Ministerial Spouses Association
Ministerial Spouse Leaders Toolkit
Laurie Snyman, MSW, ACSW, is a licensed master social worker and owns a counseling practice, Awakenings Family Therapy, in Lansing, Michigan. She writes on marriage and family for magazines, and authored workbooks for couples contemplating marriage, Getting Ready for the Rest of Your Life. Laurie works part-time for the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists assisting her husband, Royce Snyman, who is the ministerial director there.
Re-Organizing Your Priorities (pdf)
There are many feelings we experience when we are overwhelmed. It can be everything from that sinking feeling in your chest, knowing that you have too much to do, the all too real fear of not keeping up and the fear of careening out of control. There is the feeling of hurt that comes when you think you are letting people down, even yourself. There is even guilt in not having enough time to spend with your spouse and your children. Then, there is the physical manifestation when pain sets into the muscles in our backs, our necks, and our shoulders. All of this can happen when we have gotten our priorities out of balance.
Often when talking to people about their feeling of being overwhelmed, they have a hard time identifying their highest priority. They view everything they do with equal importance. When we feel that way, we have assigned too much power to the duties of our life without clear purpose or direction.
We have read that time is a gift. And we are the stewards of time and must use it wisely. But, how do 86,400 seconds get filled each day, leaving so little time to sleep, pray or exercise?
David must have understood this conflict even in his era. There wasn’t enough time in his day to do everything he needed to do. His daily chores seemed so impossible, leaving him fatigued and in pain. In Psalm 102:3 NLT he says, “for my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like red-hot coals.”
Have you ever complained you can’t get everything done and you are plain exhausted? We also live in a culture of busyness. We actually admire people who stay busy and get upset with people who we view as lazy. We are bombarded with opportunities to add sports, clubs, classes, entertainment, groups, church duties and family events to our schedule – to name a few!
But, if we are too busy, who is going to take time to rework our schedules? The answer is simple: ‘us’. We are responsible for what we are doing. That said, we know and understand that God has promised to ease our burdens.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 ISV
An older man in our congregation was a shut-in. He expected my busy pastor-husband to visit him each week. Due to his hectic schedule, my husband was unable to visit him. When my husband missed more than one week of visiting him, the man wrote him a letter pleading for my husband to visit him more. He said, “I know you are just fulfilling prophecy. It says that in the last days men will be running ‘to and fro’.” My husband wrote him an endearing letter back sympathizing with him, and also added, “Shouldn’t I be going about my Father’s business?”
We are all “running to and fro” in our own ways. We are confident that we are going about our “Father’s business” but what if the duties we have loaded our schedule down with are not what God wants us to do? Are there any implications for our emotional and physical health?
Let’s look at a way we can evaluate everything we do during our daytime schedule.
First Priority - God
Bring your schedule to God each morning. As soon as you wake up, tell God you love Him and dedicate yourself to Him. Tell Him you are willing to change your plans, as He knows best. God wants to guide us. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV
If you say, I don’t have time for prayer when I wake up, why not choose to wake up 15 minutes earlier. Enjoy talking to Him. “Taste and see that the Lord is good”... (Psalm 34:8) Spend some time studying a text or journal a prayer to Him.
2nd Priority - Ourselves
We must take care of our body, which is, after all, God’s temple. Make a plan with God on how you will think, how you will exercise, what you will eat and how you will act towards others. Submit your physical and emotional health to Him and allow Him to impress on and in you exactly how to do that.
I have changed my schedule to try to walk each morning and commune with God. It has been a wonderful retreat before my busy day begins.
3rd Priority - Your Spouse
When you are arranging schedules and taking on new tasks (or re-evaluating your current duties), ask your spouse some simple questions:
- How do you feel about what I am doing?
- How do you think this will impact our relationship?
- Do you think I should be doing this?
- Will you support me if I do this?
- What are your concerns if I do this?
It is respectful to consider your spouse’s feelings and opinions about what you are presently doing in your schedule or what you may want to add. You want your spouse to know that he/she is a priority and you care about their opinions. It shows consideration and kindness to include him/her.
4th Priority - Your Kids
Women are tempted to make their kids a higher priority than their husbands. This causes havoc in marriage relationships and in how you schedule your life. Love your children enough that you will not let their wants and needs take you away from being balanced, loving to your spouse and away from the goals that you have for their life. There are many studies showing kids can be negatively impacted by too many events to attend to. Children need their parent’s time at meals, family worship and during recreation. We should work to create happy memories of our time together in the family home. Children, according to several polls, pick up the values and principles of their parents at family meals, more than at school, youth groups or church programs. Scheduling meals together helps you connect with your child and gives you time to discuss critical issues. When you are considering adding something to your already busy schedule, ask yourself:
- Will this add more stress to my home life?
- Will this take time away from my kids?
- Will my children be able to be involved in this activity in a positive way?
- Will this take me away from home more?
5th Priority - Home Life.
Our families deserve a peaceful environment that is clean and well ordered. It is truly a never-ending chore to keep up the home. Sometimes, we can delegate responsibilities, sometimes we may do a time negotiation on the reduction of technology and entertainment to get certain duties finished. It is wonderful when the family can come together as a team to accomplish this. There are many verses in the Bible about maintaining things in an orderly fashion. Such as, “a slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4 ESV. And there is also the need to create an atmosphere of peace. Home should be the “happiest place on earth.” (Adventist Home, p 102) The home is where we get loved and rested before going back into the chaotic world outside our homes. When considering a new event, duty or responsibility, ask yourself:
- Will I have enough time to get my household duties done?
- Will I be able to keep my house organized?
- Will I still have the peace at home that I desire if I add this duty?
Our 6th Priority Is EVERYTHING ELSE.
This includes your extended family, your work, your ministry, your social life, and your recreational pursuits. There may be things you do, like serving in some capacity at a school or your church, that you are now impressed you should not be doing. Sometimes we can give up that duty easily and other times we may need to finish out the term and not take a position again. Regarding certain opportunities, we will need to say ‘no,” kindly but firmly. When we serve the church but neglect a relationship with God, we are serving with emptiness in our hearts and for the wrong reasons. God is not honored that way. We need to spend time with God and drink from His strong reserves, He may then guide us to be balanced and do as He pleases.
As an illustration, let’s say that you made a wonderful meal for your family. It looked like a fantastic dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, homemade bread, fresh corn, choplets and carrot cake for dessert. But, after you have put everything on the table, and your family is seated, and you offer prayer, you disappear to clean the house. You don’t enjoy the meal with your family and miss an opportunity to connect with them.
That is like serving God out of guilt instead of love. We want to make sure we are spending our time doing what He wants and with the right motive, out of love, not just duty. Serving God for the wrong reasons is often the precursor to burnout. God promised us that He would renew our strength. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles: they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”. Isaiah 40:32
So, how do we re-organize our priorities and put them to practice? Let’s say you were offered a new job that seems interesting and you think it is worthy of your time and consideration. Go through the above priorities.
- First and foremost, pray. Ask yourself the questions listed, including what God wants you to do.
- Second, ask yourself if you can remain healthy emotionally and physically if you do this? Consider the other recommended queries.
- Go to your third priority which includes talking it over with your spouse.
- Go to your fourth priority and consider how it will impact your family and your family time.
- Fifth, think of how this new duty might impact your home life. Would it make your home life less peaceful and leave time for organizing?
- Sixth, when you think of your goals and what you hope to accomplish, can you fit it into all your other responsibilities without making yourself overwhelmed?
If God impresses you to move forward or to refuse a new responsibility, you will be able to make decisions with more comfort. And expect our Heavenly Father to replace your cares and burdens with the peace He promises.
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- Questions for a pastor’s spouse …
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- Enjoying the Closeness of God
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