thESourcerecently heard of a scenario that took place at a conference for Church professionals. When the presenter asked how many in the room believed that church work was unhealthy for families, disturbingly–and perhaps predictably–every hand in the room was raised. 

The perception that church work can disrupt families is rather common, but it isn’t necessarily true. There are many church professionals that work long hours, bring the job home, make time to volunteer for activities that aren’t in the job description, and still manage to maintain healthy family relationships. While it is true that a church worker’s hours aren’t 9 – 5, it is also true that church workers have the ability to make choices and set limits that lead to more time with the family.

Kathy Chapin is a Lutheran elementary educator who works with over 40 first – eighth graders as one of two teaching staff members for the school of Trinity Lutheran Church, Orchard Farm, Missouri. She and her husband Dave have created a system that affords Kathy the sometimes-long hours on the job without doing damage to their relationship. Their example can be a model for others serving in the Church.

Because, ultimately, ministry is a lifestyle, not just a profession. Ministry can and should happen not at the expense of the family, but with the family. Understanding this might just breathe new meaning into the concept of family time.

She Said . . .

Being half of staff of a thriving Lutheran grade school wasn’t enough. Having a multi-grade classroom of students in the first, second, third, and fourth grade wasn’t enough. Being a member of the choir, the spelling bee committee, and the Parent/Teacher league wasn’t enough. Being assistant director of the children’s Christmas program and spring drama production wasn’t enough. Coaching a grade school and high school volleyball team, a basketball team, and a track team wasn’t enough. I had to add teaching flute lessons and playing on a volleyball team at the local YMCA. Oh, and did I mention I have a husband? I’d be foolish if I didn’t admit to you (and myself) that my husband feels that he’s “last on the list” at times. Fortunately, there is hope.

Before we married, I wrote my husband, Dave, a letter describing my perspective of my role as a church worker. I tried to prepare him for the reality of how full my life would become. I relied upon

St. Paul’s words to the Romans to help convey the perspective, “…in view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as living sacrifices…this is your spiritual act of worship.” I told him that I embrace the fact that I am a teacher, that it is my state of being, a part of my identity, and that I live it out to its fullest in my everyday life and love it.

Although the letter helped, there was no way to fully prepare for the time commitments that physically draw me away from home and the duties of maintaining a home. I am blessed with a husband who made adjustments. He didn’t go to culinary school and become a chef, or sit at home cooking and cleaning so he could have a warm supper on the table when I arrived. He did something even better.  He got involved. Dave keeps score at basketball tournaments, line judges volleyball matches, worships at the children’s Christmas program, attends the school drama, and is involved with the ushers club at church. Dave is not a professional church worker and has his own work and social responsibilities. I respect that fact and try to support him as much he needs, too. Certainly, this comes with much prayer and compromise, communication and mutual respect.

Even with all the support Dave gives me by making time to attend my events, we still need alone time together. Dave helps me create balance by asking, “Five minutes?”  This simple phrase communicates so much.  It says, “I value you.  You are important to me, and I would like you to spend just five minutes with me.”  It is also a good reminder to me that the balance of down time with my spouse is necessary.  The five minutes willingly turns into ten or more and is the most precious, meaningful time of my day.

He Said . . .

I always knew that the stereotype of a school teacher’s day being done at 3:30 and home by 4:00 was not quite true, but I never realized how far from the truth that was until my wife, Kathy, started teaching.  Being half of the teaching staff in a Lutheran grade school that has around 40 students in eight grades keeps her busy well beyond the “typical” hours.  Then, in the fall she adds volleyball practice for her grade school and high school teams. In the winter it’s basketball practice, and…you get the picture.  Even her three months off during the summer aren’t really “off” with Vacation Bible School in June and volleyball camps throughout July and August.

I needed to find some way to spend some quality time with her that didn’t include just sleeping.  Although it doesn’t mean just us together, I try to get involved with her sports teams, whether it be keeping score, line judging for volleyball, or just cheering on her team from the stands, so that I get to share in her joy for teaching and molding young minds.

During Lutheran schools week, I have chaperoned the lock-in, been involved with weekend trips to campgrounds, and helped with school plays and programs. This allows me to get in time with Kathy, and it helps me see the difference she is making in the lives of children.

Things aren’t always rosy or perfect, and there are a lot of trips through fast food drive-thrus (I’m not the best cook in the world).  There are times when I want her to put down her grading in the evenings and spend a few minutes with me without any other distractions.  It sometimes seems like there aren’t as many of these times as I would like, but we manage to find our time together when we need it most.

Ultimately, I see how much she enjoys children in everything she does, so I figure the best way to get our time together is to help her in endeavors whether it is with hands-on support or moral support. That way, I get to be with Kathy, and I come to appreciate that her hours as a church worker are well spent on the children.

Kathy Chapin is a professional educator for Trinity Lutheran School in Orchard Farm, Missouri. Dave Chapin is a marketer for a St. Louis based company. Dave and Kathy have been married for 10 years.