Developing balance in ministry planting a church has been one of the toughest things we’ve had to tackle yet. I use “we” because this is something that affects the whole family and the church. I’ve seen guys who use their family as an excuse to be lazy in ministry. I’ve also seen guys who use the church as their escape so they can be away from their family. Both are unhealthy and both are wrong. So, how do you stay focused on loving your family well and keep a good balance of ministry. Here are 11 suggestions.

1. Put the cell phone down during meal times.

I have been notoriously bad for checking the cell phone during dinner. I’m texting, checking facebook, sports scores, or twittering. What that says to my family when I’m at the table is they are not as important as what’s on my phone. Thankfully, my wife told me honestly the way that made her feel, and so it’s now a rule at the table to put it down.

2. Get up earlier.

The biggest issue when it comes to balance is time. There’s never enough time in the day. The truth is we often waste more time watching TV, looking at youtube, or being on facebook. Recently, me and Daniel have been getting up early and working out in his garage. I have time to work out before the kids get up and time to tackle work tasks.

3. Keep a disciplined schedule as best as possible.

In ministry but especially church planting, it’s really tough to have the same schedule each week or each day. Some weeks, I’m scheduling tons of meetings and appointments. Other weeks, I’m sitting in an office drafting bylaws or working spreadsheets. If you can set up some sort of routine, even if it’s week by week, it will help you get tasks done that are needed. For instance, early on, I was often finishing my sermon up Saturday afternoon or evening. Now, to coordinate with community group leaders and whoever is leading worship, I try to get that done around Wednesday or Thursday.

4. When kids go to bed, talk to your wife.

When the kids go to bed, it feels like freedom. Lindsay and I put on our favorite TV show, or she’ll work out, or I’ll work on some work related tasks. Take that time and spend it talking to your wife even if it’s just 20 minutes. But, take the time to ask her about her day, what her biggest challenges were, or what the most exciting thing about her day was. Truly listen to her by responding. Don’t just say, “Ok” after every statement. Put some thought into it!

5. Schedule regular dates with your wife.

With two kids now going on three, it’s increasingly harder and more complex to plan dates with Lindsay. We have to be really intentional to make sure we plan those dates and find babysitters. It’s important, and if you don’t carve time out of your busy schedules, it’ll never happen.

6. Schedule regular dates with your kids individually.

I’ve written about this particular one at length here and going on daddy daughter dates. In fact, today, we’ll be headed over to the coffee shop on our typical Friday morning. My daughter has been looking forward to this for a while now. It’s a precious thing that time will eventually take away from you. Don’t waste the time!

7. Come home and play with your kids.

Sometimes, I come home emotionally drained from a rough day in ministry. Don’t let the problems of the day affect your kids. They don’t understand what you’ve gone through all day. Go home and love on them. Play with them. Make sure they realize that you’re as excited as they are that you’re home. Recently, Trey has been saying, “Dadda at wuh?” to Lindsay as he looks out the window. That little guy is waiting on me to come home. I don’t want to disappoint him when I get home.

8. Get off the cell phone before you enter the door.

My car is often my mobile office and great for phone calls. However, I am a pastor which also means a good talker. So, when I get home, the conversation sometimes feels like it has barely begun. I try to wait until the call is done before I enter the house. But, again, this is one I’m working on. I want to make sure that when I’m home, I’m home.

9. Take care of your body physically.

As I said above, working out physically is something that I’ve just recently put into my daily routine. It’s given me more energy, and I’ve felt better to work more focused. Many guys put this one on the back burner, but it only makes the above problems worse. When you eat bad and don’t do anything physically, your energy level goes down. You don’t sleep as well, and the stress of your job doesn’t help things like blood pressure and heart rates. Eat good and work out. Your family will benefit from it indirectly possibly even more than you will.

10. Give your wife a free night or afternoon.

This one I have not done as good as a job with but one I’m working on. Lindsay will often be exhausted especially if she didn’t get much sleep the night before dealing with the kids. Whenever I can take the kids out for an evening playing at Chickfila’s playplace, she has that time for whatever she needs to do. Or to just take some time to rest. Give your wife the rest she needs.

11. Don’t be on social media 24/7.

Similar to the smartphone one, set limits for yourself when it comes to when you’ll get on facebook, twitter, or instagram. Check all your accounts in spurts, but  make sure they’re times when you’re not spending quality time with your kids. Your family will thank you for it. Again, who’s more important? Your twitter followers or those closest to you? Make them a priority.