A mother’s quest to find the perfect balance between work and home life. After serving as a children’s minister at First United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs for 10 years, Pastor Sylvia Ragsdale and her husband Andy relocated to East Orlando in 2001. It was then that Sylvia took on the role of children’s pastor […]
A mother’s quest to find the perfect balance between work and home life.
After serving as a children’s minister at First United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs for 10 years, Pastor Sylvia Ragsdale and her husband Andy relocated to East Orlando in 2001. It was then that Sylvia took on the role of children’s pastor at Pine Castle United Methodist Church.
Over the next 12 years, she became the church’s generational pastor and oversaw the children, youth and college ministries. In 2006, Sylvia and Andy welcomed daughter Veronica into the family. Given their non-traditional work hours – Andy was a golf course superintendent – the couple did their best to coordinate their full time jobs with raising their daughter. Though they always made time for Veronica, they feared it was not at the level of quality they wanted for her.
“I felt I was giving the best of me to everyone else’s kids but not to my own child,” Sylvia says. “My daughter was getting the tired, worn-out mommy, and that wasn’t how I wanted to live my life or have her grow up.”
Making a Thoughtful Solution
Sylvia and Andy felt strongly that the solution to this problem was homeschooling. “I had always thought about homeschooling Veronica but working full time made that nearly impossible.”
In the summer of 2013, Sylvia, with the support of her husband and loved ones, made the decision to step down from her job after 22 years in full-time ministry. The adjustment had its ups and downs.
“I loved having more quality time with my daughter and the freedom to explore other churches in the community, including Discovery Church,” she says. “However, I deeply missed children’s ministry because it’s never been just a job to me, it’s a passion. I’m passionate about helping kids learn about God and helping them grow in their relationship with him.”
A New Beginning
Shortly after becoming members of Discovery Church, Sylvia was offered a part-time pastor position. “It’s been a great fit,” she says. “I work a couple of days each week and still have the time needed to homeschool Veronica.”
Going back to work did present some obstacles. “Finding balance was always a struggle for me,” Sylvia says. “I had everything laid out and as excited as I was to be working again, it threw quite a monkey wrench into my plan.” Sylvia again found herself feeling worn out but that would soon change.
A few months into working at Discovery Church, Sylvia was included in training from 3DM, a ministry that Discovery was partnering with in an effort to become a discipling community. One topic the ministry covered truly spoke to Sylvia – an idea called “Family on a Mission.”
Sylvia explains that this topic revolves around creating a family mission statement similar to what one would see in the corporate world. She says everything a family does flows through that mission statement, which represents the family’s core values. “The ministry has taught us various techniques to help us bring things into balance, like saying yes to one thing may mean needing to say no to another,” she says. “It was exactly what I was looking for because I wanted to find a better balance between work and home life but didn’t feel I had the tools to facilitate that.”
One specific tool that has greatly benefited the Ragsdales is a family calendar. “I had always used calendars for work,” Sylvia says. “For ministry, I would plan everything a year out and set a budget around that. I had never applied this idea to my family. There would be times where as a family we’d say, ‘we’d love to go on a vacation’ but work or other commitments would pop up and our trips didn’t always end up happening.”
Since most of their family lives in Tarpon Springs, the Ragsdales would often miss birthday parties and other important family functions. “Since identifying family as our core value, we now make sure to plan family get-togethers and trips, putting those on the calendar first,” Sylvia says. “It helps remind us that as busy as we may get, those events are top priority, and we need to work everything else around them rather than vice versa.”
Sylvia says the person who has benefited most from the family’s refocus is Veronica. “I had always been a very task oriented person, not stopping until the job was done,” she says. “Since going through this program, I’ve learned to take time to rest my body and soul. It has allowed for Veronica and I to have deeper conversations. Our relationship is stronger.”
Kimber Liu, the LoveWorks pastor at Discovery Church, adds, “Creating predictable life rhythms for ourselves and our families is key. It allows for flexibility and gives a sense of peace and security.”
Though Sylvia has seen great changes in her work and home life, she is quick to point out that her quest to find the right balance is still a work in progress. Sylvia advises others seeking to find balance in their own lives to “grab those special moments whenever you can. I recognize that I am very fortunate to be able to work part time rather than full time. Not everyone has that luxury, but they can still make time for their top priorities. It may seem impossible but it’s not and the benefits are so rewarding.”