Pastors' Forum



As a young pastor, I’m trying to learn how to get and keep my priorities straight. I’ve heard people say to put God first, family second, and church third. But how does that work out practically? What is it that pastors actually do to protect and to practice those priorities?


Rev. Dave Williams – Lansing, MI
This was precisely one of my biggest struggles in the early years of ministry. “Put God first, family second, church third,” seems to be a nice ideal unless you abuse it. What do I mean by abusing it? Let me give you an example. The first associate minister I ever had did not show up to church one Sunday. When I called to see if he was alright, he responded, “Yeah, I stayed home today to spend some time with my family; after all family is more important than church.” I fired him after a couple more incidents like this.

Can you imagine an employee at Ford Motor Company telling his boss, “I’m taking this week off to take my little ones to Disney World and spend time with my family…because, you know, family is more important than my job?”

I have even known some spouses of pastors who use this axiom to manipulate their partners into spending more time with them—even time that should be devoted to the church. They use guilt to get their partner to skip work because, after all, “family comes ahead of church.”

As a pastor, you are accountable to God for your time. Adam was expected to work. God provides the resources for your family through your work. If you don’t invest a proper amount of time both in prayer and at work, your family will ultimately suffer because of the lack of growth (spiritually, numerically, and financially) in your church.

Here’s what I decided in my early years.

First, I would worship and pray an hour or more every morning—my personal time with God—preferably two hours when I could.

Second, I would take every Monday off and do something with my family, as well as Friday evenings.

Third, I would work around 60 hours a week on church-related activities and try to be home the rest of the time.

Of course, there were times I needed to make adjustments without feeling guilty. If I had a funeral that added to my schedule, I’d try to make it up to my family later. One night I promised my wife a night alone with her, but a serious church emergency came up, so she understood and we had to reschedule. I’m thankful she didn’t say, “Church is supposed to come after family, so forget the person who’s dying and stay with me!”

The axiom is a good one when it’s not abused and when the whole family and team understand that from time-to-time, tweaks will be required. You have to make those adjustments without feeling a sense of guilt that someone or something is being cheated.

When you think about it, all three of these priorities (God, family, and church) work harmoniously together. If your family is happily involved in the church, following Christ’s mandates, there should be no tension over these “straight priorities.”

Pastor Beth Jones – Portage, MI
Great question! In real life, it’s a constant balancing act.

Putting God first is definitely the right priority – but it is not always easy because when you are preaching on a regular basis, it’s easy to let your quiet time turn into “get a message” time. When that “personal time” with God turns into “business time” with God, it’s time to refocus.

Putting family second is desperately needed, but the church will always vie for that spot. In the early days of our ministry, when our kids were young, the Lord gave me a word from Isaiah 40:11 that really helped me in my role as a wife/mom who was pioneering a church with my husband and sensing His call to write, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” That verse of Scripture was God’s way of taking the pressure off. “He gently leads those who are with young” – four young ones and a young church! The other thing that helped us was that we heard an older pastor say something like, “Your kids will be with you 20 years from now, so don’t invest more time into people who won’t be with you in 10 or 20 years than you do in your kids.” That hit us and we made a decision right then to put our marriage, our kids and their interests ahead of the church. That meant, we volunteered at preschool, we were at their sports practices, games and recitals and we stayed up late when they wanted to talk. It also meant we lived on very little sleep for several decades.

Putting the church third is the goal and even then, it still got an incredible amount of our attention, thought, and time. In the early days, my husband and I had to wear every hat, make every hospital visit, host every bridal shower, do every wedding, preach every sermon, teach every class, train every leader, etc. But as the church grew and we developed leaders, we were able to delegate many of those duties to lay leaders and staff.

In all honesty, there were seasons of our lives and ministry when the church slipped into the number 1 slot and seeking God was number 3. There were times when the kids were number 1 and the church was number 3. But, God is gracious and during those out-of-balance seasons, He helped us to recognize and realign our priorities.

Don’t beat yourself up when things get out of whack; just ask the Lord to help you make the necessary decision to keep Him first, your family second and church life third. He’ll remind you that “He gently leads those that are with young,” and He’ll show you what to do to get things realigned. God bless you and your family in this season of your life and ministry!

Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
The Pastor wears many hats—individual, husband, father, leader, teacher, preacher, caregiver, etc. In order to succeed in fulfilling the responsibilities that accompany each role, he must learn the art of establishing priorities and setting boundaries. If not, he’ll soon be overwhelmed by the responsibilities and find himself neglecting some, while catering to others.

When the apostles felt the pull of becoming consumed with the needs of the people, they established the pre-eminence of the Word and prayer when they declared in ACTS 6, “…it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Obviously, it’s not right to neglect our spouse or children either. The wise pastor will surround himself with competent people who understand the demands of ministry. He will make every effort to communicate effectively with his wife and children to be certain they are not being neglected. He will be certain to make regular deposits of love in both of these all important love banks.

A wife needs affection, conversation, intimacy, companionship, honesty, support, commitment, admiration and security on a regular basis. Vacations are important, but short-lived. The things we do daily are those that really matter. Children need us to be a part of their world. They need our attention and presence. My wife and I make it a point to attend our children’s sporting events and school activities. These years are soon gone and we can’t get them back once they are. I’ve even coached my son’s football and basketball teams. Looking back, I don’t know how I had the time to do so, but I’m so glad I did.

In short, to succeed, we must first admit that we’re not the “bionic man.” We can’t do it all by ourselves. Second, we need to learn what we can delegate and what needs our personal attention. Third, we must recognize our need to stay full of God and disciplined. Putting priorities on paper is easy, following through is the hard part.

Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI
Years ago, I read something extremely practical in the book, First Things First by Stephen Covey. He shared a classic example that I have used for years in equipping great leaders that want to move beyond just knowing their priorities and start living them! Imagine this with me:

A professor held up a large glass container and filled it to the brim with big rocks. Then he asked his class, “Is the container full?”  They all immediately said yes—but that was the wrong answer. He then took some smaller stones and poured them into the container, and they filled in around all the big rocks. “Now is the container full?” he asked. The class said, “yes, for sure it’s full now.” The professor said, “not yet.”

He then poured some sand in the glass container that sifted between the stones. Was it full yet? Nope. He was still able to add water to the container. He went on to explain that when you first put in the big rocks—the biggest priorities in your life—then you can fit so much more into your life and busy schedule. If the glass container was filled first with some water, then sand, then small rocks—there would be no room for the big rocks. This is how too many live their lives. Their day-to-day schedule is filled with small priorities and there is no more room for the things that really matter—the big rocks in life.

So what does all this mean? How do you practically protect and keep priorities?

  • Know your big rocks!
    Know your biggest priorities in life! For years I told my daughter she was a “big rock.” She knew exactly what I was talking about. When the phone would ring on my day off—the day I had dedicated to my family—I would tell Sarah, “I don’t know who it is, but whoever it is – you are more important! After all, you are a big rock!”
  • Write down the top five roles in your life.
    For example, I am a:  Child of God, Husband, Father, Pastor, and Friend. Now write down two specific actions you can take this month to be the best in each of those areas in your life. You of course could do this weekly too, but monthly is a great place to start.
  • Schedule those actions in your calendar.
    Schedule time in the secret place with the Father every day, a date with your spouse, a date with one of your children, coffee with a friend and time to plan out preaching series for the year. If priorities never make it to your daily schedule… then other things will be sure to suck up your time. This is practically putting the “big rocks” of your life first.

Taking these few practical steps have helped me to keep first things first. I pray these will help you as well. Your family deserves the best of you… not the leftovers.

Pastor Jim Dumont – Erie, PA
A minister’s number one priority is to spend enough time in the Word so that they are constantly preaching/teaching from their overflow. To fall into a habit of always gaining inspiration from others and not from one’s personal devotion time is a habit to be avoided.

A minister should discuss with his spouse that ministry is like any other profession in regard to it demanding a fair amount of time. This should be discussed and understood so that there are realistic expectations of what the ministry demands. However, a minister must insure that his family knows that they are valued above one’s ministry or church.

This may mean that the minister arises very early or stays awake later in order to spend quality devotional time. His family must never be made to feel as though ministry is a sacrifice. It is a privilege.

Again, one’s ministerial responsibilities should be treated with dignity and honor. People will respect a man who genuinely gives himself to time with God, time for his family and serves God through loving the people and preaching the truth in love.

Pastor Ricardo Johnson – Fairhope, AL
As Leaders we are always concerned about our churches and ministries that they would grow and reach people with the message of Jesus. That is our calling and we should do it well, but through this article I want to bring us into a better focus on taking care of first things first.

I have found that in trying to reach the world, one of the first things that gets neglected is our home-front. Leaders, your first congregation or audience is the people that live with you every day. You know; the people that eat with you, sleep with you, laugh with you, cry with you, see you in your pj’s, see you without a Bible in your hands, go on long drives with you, call you daddy, or call you honey; that is your first congregation. How are you doing with winning them to embrace the fullness and character of Christ? You can reach multiple millions with the message of Jesus, but if your home is a wreck I believe in the eyes of God you have truly missed the mark.

There are many articles that focus on the marriage aspect of making sure that your first congregation is spiritually healthy. That is of utmost importance and that should receive the utmost attention, so make sure you also understand that aspect and work to perfect it. I want to go in a different direction with this article and that’s the aspect of your children that God Almighty has entrusted to you. It’s a great responsibility that I count as an honor to currently be the father of four children. They truly are my first congregation and I love them very much. See, my wife and I are church planters here in LA, that’s Lower Alabama. We have only been up and running for 7 months but I started to notice something. In my great zeal to grow this church, I felt that something was missing. I would drive around town, meet new people, make more appointments, schedule outreaches to the community, write letters to people that have helped us, be in prayer and Bible study for long periods of time, be out long hours during the day, all in a drive to grow this congregation. I have a wife that backs me; she is 100% behind what I am doing and is the greatest helpmeet a man could ever have. The Lord started to show me what I was missing, and he told me in my heart in no uncertain terms that, “You need to make sure that your first congregation is healthy and strong, just as much as you go after your second congregation to build them up”. In other words, he was saying to me with the same tenacity that I go after the people in lower Alabama, I need to go after teaching and training up my first congregation, my children, the ones who live with me daily! They are at young ages where their thoughts about life are being formed and they need to see me as a father lead them spiritually in the home. Wow! When we have statistics like this from a survey of pastor’s children: Eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression ( then there is a problem.

In the word of God I began to see examples of fathers who were great spiritual leaders but had dropped the ball when it came to their first congregation. Eli in the book of I Samuel was a tragic example of this. He was the High Priest over Israel; the first to hold both judge and high priest positions at the same time. Eli was a very prominent man of God that people looked up to. We know that he was a great influence in Hannah’s life in prophesying that she would have the prophet Samuel, but Eli’s sons were a different story. In I Samuel 2:12 it says:  12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord. Also in I Samuel 2:22 it says: 22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Wow! What happened here? Even though Eli was a prominent man of God to the people in Israel, he neglected his first congregation, the ones who lived with him in his house. If we were to read further we would see his sons had a tragic end.

How about mighty King David? He had a few sons. One of his sons by the name of Absalom literally made David flee from the Palace, and would have killed him if he had gotten the chance. Another son by the name of Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar. We all know the story of David’s most famous son Solomon, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines and his worship of pagan gods. David was a mighty man of God, we don’t take that away from him, but he missed his first congregation and all the sons mentioned did not end well. He did not go after his children in nurturing and training them with the same fervor as he went after the Philistines! Really, I believe God wants us fathers to go after our children with great zeal and fervor, and take the time to impart to them what is really important. When you come to the end of your life, it will not be the buildings you built, how many sermons you preached, how much money you accumulated, or how many hours you worked for the Kingdom. It will be how I affected those closest to me, my immediate family. They will probably be the ones by your bedside when you pass into eternity!

Pastors and ministry leaders, I have begun along with pioneering a new church, to take on the passion and zeal to minister to my first congregation. I believe if I do that the second congregation will take care of itself. I have begun in the evenings before my children go to bed to read them a story from the word of God. My wife is not even there when I do this, men she is with the children all day long teaching them. This is my time as their father to impart to them Gods wisdom at a young age. I am learning to make it a creative time where they look forward to spending time with dad in the word. I also have them pray before I put them to bed. It’s funny to watch them pray and to hear how they pray, sometimes they milk it for all its worth because they want to stay up later. My oldest son goes with me Sunday in the mornings now to help with the setting up of our mobile church. My focus has shifted, and it is a whole spiritual and mental shift to my first congregation and I am excited about what the future holds! If you have children, fathers I am looking for you to join me. Help me start a first congregation revolution!

Pastor Rick Sharkey – Spokane, WA
When first starting in pastoral ministry, I ran my priority list pattern in my mind in a VERTICAL configuration:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Ministry act

I have grown/changed that pattern to a HORIZONTAL configuration to keep order and effectiveness. God is always first, but there are days when my life call has a demand on it that requires a focus or concentrated demand. For instance, a key family has a tragedy and needs support and attention. My family is graced to allow me to give more time to that family and get them back to wholeness.

Other times, my family (wife, kids) needs special attention to keep healthy. At other times, my church involvement requires concentrated attention and time. My personal time, family, and ministry are graced to allow me to focus on the needs God has called and equip me to effect. In other words, I have learned that focus and attention is always shifting and PRIORITY isn’t in a perfect select time, but wisely you put your gifts upon the assignment that has the greatest need at the time. We manage our lives with wisdom and the Holy Spirit from day to day and week to week.

Pastor Jerry Piker – Laurie, MO
As a pastor getting ready to finish up my third decade at the same church, I have this question posed to me often. I have always given the same advice to ministers:
God first, family second, and ministry third.

When Paul sent his letter to Timothy, he voiced the priority to him when he said in Chapter 3, verses 4 and 5 that a bishop (overseer) should “handle our own affairs well, including our children.” If I can’t do this, then how can I handle the church?

Our two daughters never knew we had any problems at church because we never talked about them at home. It wasn’t until my oldest daughter became our secretary that she found this out. Watch what you say around your children. They hear quite a deal better than we think they do.

There was a lot of sacrifice on my part to go to school functions and be active in my daughter’s lives. One thing I remember my wife and me saying was, “I will never lose my family because of the ministry.” Today, I have seven grandchildren and I attend every function I can. We once drove 1,200 miles to go to a grandson’s football game. Why, you ask? Because we are building a legacy with our children and grandchildren.

The foundation you build for your family will develop them into men and women of God who will be able to serve for more years than you have in you. Your number one ministry is your family. The example you give to your congregation when they see you putting your family first will pay off in the long run. I had one man tell me, “your relationship with your wife and family is what drew me to church.”

Don’t schedule around ministry; schedule around family. Sometimes you can’t help but go around ministry schedule, but make your family a priority. I try to put dates of ball games, recitals, awards banquets, etc., on my calendar first before any ministry things. Then when you must go take care of something in ministry, your family knows your priority is with and in them.

Also, learn to let others take some of the ministry load off of you. Even Moses learned this from his father-in-law.

Hope these things help.

Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA
I’ve always had the habit of studying and fellowshipping with The Lord early in the morning. My wife co-pastors with me, so we’ve endeavored over the years to not allow church problems to steal our peace at home. When our children were home, and even now when they and the grandchildren visit, we purpose to steer conversations away from anything negative about ministry. We’ve done our best to separate “on duty” office/ministry days from “off duty” personal/family days. We have been addicted to the ministry of the saints for 32 years and by honoring these principles we’ve instilled a love for God’s work in our children and now in our grandchildren!

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA
As a Pastor, having your priorities in order is of the utmost importance. Over the last 30 years of ministry I have seen many ministers lose their ministries for various reasons, and one of the common denominators among them all was allowing their priorities to get out of place. A minister must be purposeful in this area. Neglected priorities have a way of shifting, and before you know it, you can find yourself in some serious trouble. I will try to give you some practical application.

1) Your first priority is your personal relationship with God. You must keep yourself on fire! Have a plan for personal growth. Have a plan for personal refreshment. Have a plan for personal spiritual renewal. Never stop learning and growing. What books are you reading right now? What books do you plan to read this year? What conferences will you attend? What relationships are challenging you to grow and make adjustments? Who is speaking into your life? Leaders are learners so never stop learning. Be careful that your time in the Word isn’t just sermon preparation. Dr. Roy Hicks told me many years ago to “always preach from the overflow.”

2) Your next priority is your marriage. Esther and I have been married for 33 years. Always protect your marriage! I made up my mind a long time ago that the ministry would never be the “other woman” in my life. Your wife must never feel that the ministry is more important to you than she is. If she begins to feel that way she will tell you, but you have to be listening. Ministers who get in trouble act like the ministry is their relationship with God, but it isn’t. Your relationship with God and your ministry are two different things, don’t get them mixed up. Protect your marriage. In the church you must set the example of love and respect for your wife. Your staff and volunteers will follow your example.

3) Your next priority is your family, then the church. We have four grown sons. My sons knew that God came first in my life, then their mom, and then it was them. They knew the church came after. And the church knew this too. Never let your wife or children feel like the church or others are more important to you than they are. There was no way my sons were going to be “ministry orphans.” I would never let that happen. There is a lot of sacrifice required of us in the ministry, but our family is not one them. Be sure you take one full day off every week. Get away with your family a couple of times every year. We purposed to do this, and today the result is all four of our sons are in church and involved in ministry.

It is a lot of work to keep your priorities straight, and it is a lot of heartache if you don’t.

Pastor Jack Yurus – West Harrison, NY
A calendar helps. I knew an evangelist that put a red “W” on his calendar so he could track exactly how much time he was actually spending with his wife.

Uninterrupted family time has to be firmly planted on your calendar.

I decided that success in ministry at the expense of my family was not success at all. I did not want my children to count the days until they are out of my house so they didn’t have to go to church any more. I read a story once that made me make my family, especially my children, a priority. They asked the son of a pastor what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said a garbage man. They asked why. He said his friend’s dad (who was a garbage man) played with his friend. We ask our daughters how we were doing; if they felt pushed aside for ministry. Just asking that question made a big difference.

Do less. A stressed out person is hard to live with.

Take time to go to relationship classes with your spouse.

It is the tendency of fire to go out unless more logs are put in. Keep the fire burning in your relationship.

Make time to fellowship with Jesus. Not praying about sermons, situations, or people.

Rest, rest, rest.

Make time to do whatever it is that fills your tank.

Watch warning signs. I was the type of guy that after 18 holes of golf, I tried real hard to play another 18. After 36, I tried to play another 18. I should have realized that there was something wrong when I was playing golf and by the 11th hole, I was looking at my watch; I had things to do.

Quality time happens in quantity. In the day of electronics, it is not uncommon to see a family of 5 out to dinner and see people on an iPhone, iPad, or some other device. Set some boundaries.

Don’t ever tell your kids they should act or be a certain way because they are pastors kids. I told my daughters they should act a certain way because they are Christians.

My daughter is currently in Bible College. It is completely her choice. I believe the reason for that is that we taught her what God’s word said, let her make the choices at a young age, and then discussed the choices.

Have a mentor that asks the hard question and will give it to you straight. As I studied mentorship, I believe the mentee should seek out the mentor.

Just a few thoughts hope they helped.

Pastor Chris Pugh – Parkersburg, WV
This can be one of the biggest struggles in ministry. Keeping priorities straight is a necessity to be successful in ministry as well as avoiding burnout on other fronts of our lives. As believers first and ministers second, it goes without saying that we should do everything possible to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh and vibrant. I’ve found that as I stay focused on developing my relationship with Him, the rest of my priorities fall into line.

I remember reading a story in “Dear Abby” years ago. It was written by a young man who described his father’s “other woman.” She got all his time and attention, he made sure her needs were met and would run off at a moment’s notice whenever she needed him. As you may guess, he was a Pastor’s son who was describing his father’s devotion to his church. I read this story before I was even born again, but I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord, knowing someday I would Pastor, was placing something in me I would need years later.

As far as the family/church issue goes, I believe the answer can be summed up with one word—BALANCE. On the one hand we are to love our wives and families and keep them as a priority (which, of course, they are) but on the other hand we are to always “seek ye first the kingdom of God.” I don’t believe we can do one at the expense of the other. If I’m setting my family first, then I am possibly neglecting the ministry. If I set my ministry first, then I am possibly neglecting my family. As I said before, I have found that as I develop my relationship with the Lord, the rest just kind of takes care of itself. In other words, as I continue to grow spiritually and mature, I know when I’m getting things a little out of line.

My family knows I love them, but they also realize there are times when the things of the Kingdom necessarily come first. Also, my church knows I love them, but they realize that every husband and father needs time away with the family. I strive to keep these things in balance. I spend the time necessary taking care of the church as well as the time necessary to take care of my family. One thing I have discovered, as I do in fact do my best to seek the Kingdom, the time I spend with my family is truly rewarding and refreshing.

So, to sum up–constantly be growing and developing in your walk in the Lord and that will make finding the proper balance between ministry and family a lot easier and more rewarding.

Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
Sometimes a suggested list of priorities can be oversimplified; we understand that the Lord admonished us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Unfortunately, there have been so many that have neglected their families and themselves in serving the Lord and others to their own detriment. Here are some basic suggested guidelines that may be of some help to setting good priorities:

1) A personal prayer life is vital to being a good Christian, Father, Pastor, and filling all of the demands on your schedule.

2) A discipline of daily time in God’s Word is a must to succeed in any endeavor; Jesus said “I am the vine you are the branches, without me you can do nothing” (John 15).

3) A healthy marriage takes time, effort, prayer, date times and some times set aside for family time. (There is a direct correlation between your marriage, family and ministry).

4) Eventually you will discover what needs to be done on Saturdays for Sunday; Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. Also, you will find what (and whom) are drains to your time and energy. New pastors sometime spend most of their time and energy on people that will not be with the church in 2-3 years.

5) Find your best personal work/sleep/study habits and be careful to observe these to stay at your best.

6) Schedule some personal relaxation time, exercise regimen, and personal leadership development classes, seminars, and resources. The congregation typically does not grow beyond their Pastor’s level of spiritual maturity.

7) If you make some honest mistakes, repent and make the adjustments as needed along the way.

8) I suggest having good friends in the ministry at the pastoral level to be accountable to that are able to speak honestly into your life without offense. Someone that you trust to cover for your vacations, serve on your pastoral board, help develop your people and leadership teams as well.

All of God’s best in your calling!

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
One of the best ways to handle this is to make it clear to your congregation that “God first, family second and church third’ is the correct order and that you are going to be obedient to the revelation. Explain why God is first in your life and why that He should be first in their life. Then, tell them why your family is second and why their family should also be second on the list. Let them know that you would never expect them to live any differently. Then talk about the importance of the church and the ministry of helps and how they will serve much better if they keep their priorities straight. Allow them to see that you are not making a selfish statement, but you are training them in how to live their life in obedience and explain the rewards of living this kind of life.

For yourself, find someone you trust to handle things when you are on vacation or at a family event. Of course, they can send you a message and make you aware of a situation, but they shouldn’t expect you to drop your plans every time someone has a little issue they can’t fix. You do not have to take every call. The truth is, sometimes people to need to get into the word and pray and hear from God more than they need to hear from you. Young pastors don’t often make it to be old pastors if they put the church ahead of God and their families. Let the Holy Spirit lead and guide you and you will do just fine.

Pastor John B. Lowe – Warsaw, IN
I agree with the order of priorities, and I agree in a busy life—whatever it is—that it is difficult to keep in order. John.5:39 is worth a close look. In knowing the scriptures, let us not lose our personal, intimate relationship with Jesus.

  1. Quiet time—not study for message time!
  2. Wife—have a weekly marriage/staff meeting to review schedules and priorities and other practical ways to protect them.
  3. Date night—protect it.
  4. Have quality time with family night.
  5. Changes as the children get older.
  6. Protect your home. No one lives in your house because they have a crisis. It is your only sanctuary!
  7. Eat your family meals together. No TV, cell phones, or if a phone rings, let it go to voice mail. It is a connect time about the day. Keep it light and fun if possible. Make the conversation about the kid’s day.
  8. Never let your kids hear you discuss problems in the ministry or about problem people.
  9. Take a 2 week vacation—no cell phone.
  10. Take a day off!! God did, and He listed a day of rest in the top 10.
  11. Take care of yourself—eat healthy. Do it!
  12. Exercise—whatever works for you, but move.
  13. Watch your words about everything.
  14. Set your times to counsel. Let people schedule around that, not you around them. They do it for doctors, attorneys etc… Your time is as valuable as theirs.
  15. Manage your money. Stay out of as much debt as possible.
  16. Love, forgive and honor each other. Find out what that means to your spouse and kids and do it!

Pastor Walker Schurz – Lusaka, Zambia
The principle of “Pay Back” is a perspective in ministry and family priorities that we have incorporated in the last number of years. Ministry is by its nature not a consistent endeavor in scheduling. There are seasons where life is more busy and less busy. Rather than try to maintain a perfect schedule every day and every week, schedule days, weekends and weeks where the family can get paid back for seasons of ministry busyness. This has been a great source of connection, communication and fun for our family over the years.

Pastor Duane Hanson – Saint Paul, MN 
Setting priorities in life can be a real challenge, especially if we’re not certain how much time we should ration to each item on our daily schedule. I like to think of life in terms of a clock, or the “Wheel of Fortune,” and not the traditional linear format that looks like a ladder that needs to be climbed. Each section on this wheel represents a piece of my daily life that can be assigned a value, based upon the specific needs of that day. Every day is unique, and should be looked at with fresh eyes each morning. I can determine which section should be considered a priority based upon what items are on my schedule for that day. Some days I purpose to make my family and recreation the top priority, while other days I may make study and prayer a priority. Obviously, on days we have church service, those sections on the wheel designated for God and the Church will spin around to the top.

Years ago I taught a series entitled “Redeeming the Time,” which focused primarily on how to prioritize our everyday life and find the balance for all the various aspects of our daily schedule. Coming from a business background, and having been a manager that held weekly training sessions for our salespeople, I had some personal experience in the various philosophies and methods of what’s been called “Time Management.” As I prepared for this series, I tapped into both the scriptural material I had in my library, and the secular information that was available. It was an interesting journey bringing many of the time management ideas and concepts I experienced in the marketplace over to the church, and then applying these tested principles to the ministry. God’s wisdom will help us sort out what’s important, and what’s just busyness.

When researching for material to use in the series, I came across the following verse: Ecclesiastes 8:6  “There is a proper time and procedure for every matter….” (NIV) Other translations take another angle on the subject. For example, consider this version: “Life is hard, but there is a time and a place for everything, though no one can tell the future.” (CEV) I’m not as encouraged by the translator of the Message Bible: “Yes, there’s a right time and way for everything, even though, unfortunately, we miss it for the most part.” (MSG) Personally, I don’t believe we need to “miss it for the most part,” now that we have the Holy Spirit abiding in our lives! But the point of this verse is true; There is a “right time” and “procedure” for everything! We just need to learn how to recognize God’s priority for each time and purpose.

When setting priorities, we need to take inventory of our lives and determine what activities are the most important, and the most pressing. Ask yourself some obvious questions, such as “how did I spend most of my time this past week,” and invite others close to you to help with the analysis. You might be surprised to find out where you’ve been “spending” your time. From that analysis, you can gain some wisdom and determine if the time you “spent” was profitable, or unprofitable!

In many cases, the issue might boil down to basic principles of “Time Management.” However, I’ve never liked using that terminology, because we all have the same amount of time to manage. It’s really an issue of “Self Management,” and prioritizing our life within the time we have. That falls under the category of self-discipline, which is just another section on the “wheel of fortune” that spins around every day of our life, and lands on different sections after each spin around the clock.

How many coaches have been interviewed after losing a close game, knowing that they had the momentum to win in the last few seconds, if only they’d had just a few more minutes of time! They knew going into the first quarter, exactly how long the game would be, and needed to build up momentum from the first play! Fortunately, the sports world is filled with stories of second half comebacks! They make adjustments during halftime and come out of that locker room ready to play! (If only they could have found that same motivation during the first half!) Spin the wheel again and reset your priorities!

Pastor Rick Warren wrote an article years ago about finding “Balance” using Ephesians 5:15-17 as his main text. He broke it down into three basic principles:

  1. Analyze My Lifestyle
    Verse 15: “So pay close attention to how you live. Don’t live like ignorant men. Live like wise men.”
  2. Utilize the Present
    Verse 16: “Make the most of every opportunity you get.”
  3. Prioritize what’s Important
    Verse 17: “Don’t act thoughtlessly but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to do.

Fortunately, there are numerous books and resources available on this subject, but we must first prioritize our personal lives and put into practice the very principles being addressed in this question! Will we take the time to read, study and become equipped to manage ourselves within the time we have?!? Or will we become just another victim of the clock!?!

Pastor Walker Schurz – Lusaka, Zambia
The principle of “Pay Back” is a perspective in ministry and family priorities that we have incorporated in the last number of years. Ministry is by its nature not a consistent endeavor in scheduling. There are seasons where life is more busy and less busy. Rather than try to maintain a perfect schedule every day and every week, schedule days, weekends and weeks where the family can get paid back for seasons of ministry busyness. This has been a great source of connection, communication and fun for our family over the years.