If you’re a parent or spouse in ministry you have three full-time jobs: to love your spouse and raise your children, to push your ministry forward, and to care for and serve the families within your ministry. Your plate is full; mine, too.
If you’re anything like me, when a ball drops, it’s typically of the personal nature. My mind rationalizes it saying: “My kids and husband can wait. My ministry can’t!” Over time, my family starts to feel second-rate. Why wouldn’t they? I’ve been treating them as such. In a knee-jerk reaction, I swing the opposite direction and smother my kids and husband with affection, while my ministry limps along. Soon after, the ministry demands my attention, and I jump back on the merry-go-round and do it all again.
A few years back I decided I was dizzy. I was tired of the endless cycle. I lived every day feeling as if I was letting someone down. I couldn’t take the spinning, so I jumped off the ride. My husband and I sat down and came up with a plan. We started by asking ourselves these three questions:
What is important to our kids?
You don’t have to be at everything. However, there are some key items or events that matter most to your kids. Ask what’s important to them. My daughter dances competitively. It’s important for me to be in attendance when she competes. She doesn’t care if I’m at the pool parties or end-of-year celebrations, but she most certainly wants me there to calm her nerves before she takes the stage or encourage her just after a performance. My son doesn’t care if I’m at his AAU basketball games, but his high school games…I better be sitting in the stands cheering on the Warriors. It’s impossible to be everywhere all the time, but with a little clarity and some intentionality, we can be present when it matters most.
What is non-negotiable for our family?
I’m not a good cook and we’ve never been the kind of family to prioritize dinner at 6 p.m. We’re all going in different directions, and it never seems to work. Sunday afternoons though…those are for our family. We eat out after church, we head to the lake, sometimes we go for a walk on the greenway with grandparents. We mark it off on the calendar and prioritize it. To keep my marriage healthy, my husband and I take a 45-minute walk every day. Rain, snow, or sunshine at 9 p.m. every night, you’ll see us strolling around our neighborhood debriefing our day. We’ve found a rhythm that works for our family, and we make an effort to protect it.
What is essential in our ministry?
The calling God has placed on our lives is a big deal, but not every detail of every event or initiative is “the most important thing.” There are certain aspects, however, that are essential. I must connect weekly with those God has called me to lead. I must cast vision, brainstorm solutions, and stay relevant. How do I keep these things from taking over my life? I start by identifying the essentials. Then I determine how much time I should dedicate to completing each one with excellence. Finally, I schedule them and commit to protecting those allotted timeframes. If the essentials are on my calendar, they won’t be neglected and they won’t bleed over into my family time.
Once we peeled back the layers of our endless to-do list, we began to see the underlying fundamentals. You don’t have to do everything or be everywhere. Never in my life will I attend a PTA meeting, nor will you see me schlepping my kids from door to door for a fundraiser. I’m not going to watch every athletic practice or be present at every curriculum night. I don’t have time for those things. I do MAKE time for what’s important to my kids and my husband. I’m in the front row of every dance competition. I help my teens with their homework. I take time to shop at TJMaxx with my son. (His favorite pastime right now.) I braid my daughter’s hair when she asks. I use drive time to ask questions and learn more about my teens. I date my husband. I watch The Voice with my family every Monday and Tuesday night. This is what’s important to them, so I MAKE it important to me.
I’m not a perfect parent or wife. I question myself every day. Do I give them enough attention? Do I spend enough time with them individually? Do they know I value them?
I’ve found that when I discover what’s important to each of them and make that a priority, it relieves the pressure to be present at everything all the time. It also relays that I love them enough to know them. When I effectively schedule my ministry priorities, I am both protecting my ministry as well as my family. I challenge you to peel back the layers of your to-do list, find the fundamentals, and make those a priority.