My husband is currently a bi-vocational church planter. This means that he has a full time job while planting and pastoring a new church plant. In the past the balance of family and ministry has always been tricky, but now more than ever.
Balancing the demands of ministry on the family can feel overwhelming and complicated. I have had two sides drilled into my head. As a result two personal rant/pep talks have emerged:
Talk number one: Tish, put family first! If your family is in disrepair your ministry is valueless. You cannot minister to others with full gospel impact unless you are making your marriage and your home priority over all.
Talk number two: Tish get a grip and stop being selfish! A ministry calling demands sacrifice. Your time is not your own and your home is not your own. Pour yourself out generously for the sake of the gospel and for the health of Christ’s church.
How do we reconcile these two? Both have important truth. I have found myself a swinging pendulum. As soon as I sense an extreme on either side, I pull myself aside and give myself a good talking to. Before I know it I’m flying to the other side of the pendulum with wind-blown hair and stinging eyes.
The truth is, I want to be a faithful steward of my family and ministry. I want to have a generous heart. I don’t want to be stingy and lose sight that life and breath are for Christ alone, and that he has called me. I also don’t want to forget my marriage or children, sacrificing intimacy and health that Christ calls me to uphold.
Here are some practical tips that I have found helpful as I strive to find a working symmetry in family and ministry life:
Seek wisdom for right now. There is no single answer for every season of life. As wedding anniversaries and baby milestones come and go, as elementary school turns into high school and as church life zooms by we must always be inquiring, “God, what does faithfulness look like right now?” The balance requires a constant re-evaluation of life, relationships, and time management.
Check in with each other. Balance requires mutual and honest communication between you and your spouse. My husband and I take stock of our schedules and life often. It’s a “learn as you go” process. Allow room for trial and error. Take life to the white board and ask: How are we doing? What adjustments need to be made? Is there an area out of balance? What are possible solutions?
Have the long game in mind. There are times when the call of ministry on your family life requires a majority of resources and energy. And the balance is regained by the forthcoming season. It is important that you and your spouse look ahead, and understand what life requires of you not only now but also next. It is helpful as you brace yourself for a sprint, when you know that you don’t have to maintain that pace forever. Sometimes the strength to persevere can come from being able to look ahead to when there is rest, even a temporary rest. Danger comes when it feels like you must maintain the pace of a sprint for the length of a marathon. The miles stretch out endlessly before you, and you are tempted to despair. Many times simple planning has helped me avoid this burn out.
Keep a regular pulse on the well-being of your husband. As women we have an intuition for the needs of our husband. As we work hard to take our neediness to Christ we will have a clear heart and mind for discernment. The wife has a powerful ministry to her husband as she guards his heart and mind from dangerous exhaustion, which the enemy seeks to exploit. It is important to seek God on behalf of your man, so that you might see when he is dangerously out of balance and close to despair himself. Sometimes a prayerful voice of truth can avert the threat.
Care for your husband. When you see that your husband’s well-being is compromised Christ will give you supernatural strength to encourage him and minister to him. Your husband is a man with a specific combination of gifting, personality, and calling. When you tune yourself to your husband’s need you are fulfilling a vital part of your calling. Allow the Holy Spirit to energize you with wise words of encouragement or caution. Allow him to give you practical creativity in daily life that meets your husband’s tired heart and spirit. As a wife we rise up in the champion strength of Christ so that we can guard the very health of his soul. Do not be deceived into thinking that being a help-mate is small or insignificant. Watch as your diligence in this pushes back the evil one and makes way for gospel glory through your marriage and ministry. This is one of our very powerful acts of service and worship unto God.
When I am weak and forget, when I grow tired and am tempted to despair, when I sin in ungratefulness and selfishness, it is the grace of Christ that comes through for me, my family, and our calling. Ministry life will call you out into the realm where you do not have the faith and strength to match the task. This is God’s faithfulness to keep us with him, needing him, looking to him. When you want to quit, drag your tired spirit before Jesus. When your heart wants to blame, pout, and give up, go to Christ.
And when you fail, return to the cross and boast in Christ. Because it is he who picks up our broken-down jars of clay and pours out his glory for his name-sake.