Time to Do Your Home Work

Having free time with the family can seem like a rare treat. Here are nine ideas to help you make the most of it.

With more than 27 years of ministry experience, Larry Kunter knows how difficult it can be to balance family needs with church responsibilities. But through the years he and his wife, Marti, also discovered a few simple strategies that helped make more time for their daughters, Tori, 22, and Charity, 19.

Larry, pastor of Harmony Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins, Colo., for the last 16 years, offers these suggestions:

Tell the Church

  • Schedule regular times during the week when you will be available to members of the congregation. If someone phones you at home, make a quick assessment. If the situation is not truly an emergency, tell the caller it is not a convenient time and ask him or her to call you during your regular office hours or tell the person when you will be available.
  • Publish your "day off" in the church bulletin. Let the congregation know when you will be away on vacation or otherwise unavailable.
  • "Teach the members of the congregation to control their 'emergencies,'" Larry advises. "Few things really require a minister at midnight." Encourage members of the congregation to call during office hours.

Make Time for the Family

  • Take advantage of the slow times inherent in your daily schedule. "I tried to be there when our girls got home from school," Larry recalls. Consider eating lunch at your child's school or scheduling an early-bird dinner date with your spouse.
  • "Function as time works," Larry suggests. "If everyone is going to be home at 9 p.m., that's when we serve dinner." Don't be hampered by unnecessary or unhelpful tradition. Instead, search for what works for your family. Breakfast might be the meal together instead of dinner.
  • Take the time to attend school activities and sporting events. At the beginning of the school year or semester, call the school for a calendar of events to find out when teacher conferences, open houses, music programs, the science fair and other events take place. Mark those dates on your personal day planner, the family's calendar and the church calendar. Then schedule meetings and other work activities around those events.
  • "Be assertive," Larry advises. "Let people know 'I won't be here.' You have to be an advocate for your space."

Use Your Opportunities

  • Use earned vacation time. "Self-care allows you to operate out of a healthy mind-set instead of a needy one," Larry says. "Even inexpensive vacations can enhance family time and bring a freshness to the ministry." Consider a three-day "vacation" at home with no phone or other outside distractions.
  • Let school holidays be a time for family. Since Sundays are filled with church activities, holiday and teacher in-service days can give you a chance to take the kids to the zoo, museum or other fun locale.
  • Finally, Larry suggests you be flexible, to make the most of free times as it comes. If everyone happens to be home one evening, take advantage of the opportunity to be together. Prepare a nice dinner, play board games, go for a walk around the neighborhood — whatever sounds most appealing at the moment.

Taken from Pastor's Family magazine, Oct/Nov 1996.
Article copyright © 1996, Lynn Dean.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Lynn Dean, the mother of three school-aged children, is a writer based in Timnath, Colo. She specializes in parenting and family issues.