Faithfully fulfilling our responsibilities to both our callings and our home life is challenging! For example, take my last week!
I had just returned from a ministry trip and had many items to do before Christmas – preparing for InterVarsity’s Urbana missions conference, asking donors for year-end financial gifts, responding to 2019 ministry invitations, and more. On top of that, I was trying to meet a deadline for writing this blog on an evangelist’s family or home life! What irony!
First, I learned my father’s 3-month infusion treatments were not effectively combatting his skin cancer, and we needed to have a consultation with his oncologist for future plans. Two days later, our 26-year-old daughter was taken to the emergency room with tonsils which would not stop bleeding. Eventually she was sent home, but an emergency tonsillectomy was scheduled for tomorrow. On top of that was normal preparations for family Christmas celebrations! How do I do care for my family and friends while being an evangelist?
This question affects all of us regardless of our marital status or life stage. Single (or single again) evangelists face challenges balancing ministry with relationships outside of ministry (friends, roommates, extended family, dating relationships, church community). Married evangelists navigate being attentive to the unique needs of their spouses and loving them sacrificially. Parents have the demands of their children, while empty nesters are caring for their elderly parents, and being involved in the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. ALL of us face challenges “at home”, whatever that looks like!
Being an evangelist adds some unique dimensions to this challenge. Many evangelists travel quite a bit, which disrupts life “at home.” We have diverse callings as evangelists – preaching, music, extreme sports, festivals, film making, writing, and more! Because we are passionate about our unique callings, all of us can easily become overly-consumed with the mission and our next project (sermon, concert, festival, film), and in the process neglect those people closest to us “at home.”
So how do evangelists fulfill their callings and their lives “at home?” Having traveled and spoken now over 40 years, I would do several things differently and earlier, but here are some principles which guide me today, gleaned from successes and failures!
Protect Scheduled Family Time: As invitations came early in our ministry, I would first ask, “How can I fit this in?” Then, a trusted advisor challenged me to think, “Should I do this? Is it most strategic? Could someone else do this?” Because of my tendency to over-commit, we established with my wife a maximum number of days per month that was healthy for me to be gone, for both our family and my own personal and spiritual health. When that maximum was filled and a new opportunity arose, it was easier to say, “I’m sorry but my schedule is full.” I would not accept an invitation without first getting input from my wife and my advisor to help me consider strategic and family implications. Key family dates (birthdays, kids’ events, etc.) went on the calendar first, and we protected days off and vacations.
The family always bears some cost in ministry, but it should not always bear the cost! Sometimes I said no to ministry for the family, and other times I accepted a ministry invitation knowing it wasn’t ideal for the family.
As I like to say, “We have a tidal ministry. While the tide goes out (travel), the tide also much come in, or else I get beach erosion!”
Communicate When Apart: Texting my wife during the day or calling/texting her or the kids when I’m traveling let them know I’m thinking of them. And bringing home a small gift to her or our children always meant something!
Anticipate Re-entry: I once heard that the Space Shuttle had a 2° window for re-entering the atmosphere, or else it would either bounce off or burn up! I’ve often felt that way re-entering home! Either returning from a day at the office or from traveling, temporarily putting aside my own desire for sharing an exciting ministry story was essential so I could first ask and listen to what was going on with them “at home.” While I might be returning from a spiritual high (or even a disappointment), my wife was tired from having two pre-school children by herself! She needed me to love her and our children sacrificially “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25).
Be Fully Present at Home: As evangelists full of passion and vision, it’s easy to be physically at home but mentally thinking of the next opportunity. When we are at work, and especially traveling, others often attend to our needs (meals, travel, assisting on projects, etc.). At home, our focus should be on them, not us! We evangelists can get accustomed to expecting others to serve us (which isn’t healthy at home or at work!). Unplug… it’s healthy!
Make Memories & Play: Do fun activities together and make special memories. A picnic in the park, playing your favorite sport, hiking, and playing family games are just a few examples of making lasting memories. A friend once told me, “Recreation is anything that ‘competes’ with your work and wins!” I forget about my work!
Expose them to Ministry: Serve together with friends and family. Take them on ministry trips when possible. Our adult son still remembers being a 10-year-old playing bass as I led worship with college students at a camp, and hearing them passionately sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Encourage Their Own Unique Development in their Faith and Callings: Those closest to us “at home” have their own gifts, passions, faith development, and callings. They aren’t there to fulfill our callings, but we can be there to help them discover theirs!
It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding! It’s not “either ministry or home” but rather it’s both/and! Let’s commit to faithfully fulfill our callings both as evangelists and “at home” with family and friends.
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