I subscribe to this quarterly journal called “Leadership Journal.” In this issue, they are dealing with the topic of “Declutter.” Bill Hybels was interviewed by two editors and they addressed the issue of simplifying your life to do all that God has called you to do. They also included an excerpt/story from the book Hybels recently wrote called “Simplify.” I made copies of this and put one in each of our team leaders’ mailboxes because I wanted them to read it with their wives.
In this short story, Hybels talks about how he had decided to stay home four nights a week when his children were very young because of the question his daughter asked him one evening as he was about to go to another church meeting. The question was, “Daddy, are you going to be gone again tonight?”
As I look back on my ministry here at New Life, I think I worked very hard but I rarely missed more than four nights at home in one week. It was usually two or three nights that I was away from home:
1. Monday evening Bible study (50% of the year)
2. Wednesday evening shepherds’ meeting
3. Saturday night message preparation/completion
In the very beginning stage when I was doing both youth and New Life, it was pretty crazy. But it didn’t last more than four years. And at different periods of our church life, I had to commit another evening or two for meetings, one-on-one Bible studies, counseling, etc. However, it was few and far between. And I didn’t include going to house church with my kids when they were young as a night when I was away from them. It is because house church was a family thing, my family going to see my extended family members where there was food, laughter and joy.
So, I am glad that I didn’t neglect my children. And my wife has been extremely supportive of me being out there doing ministry about three evenings a week. But when I was home, I was fully there, playing with my kids, taking them to music lessons or sports practices, going to their orchestra concerts or sports games. Of course, I wasn’t able to make it to all of their games, recitals, etc. But I think I did enough to a point where my kids didn’t feel like they were abandoned. And so far, while they are each at a different level of spiritual maturity, they are all faithfully walking with God.
In today’s churches, we see two opposite extremes. One group says you have to be at home every evening. Some pastors take pride in the fact they are home on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the evenings, eating and spending time with their family. Another group says that you have to be busy working for God even if it means that you are out from home five or even six nights a week.
I have always felt that spending four evenings at home per week when the kids are younger is good. Reading Hybels’ story makes me realize that there is another man who felt the same way and practiced it about 10 years before me.
So, if you are out from home more than three evenings a week either doing ministry or playing sports (not counting house church meeting on Friday), especially when your children are young, consider modifying your schedule a little. This doesn’t mean that we make our schedule rigid. But overall, if we spend about four evenings a week with our children, I think we are doing well.
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