This is my son Joshua. We named him and his twin brother Caleb after the biblical characters in Numbers 13. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that God would be with His people and to help them do what God had called them to do (i.e. the conquer the Promised Land). My guys were born six weeks premature and were in a NICU unit for an extended period of time. We would visit them every day and there were times when I was greatly concerned for them. In the biblical account “they were like grasshoppers among giants.” And in many ways my sons have been playing “catch up” their whole lives. Â They were small in their early grades, small on their Upward teams, but in spite of everything they are doing great. We want them to be leaders who even though the world around them does not follow God, they will be bold and stand for what is right.
As a pastor, I sometimes find myself out of balance. God in His grace and mercy, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that I have a family, a wife, children. Â Balancing individual time with each child, time with my wife, outings as a family, even dinner in the evenings becomes a challenge. Calendars have to be mapped out, vacations planned, ball games juggled, or just time guarded to be at home. When dads get out of balance and don’t listen to God, it is their families that pay the price. I recognize that our (Kimberly and myself) desire for our children to be spiritual giants is in jeopardy when I fail to balance my time.
Every night as I turn off the light after our devotions JoshuaÂ asks, “dad, can I have a hug?” By the time I cross the room, he is already half asleep. I give him the “anaconda” hug, and he yells, and laughs, and then I give him a “real hug” and tell him that I love him. Â It is moments like these that I don’t want to miss.
Joshua is self-conscious about his teeth so when I take his picture he smirks (he really needs braces, but we are waiting until his “baby teeth” are all out), he is beginning to show interest in girls (that’s a whole other blog topic), and yells for his brothers to get out of the bathroom while he takes a bath. Joshua and Caleb will be ten years old in a few months. Kimberly and I are half-way to the point where we will send them off to college and they will be “grown.” There is still so much that I want to do with them, to teach them, and to experience with them, but time just keeps spinning by. I know that one night he will stop asking for hugs, and my little boy will be a young man.
Those that are called to ministry, don’t neglect your family while you are doing “ministry.” It is a challenge, and sometimes it seems like the entire world is working to keep you from being with them. You can’t control other people’s marriages and their need for counseling, you can’t control when others die and their family’s will be in of their pastors; you simply can’t control life. But knowing that your family is your top priority other than your relationship with God, consider the following:
4 Ways to Keep Your Family in Balance With Ministry
1. Build in Margin. Life in ministry is similar to being a police person. There are moments when there is nothing going on, and then in a split second “all hell breaks loose.” There are weeks when you are so busy that you feel like you are drowning in a tsunami, and there are weeks when you feel like you are only in a small tropical storm.
In those slow times take the extra time and spend it with your family. Have some “penciled in” activities thought out that you can do if time opens up (go to the park, fix something, clean out the garage, etc.) Â There is a saying, “if you don’t control your calendar, then it will control you.” The better you are able to manage your schedule, the better able you will can minister to others (including your family).
Also, when you plan out your week, don’t allow your calendar to get maxed out, build in margin. Don’t worry, life will happen and will fill in these gaps. But instead of being overwhelmed with so much to do, you have given yourself some extra time for these “opportunities.”
2. Take Them With You Whenever You Can. If it is possible and appropriate take your children (or at least one) with you while you do ministry. You know that there are times when this won’t be appropriate, or they will be a distraction from you being able to do your job — but there are times when they can come along, and may even help. This will allow them to see what you do, how you help people, build the church and the kingdom, and to know how they can pray for you the next time you have to leave them to do ministry.
It is now a family tradition that once one of children turns five they are then allowed to go with me on Sunday morning to church. We leave about 7:00am, stop by and get a quick breakfast and then we “set up” whatever needs to be set up for church. We have a set pattern and the children are able to predict their week. It is a special time that I have individually with my children. Isaac just turned five and is now going with me on Sundays.
3. Say “no.”Â Your family already knows how many times you say “yes.” But one way of showing how important they are is for you to say “no.” There are only so many hours in the day, and so many things that can be done in a given day, and so many relationships that one person can maintain. You have to say “no” but who you say it to makes all the difference in the emotional development of your children and the strength of your marriage.
If you say “yes” to a ministry concern, you are saying “no” to your family. If you say “no” to your family too much, then problems will arise. Â We are talking about balance, you have to say “yes” and “no” to both ministry and family, just make sure you are being guided by the Holy Spirit and the wisdom he gives through His Word. Also, your “yes” should mean “yes.” If you tell your children that you will be there, will do an activity,etc., then don’t make it a pattern of really meaning “no” because you have allowed a ministry opportunity to steal that time away.
4. Quantity verses Quality. I believe this to be an urban legend. Families need both extended time with you and your “being there” emotionally during that time. The most meaningful conversations that have occurred between my children and myself were in the moments where we were doing something mundane (sweeping out the garage, walking to a friend’s house, or just sitting under an umbrella on a beach).
Children can’t be rushed or scheduled to have thoughtful conversations, it just comes to their mind and you talk about it. Â You can’t block out time for that, it just happens as life moves from one context to the next. Your presence in the home can’t be replaced.