A few weeks ago, I attended a church planters meeting, where a bunch of church planters from the Noblesville area of Indianapolis meet to fellowship with, support, and update one another. We’re trying to build bridges across our denominational lines. Well, the discussion topic at this meeting was poverty. What areas of our lives are in a state of poverty?

Now, to put this in context, Noblesville is in Hamilton County, which is in the top ten of richest counties in the country. Our church plant is on the west side of Indianapolis, in Marion county. I remained silent because, well, as I told them afterwards, we have the old fashioned kind of poverty. We don’t get the luxury of a choice in poverty. We are officially in the ghetto. They are opening a Popeye’s Chicken joint between the check cashing place and the pawn shop, next door to the liquor store. Well, there is ghetto and there is ghetTO. In my sister’s neighborhood (what did Chris Rock say about folks who live along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevards?), they have a Smokey’s Brisket and Beauty Salon. Now how are you going to have a barbecue joint and hair stylist in the same building? Wait a second, that’s nothing short of brilliant. Nevermind.

Anyway, the common theme to the church planters comments was that they have a poverty of time and community among their people. Partly, it goes back to the idea that people say they want community, but they don’t really. The other part, however, boils down to time management. Their people complained of a poverty of time.

Their lives are lived in a state of rush. They rush to work, and work so many more hours to keep up the mortgages on their homes. They have a lot of church activities that they do during the course of a week. Their kids have soccer practice. Dance lessons. Piano lessons. There is little down time, much less family time. They are broke when it comes to time. Then that poverty of time impacts their ability to form community. There’s nothing left for their neighbors. Or keeping up with their friends, much less meeting new people. They come home, collapse in their beds, don’t get enough sleep, then get up to do it all over again. So who do they turn to? Their pastors.

And the pastors were in the same boat.

A friend of mine once gave me a crucial bit of advice: if your spouse is not a part of your ministry, your ministry will fail. Put simply, your spouse, your “help-mate”, needs to work by your side, be involved in your ministry somehow (beyond “keeping a peaceful home”, though that is important also). I say that because your spouse “keeping the home” doesn’t mean you get to check out of your responsibilities of the home.

I don’t know why I’m speaking on this, because I suck at balancing my life.

Have you noticed how we’re all so busy and have “so much to do”? How much of that is vanity? It smacks of “I’m so important” or “things would fall apart without me.” The only thing that I came up with was making my wife the keeper of my schedule. It’s easy to give lip service to the idea of your spouse getting first dibs on your time, but it’s a lot harder when you have “so much to do.” I am just as prone to stretching myself too thin and living my family life on the fumes of my day. That’s no way to sustain a marriage nor a relationship with my kids.

So my wife has veto power on my schedule. I can fill up a week, but all my activities better have a “we/our” factor to them. We don’t count time with friends as busy time. If you are busy building relationships, we count that as a good busy. If I’m off doing my own thing, be it work, writing, ministry, or whatever, I can’t do that for days on end. She won’t let me neglect my family time. That’s how she’s a part of my ministry: she won’t let it take over my life. What’s the point of “doing God’s work” if you’re going to sacrifice your family in the process?

Now, I’m not perfect with this either. I haven’t been as great with our date nights, but we’re getting better at the family nights. I’ve got to realize that being in the same room with her isn’t the same thing as spending time with her. I’m trying, but it’s time for less talk and more deeds.

Remember, what you focus on most determines what you miss. Figure out what’s most important to you in this life and don’t miss out.