I love my family and I do everything possible to make sure that they know that they are my number one priority. However, it isn’t always easy. Often times I feel caught in the middle between family and ministry.
There is a pull to spend all my focus and all my time on my ministry but if I do that I will lose my family. One of my core values is that I refuse to sacrifice my family on the alter of ministry. I will not let that happen. I know I cannot focus exclusively on my ministry.
There is a pull in the opposite direction to spend all my time and focus on my family. However, if I do that I will struggle to live out my calling to lead others into a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.
There is a lot of tension between my family and my ministry. One thing I understand completely: I am called to lead a local congregation but I’m commanded to lead my family. The tension comes from my desire to do both equally well without sacrificing .
I’m sure you feel this tension as well. Our default reaction is to work feverishly in order to release or erase tension from our lives. I spent many years trying to resolve this type of tension yet I found myself super busy with little to show for my effort. I was meeting the unique needs of each part of my life poorly.
A few years ago I was challenged to manage the tension rather than resolve it. This mindset has made all the difference for us.
The tension between family and ministry or family and work will always, always, always be there. You can’t get around it. So you must learn how to work within the tension and allow both areas to co-exists and even strengthen one another.
Over the years, my wife and I have learned to consistently practiced 5 habits that help us manage the tension between family and ministry.
5 Ways We Manage the Tension
Communication is the foundation of every good relationship and it is essential for managing the tensions in your life. Specifically we seek to communicate the expectations we have for one another and what we need from each other in any given situation. For example, Sandy will tell me that she needs me to be home on Thursday night of next week so that she can be at a ladies event. I’ll then move my schedule- maybe I’ll schedule a meeting over coffee that morning or during lunch so that I am available when she needs me to be. Sandy knows that on Saturday nights I spend a few hours in preparation for Sunday. She understands this need and works her Saturday family plans around this. Bonus: If you add Flexibility to Communication, everybody wins.
Sandy and I regularly talk about what is on our calendar. At least twice a week we connect with the upcoming calendar (usually we talk about the next 2 weeks). This helps us be intentional about our schedules and it helps us avoid scheduling conflicts. Before I plan anything big on my ministry calendar, I run it by Sandy. I’m not looking for permission but I want to include her in on any scheduling issues to make sure that she is available, aware, and a part of the conversation. This one thing has made a huge difference in our relationship.
3) Date Night
The ideal for us is to have a date night once a week. Having an infant definitely throws a wrench in the gears of that ideal. However, we have found that the real power behind having a regular date night lies with the mindset. Dating your spouse is very much a state of mind. While we can’t go out each week, we can make spending quality time with one another a reality. The couch in our living room can transform into an IMAX movie experience when we make time to watch a movie together. Our couch can also change into a quiet coffee shop as we sit and talk about how our day went and what are our future dreams and plans are. Dates don’t always have to take place “offsite” so make time today for your next date night.
4) Family Night
Right now, Tuesday night is Felker Family Fun Night. I put a hedge around Tuesday nights because I know that we are going out as a family. We typically load the kids up and head out to dinner. One of our favorite restaurants runs a family special on Tuesdays- 2 kids eat free with 1 adult purchase. (How cool is that!?!?!) After dinner we typically enjoy an evening activity. We walk around the mall, we visit the free zoo (pet store), we visit the free amusement park (the playground at church), play at the free waterpark (splash pad)- Are you picking up on a theme here? Family night is my favorite night of the week! Look around your town and see what kind of deals are in your area. Pick a night of the week and protect it from all other events. You will love it and your family will thank you.
5) Do ministry as a family
This will look differently for everyone but we decided years ago to make sure to do ministry together. When someone needs a meal delivered, we load up the car and deliver it as a family. Sometimes we invite a few families over to our home for dinner and fellowship. My hope is that over time my kids will be able to join us in ministry as well. Sandy truly is my ministry partner. I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination.
My prayer for you is that you will learn to manage the tensions in your life. When you do, you will find freedom and life. Use your creativity and imagination to work within the tension rather than expending your time and energy trying to resolve a problem that won’t go away.
Question: How do you manage the tensions between Family and Work? (Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comment section)