Part 2: Situations, Seasons and Accountability
In Part 1, I discussed two of the five categories that I think of when answering young ministers about how to balance their family and ministry. This part discusses the rest of those five principles that, while not hard and fast rules, have been helpful for my family and ministry.
3. Unique Situations
Beyond our ministry capacities each one of us face varying circumstances that we have to deal with.
For example, I get a lot of requests to travel and speak at various events. I have never done the math, but I probably have to decline 65%-75% of the invitations I get. I don’t like doing this, but I have a young family that needs me at home.
Other men are in a situation where they can travel more freely than I can. There’s no sense wishing it were different than it is because it isn’t. In fact, I don’t think of this as a weakness, but a strength.
I choose to live by the principle of happy wife, happy life. I like that my wife wants me home. It means she loves me. I want to nurture that. I don’t want to stoke my wife’s frustrations and have her be unhappy in 20 years. I want her to be thrilled that I’m her husband. I want her and my kids to know that I choose them over tons of ministry experiences that I could have said yes to.
Other people have disabled family members, sick children, or crises at their church that will require adjustments that other folks don’t have to make. God requires you to be faithful to deal with all the unique situations he has placed in your lap, not pine for someone else’s situation.
4. Seasons of Life
Another issue effecting your balance between ministry and home is the unique season in life you’re confronting. A while back I was having a phone conversation with another minister who is about 30 years older than I am. I was talking with him on the phone in my living room and he heard my kids playing in the background, and asked how old they were. I told him they were 8, 5, and 3. He began to talk about the time in his life when his kids were that old and said that he felt as though he never got any work done. At his current stage in life he is able to be far more productive because the demands of a young family do not weigh on his schedule.
All of us will face the ebb and flow of the cycles of family demands. I am in the stage right now of young kids that require a lot of time and attention. One day they will grow up, and move out and I expect to have more freedom to do ministry. After that, if the Lord gives me years, age will doubtless take its toll and I will struggle with the trials of decreased health and productivity will take another dip.
All of us need to realize that the phase of life we’re in right now will likely not be the phase we’re in ten years from now. We need to be sensitive to that as we think through our ministry productivity.
There are countless other issues that may impinge on you as you try to balance the call to flourish in your life and ministry. There is no way all of them could be recounted in any series of blog posts. There is also no way for you to account for all the factors as you try to weigh this in your own life. You need help.
In my own life I have always relied on others to help me know how I’m doing in this area. My family has always been blessed to have people we trust helping us think these matters through. It’s helpful to have brothers and sisters in Christ serving as “neutral third parties” assisting in seeing when I need to be spending more time with my family or when ministry demands my attention.
In fact, I think this issue of accountability is the secret weapon to this entire issue. I admit confusion when it comes to understanding the details of how to balance family and ministry in every situation. If you’re honest, you don’t have this figured out either. If you will find people who love you and will be honest with you, and if you will be committed to heeding their counsel I promise you this issue will be easier.
At the end of the day there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers to this complex issue. Plenty of people have been trying to figure out how to do it well long before any of us were on the scene and people will still be trying to figure it out after we are dead and gone. We will experience seasons of success and failure as we work these issues out. I think these principles, however, can give us some guardrails and set us up for success.