4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 4

money balancingIn this series of posts,  I have talked about the importance of seeking out a vision for family and ministry, while also establishing healthy defaults as we seek greater balance. Although balancing family is often a moving target, it doesn’t mean we should not aim to establish healthy patterns and systems in our family life. So far in this series we have talked about spiritual, relational, and physical defaults. Today, we wrap up the series by addressing financial defaults.

Now before you think finances are boring, consider this:

The way we manage our finances will positively or negatively impact both our family and ministry.

In addition, balancing family finances and ministry is a challenge and often feels like a sacrifice over time. My hope is that the sacrifice certainly feels worth it. (I know this is true for Lisa and myself). But it doesn’t mean that there are times when it is painful and bewildering.

Our Story: Six years ago we were blessed by the birth of our second child. We were also “blessed” with ER visits for myself, my wife, and our newborn in a span of 4 weeks. Before we knew it, we had thousands of dollars of medical debt and we were down to one income for a season. I can confidently tell you that our finances became a huge distraction that negatively impacted our family and ministry… I wish I could tell you that it was due to a set of unfortunate circumstances, (in part that was true), but I have to confess, we had our part to play in the perfect storm of financial struggles. Having medical debt only amplified our lack of healthy defaults in our financial planning…

What about you? I don’t know what your financial health looks like, but I would affirm the need to find some healthy defaults in this area of your family. Ultimately, financial health impacts family AND ministry.

  1. Determine your limits. Quite honestly, for us, we have often made the mistake of not setting appropriate limits on what we need and want. We have also discovered that my priorities differ from Lisa’s needs. It’s essential we take time to get on the same page and agree on what is essential when it comes to spending.
  2. Agree on a plan. Creating a budget and sticking to it is imperative. I’m fortunate that Lisa is a number cruncher and is a stickler for detail. There are often times when she needs to reign me back in and remind me of our budget plan that we took time to create and agree on.
  3. Save for the rain. Growing up in England, I could confidently expect rain. I wish I had learned to expect more rainy days in our finances. It’s not that I want to be thinking negatively, but it’s simply a reality that we need to face. After all, stuff breaks, emergencies happen, and savings are needed. Expect rainy days and find shelter under your savings. Practically speaking, how are you ensuring that you are saving a specific sum to build your rainy day fund?
  4. Save for the sun. In our experience, saving for rainy days and paying for “boring” stuff is made a whole lot easier if we are also saving for a vacation or getaway. Part of our family vision is to have experiences with our kids that are memorable. In particular, we love to travel and allow our kids to experience different cultures. While vacations can cost a pretty penny, we would rather go without new furniture and gadgets than miss making memories on our family getaways. They are worth saving for.
  5. Give generously. In our experience, tight finances are always an opportunity to trust God more with what He has given us. While our default might be to cut back on giving God our first and best, it’s the lean times that allow us to learn about God’s faithfulness. Therefore, it’s essential that we not only continue to give generously, but also pray about giving sacrificially. God has amazed us with His faithfulness even when it has seemed to make no human sense to give generously… How about you?

What would you add to this list? What financial plan do you follow? What have you been learning about how best to balance family finances and ministry? 

Phil <><

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How to Lead and Leverage the Opportunities in Difficult Times

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ― Winston Churchill

Winston ChurchillNo one has ever said that leading people would be easy. Leading all kinds of people to a compelling vision and direction can become messy and challenging at times. Whether it is conflict, misunderstandings, disappointments, or failures, there are countless ways that a leader will have to navigate through difficult times.

For me personally, it has often meant that I have had to face my own deficiency in my skills or leadership abilities. In times like this, it is easy to become a pessimist and see the personal errors or the roadblocks of difficulty. However, over time I have been learning to ask four crucial questions that help me to discover God-given opportunity when I face leadership difficulties:

 

What Is God teaching me? Perhaps one of the hardest things a leader can do is to look in the mirror honestly. Being a pessimist is quite different from being a realist. The first step to finding opportunity in the difficult times is to honestly assess ourselves and the situation. What is the reality that God is asking you to accept?

What is God calling me to do? Once we have faced our reality, it’s essential to ask God what we need to do about it. Many people are good at pointing out problems and identifying the issues, but can be  slow to act on the reality. It’s essential that godly leaders ask God for the bravery and strength to make a decision in the tough times. Personally, this is challenging for me to do. The only answer I have found is to become utterly dependent on God and humble enough to ask for God’s strength and leading.

What do I need to let go of? Being a pessimist can mean it is easy if I hold onto hurts, grudges, and disappointments. Therefore, it’s essential as a leader to seek God once again and ask Him to expose those areas that we are holding onto and allow Him to help and heal us. An optimist is quick to recognize the ‘dead weight’ of pessimism and to throw off those areas that are weighing them down. What is weighing you down? What is slowing your journey? Ask God to heal you and help you let go today!

What good can God bring from this situation? In my opinion, this is perhaps one of the hardest things to do in the midst of a stormy leadership season. It is times like this when we must seek God’s Word and see the countless times that He has been faithful to His people to bring good from the worst situations. If you are someone who journals, perhaps there are times you can look back on and see how God has brought good from a bad situation. Ultimately, this is where faith can be activated. It’s essential we ask God to help us trust Him despite our circumstances. It’s imperative that we ask God to give us a vision for what He could be doing in our lives during challenging times.

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? What is God calling you to do in the midst of your stormy seasons? How is God working to bring about growth in your life as a result of you challenges? What opportunities is God giving you in the midst of a adversity? 

Phil <><

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The Influence of Time On A Child’s Life

I saw this video last night that caught my attention…

It’s already gone viral with many TV networks and has become a talking point for many in the news. Perhaps it’s because a for once a Police car dash cam is capturing a positive moment rather than some destructive or violent scene? Maybe it’s because a police officer is extending an act of kindness and not arresting a criminal?

What captured my heart about this video is to consider the potential of this police officers actions…  His simple act of kindness has the potential to help a disconnected teenager find hope and connection with an adult who cares enough to give the most valuable commodity: TIME.

As someone who works with families, the most valuable thing a parent or adult can provide for a child is TIME.

In a world that consumes us with busyness and achievement, TIME has become a rare quantity.

But it is this valuable commodity that our kids need from us the most… (I say this as someone who constantly adjusts and reevaluates my schedule constantly, in order to make my kids a priority).

TIME communicates love…

TIME opens up conversations…

TIME builds faith

TIME brings understanding…

TIME builds trust…

TIME brings healing…

The greatest gift we can give a child in our world today is TIME. It has become our most valuable commodity. Use it wisely.

Phil <><

Time for Kids

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4 Essential Times for Families

Essential Family Time ClockRecently I wrote a post titled, 5 Priorities for Families in the New Year. One priority I mentioned was the importance of creating quantity and quality family time. The challenge for most families is trying to find quantity and quality family times in our increasingly busy lives. Before we know it, we have no time for ourselves or our families, we are worn out, and our relationships are strained.

In this post we will look at how we can effectively schedule family time, as well as focus in on 4 essential times for families that will help us to be healthier and relationally richer.

Scheduling Family Times

The biggest schedule lesson I have learned is this: Schedule the most important family commitments before anything else. Now, obviously days like Sunday and maybe a Wednesday midweek program are always on our schedules, but apart from those kind of regular activities, there is a lot of flexibility in our scheduling. Therefore, before everything else gets added in, I ensure that the following priorities get added into my schedule.

4 Essential Family Times

1) Family Meal Times: Believe it or not, it’s easy to miss these simple family times. It’s also very easy to be late to dinner regularly if we are not careful. Constant lateness home for dinner is a big deal since it communicates the wrong message to our spouse and kids. Therefore, I actually write dinner and lunches into my schedule, otherwise they can get overlooked. It also helps my wife know what to plan on a weekly basis if she knows I am going to be home for certain meals.

2) Date Nights: *Myself and my wife used to be able to have a weekly date night before we had kids! Now we are lucky if it’s once a month. We usually plan these nights out 1-2 months in advance. When I take time to make these date nights a priority, it communicates that my spouse is more important than anything else. It also ensures that we always have something to look forward to when life is busy and challenging.

*Date nights aren’t just for married people. If you are a single parent, I encourage you to start a date night tradition with you kids. Have them choose what to do, (within reason), and make sure you plan it in advance.

3) Family Nights: Now that we have two kids, we have an intentional family night where we do something “out of the normal”. It could be a family bike ride and picnic on a summer evening, or a family game / movie night on a cold winter evening. Again, we do these family nights every two weeks and schedule them in 1-2 months in advance.

4) Traditions: For us family traditions are so important! Throughout the year we have these small events / getaways planned that we all look forward to. These range from overnight getaways to a hotel with water-park, to our yearly trip to the apple orchard. As adults it’s easy to lose the excitement and anticipation of these simple events and trips. But I know how important these memory makers are for my kids! If you were to talk to my kids, they would tell you that the yearly trip to a German style town called Frankenmuth in Michigan is there highlight! Most importantly, it’s one of many yearly traditions we have established that always give us something positive to look forward to and memories to look back on…

What are your essential times as a family? What traditions have made a difference to your family? 

Phil <><

 

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