were intentional about protecting our time together.
What other tips would you pass on to fellow youth ministers on balancing your marriage and your ministry?
Kris: I can’t stress it enough: You need to have designated couple time and family time. You can’t just think that time will happen; you have to be intentional about making it happen. If not, a month will go by and you will realize that you have not had much time together.
Bob: Just like marriage is a two way street, each spouse has to support the other even if they don’t totally agree with the other’s direction. And on the flip side, you have to listen to your spouse when he or she might suggest that you are going in the wrong direction.
Check out the links below for the other articles in our short series “Married/Single in Youth Ministry.”
Married in Youth Ministry: The Newlyweds
Single in Youth Ministry: Her View
Married in Youth Ministry: With a Minivan and a Mortgage
Single in Youth Ministry: His View
Married in Youth Ministry: The Veterans
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.