Family Matters

This week we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, which is a holiday that involves spending lots of time with family, eating enough turkey to put us into a mini coma, and watching the Detroit Lions lose at football. It doesn’t have the commercial appeal of Christmas or even Halloween. There’s no candy or gifts handed out. It’s just a time to pause and be thankful for what we have around us. Something we don’t do near enough of.

The most valuable thing we have around us is our family. It’s our most important ministry.

I think we would all agree, but for whatever reason it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of this.

Far too many pastors have lost their families in the name of ministry.

Don’t make this mistake. Take the steps necessary to make sure your family never feels like they’re competing with the church.

I’m a young father, and I’m sure many of you have far more knowledge on this subject than me, but I’d love to share with you a few things I’ve tried to do to make sure I’m appreciating my family.

  1. Limit the time I spend at work. I could easily work 60 hours a week. There’s always things that need to be done. I choose not to. I work around 45 hours a week. What doesn’t get done this week will be waiting on me next week. I’m gone one evening a week for student ministry and on rare occasions I’ll lead an evening small group. The rest of my nights are spent at home with my family. When my kids grow up, I’m sure I’ll work more, but for right now being at home is more important than anything I could be doing away from it.
  2. Be smart with money. I do my best to live on a budget and avoid going into debt. This means I live in a smaller house and don’t buy new cars. My 1999 Toyota 4Runner currently gets me to where I need to go. Saying no to a few wants here and there has allowed my wife to work part-time for most of our marriage and is now allowing her to be a stay at home mom. That means more to me than any purchase I could make.
  3. Prioritize my marriage. I’ve tried my best to have a monthly date night, although it hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like. Babysitters are sometimes hard to come by. The past four years we’ve taken a mini vacation by ourselves. We’ve been to Las Vegas, Cancun, and New York City. Each year we also make sure to be a part of at least one couples small group at our church.
  4. Create Special Moments. Thanksgiving for us can be hectic as we travel to spend time with different sides of the family throughout the weekend. So, I started a tradition of staying at a large resort hotel on Thanksgiving night with just my wife and girls. It’s a special moment for just us. We also try to take big vacations. We’ve been to Disney World three times in the past five years, and although my kids may not always remember it, my wife and I will.

In no way am I trying to say I’m a perfect husband or father. Please don’t think that. I don’t have it all figured out, and there are times my family would probably like to replace me. But I’d like to think I’ve made some wise decisions along the way, and hopefully some of them will help you as well.

If your family was rating you as a father or mother, what do you think they would say? Are there areas you need to work on? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget while you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How to Make the Most of Your Time

Without doing the calculations or using Google, I want you to guess how many minutes make up one week. I’ll give you just a few more moments. Some of you are refusing to answer, and some of you have already looked ahead. Shame on you both.

For those of you who played along, how many of you guessed 10,080 minutes?

That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? So, why is it that we feel so strapped for time?

Why is it our spouse and kids are always saying we don’t spend enough time with them?

Why is it we’re always scrambling on the weekend to get our work done?

Why is it that there always seems to be these elite few that are capable of getting done two to three times as much as the average person?

Because most of us don’t have a time problem, we have a time management problem.

And once we learn how to manage our time, our families will be happier, we’ll feel less stress, and we’ll be more productive.

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Schedule the Important. My pastor always says this, “You can tell what a person values by looking at their calendar and their checkbook.” All of us will say our marriage is one of the most important things in our life, but how often do you and your spouse go on a date? We’ll say we want our kids to love Jesus, but how often do we sit down with them to read the Bible and pray? The disconnect between what we say is important and how we actually live our lives causes the frustration we feel. If it’s important to you, it better be on your schedule.
  2. Learn to Say No. If you’re going to be able to schedule the important, you’re going to have to say no to a lot of other things, which is hard for pastors who are people pleasers. Just keep in mind when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else. If you’re spending five nights a week at the church, that’s five nights a week you aren’t home with your family. If you have to make every hospital visitation, you’re probably going to end up missing some of your kids’ ball games. Many pastors have lost their families because they said yes to the demands of the church, which in turn meant saying no to their family.
  3. Give Yourself Deadlines. Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate. If the sermon is supposed to be done by Thursday, don’t wait till Thursday to start working on it. “But you don’t understand I keep getting interrupted and things happen,” see number 2 above. If you’re supposed to work till 5pm each day, don’t be getting home at 7pm. Form some deadlines, and stick to them.
  4. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate. The three suggestions above get so much easier if you learn to delegate. Write down the three or four most important things you do, and then delegate the rest. I believe it was John Maxwell who said, “If someone can do it 80% as good as you, let them do it.” If you’re mowing the church lawn, stop it! If you’re doing the church maintenance, stop it! If you’re doing all the visitation, stop it! Delegate those tasks out. Let someone else get the blessing.

I’m convinced that time management is one of the biggest differences between average leaders and great leaders. If you can learn how to do this well, you will see a huge difference in your church, but more importantly in your home.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your time management skills? Have you mastered this skill, or do you find yourself feeling frustrated? Leave a comment and let me know. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Two Secrets of a Healthy Ministry

I’m probably the last person who needs to be giving health advice. It’s currently 10am, and I’ve skipped breakfast and opted for a glass of Mountain Dew served in a mason jar. It’s not exactly the breakfast of champions but more like the official breakfast of Nascar fans and rednecks. Git-R-Done!

Although my personal health may be in question, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a healthy church team for going on seven years now.

We’re far from perfecting this, but we’ve learned a couple of things that have been key to our success: the importance of healthy expectations and periodic check ups.

  1. Healthy Expectations
  • Stop Comparing. I am a comparison junkie, and it’s not healthy. The problem is we always compare up. We always compare ourselves to those who are doing better than us. And for me, it’s not just better. I want to compare against the best of the best. So, if my church isn’t growing as fast the Top 100, then I’m failing. If we don’t have at least 100% of our church involved in groups, I’m a loser because apparently it’s possible. I’m not satisfied with just being in the NBA, I have to be better than Michael Jordan. I realize how silly that sounds, and I’ll promise to do better if you’ll promise to do the same.
  • Lower Expectations. I just finished reading “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done” by Jon Acuff. It’s a book all about reaching your goals. One of his main points is to cut your goal in half or double the time you plan on accomplishing it in. For example, if you want 50% of your church involved in groups this fall, Acuff would say, cut it to 25% this fall or 50% by next spring. His reasoning is that most of us set unrealistic expectations and quit once we don’t meet them. By cutting the goal in half or doubling the time, you’re more likely to accomplish the goal, and more likely to continue with it. It makes a lot of sense.
  1. Periodic Check-Ups
  • On Yourself. Your main concern and first priority has to be your own health. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else. Make sure you’re spending enough time with God and your family. Make sure you’re getting enough rest. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to see a Christian counselor. It could be the best decision for you.
  • On Your Team. This could be paid staff or key volunteers. You should be meeting with them on a regular basis, not just to talk about the ministry but also to check on how they’re doing personally. How’s their marriage? Are there any family issues they’re dealing with? When’s the last time they took a vacation? Do they still enjoy what they do? If not, they may be dealing with burnout.
  • On Your Congregation. You’re going to want you team to be healthy so they can help you check up on your congregation. What are some of the needs in the church? Who’s in the hospital or funeral home? Who’s on the brink of a divorce? Who needs to be encouraged? Who’s drinking too much Tennessee moonshine?

Hopefully this post gave you a laugh or two and taught you a few things about church health. I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.