Today’s post is provided by Dustin Neeley, a church planter and lead pastor. He ministers in Louisville, Kentucky at Crossing Church, part of the Acts 29 Church network. Dustin also has a ministry with his family–wife and four kids under the age of six. He maintains a blog, Church Planting for the Rest of Us, and is a frequent contributor to the Resurgence blog. Anyone who knows Dustin Neeley probably recognizes his iconic plaid shirts and insightful interviews with church leaders. Dustin knows what it’s like to be a lead pastor, to oversee four church plants, to host conferences, to work with major networks, to travel widely, to keep up with correspondence, and at the same time to love his family like they’re really important (because they are). Dustin Neely talks about the importance of family in this article.
Learn to Use Your Family Dashboard
It was an ancient car, but we loved it! It burned oil by the quart and spread antifreeze like an irrigation hose, but hey, I was a church planter and thankful to have any car that operated without a bicycle chain. I’ll never forget the day that it just about caught fire—while I was inside it and driving! It started with the smell of burning antifreeze…the billowing smoke slowly surrounded me, and then impaired my vision like an acrid cloud at a Willie Nelson concert. I panicked when I realized the car was now out of control on a busy road; I will never forget that singular moment of helplessness.
Family on Fire
You will never forget the moment when your wife looks at you and tells you that if things don’t change, she’s leaving; the moment when one of your children looks at you and tells you that they hate the church because you are never home. It’s the moment you realize that your family is on fire and you are in the driver’s seat.
Stopping the Fires Before they Start
Keeping our eye on the “Family Dashboard” can help us monitor the fires before they start. The Family Dashboard is the set of “gauges” that we monitor as we drive along, letting us know how things are going in our journey through life, ministry, marriage, and family.
Our Family Gauges:
- The speedometer. This is the “pacing” question: are we moving at a healthy pace that we can sustain, or are we running in the red? We can’t simply monitor the things from ministry that directly include us. Instead, we need to factor in the other things that make real life what it is: soccer, gymnastics, the kids’ school, sickness, health, marriage, money, and home repairs. Never make this pace assessment alone. Men are not typically emotionally intuitive and might be blind to the relational redlining that is happening. If you don’t believe me, just ask your wife. She will tell you the real truth.
- The RPMs. This is the stress question. How hard are we pushing to make this thing go–whether it’s pastoring a church, volunteering your time, or just working a demanding job? Are we shifting gears smoothly in our relationships or are we “grinding the gears” like a 16-year-old driving a stick shift for the first time with a critical dad in the passenger seat? Do Mom and Dad need more time together—alone? Is more time or energy needed with a particular child? You can usually “listen to the engine” through the tone of the conversations taking place at home to monitor the stress level.
- The gas gauge. This is the margin question. Every ministry family that I know is strapped for time and other resources. The families that go the distance are the ones that have enough gas in their tank for the long haul. They are consciously and consistently refueling through weekly days off: “Date Nights,” “Daddy Dates,” vacations, and daily spiritual tune-ups keep the engine running more efficiently. If you want to know exactly how much ‘gas’ is really in the family or marriage tank, ask your wife. She’ll tell you.
Watch Those Gauges Carefully!
Having your car overheat and catch fire is never a good thing.
Watching your family overheat and catch fire is even worse.
If we will keep our eye on the “Family Dashboard,” we will spend more time on the road for the gospel and less time in the ditch looking helplessly at a burned-out engine.
Be sure to keep up with Neeley’s blog, here.