1) Ask yourself questions. Are they cheering for me when I head out the door? Or are they upset that I’m leaving again? Have they been given notice about my calendar? Do they understand my calling? Do they believe in it? Do they pray for me when I am on tough assignments? These answers reveal the health of my relationships.
2) Do not silo your family from your ministry. In the 60s and 70s, a lot of us grew up with “The church comes first.” The order was: God, church, biological family. If your biological family is part of the church (which is true for many of us) then they can be part of the first family after God. One of my mentors, Evertt Huffard, told me, “There are times when you have to ask your family to make sacrifices for the sake of the church. There are also times when you have to ask the church to make sacrifices for the sake of your family.” I really appreciated this balance. I do hear some guys going to the extreme the other way. They say “I need to put my family ahead of the church.” Well, I hear that, but in what other career do you even get that choice? Doctors, truck drivers, shift workers don’t always have that option. Do you want to hear from people in your church, “We had to put our family ahead of the church so that’s why we signed up for soccer on Sunday mornings for the next 12 weeks.” There is a true overlap between our family and God and church. Our lives should reflect that overlap with some times of spiritual priority distinction.
3) Do not silo your ministry from family. There are things you need to keep in confidence. But, for the most part, involve your family in your ministry whenever possible. This breaks down a lot of the church/family false dichotomy. Our wives and kids are involved with stuff they would never be involved with if we were doctors or lawyer. For the most part, that’s a good thing.
4) Help your constituencies understand each other. Inform folks about the other things you are involved with, not to brag, but so they know the different things God has called you to. I think that helps with their patience and understanding toward you. I have the privilege of serving on 3 boards now besides my home church. Frankly, it’s probably too many. But when I share the diversity of my ministry with those I minister to, it helps them see the call of God is wide and deep. It also provides a good model for how God truly can equip anyone to serve in many wonderful and different ways.
5) Have some non-movable stuff for you and your family. Nightly dinner. Friday nights. Lunch after church on Sunday. Have some times and places that, except for emergencies, you don’t let folks invade. This tells your family they are a priority. Does your family question how much time you are on your phone? This is an indicator that they are not feeling like a priority.
6) Make faith real at home. What does conflict resolution look like in your home? Does it sound like it comes from a modern psychology textbook or does it sound like “ya know Jesus asks us to ….” Problem solution that begins with “Jesus” as the first word tangibly roots your faith in your family. Pray at meals. Share thanksgiving and hardships at meals. Read from the Bible at your table. Maintain a consistent time of intimacy with your spouse. Sexual intimacy is a good barometer of the spiritual health of your marriage.
7) Truly take a day off. Beware of what one mentor called the “bastardized” Sabbath (time off work but cut-off from the Father). I struggle with this as it takes so much faith. Yet, I need a great one of these at least once a month. This means no phone calls and little or no texting. These great days off are “simple” in structure. Some times of prayer throughout the day paired with something outdoors is a great day off. A recent one for me was walking 18 holes of golf. Between shots I really tried to take in the sunshine and the presence of God in every vista. I focused on the calmness of God and prayed as he brought names and situations before me. I did not check out from life but engaged it with the strength of perspective that only God can provide.