Incarnational living and the busy family

Photo by fhwrdh via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Here’s the deal: I don’t have nearly as much time, resources, or energy as I wish I did.

And I certainly don’t have as much time, resources, or energy as my church expects me to have.

Will you come to a meeting? Will you join a committee? Will you come to a picnic? Will you come to clean the neighborhood? Will you join a Bible study? Will you go on a mission trip? Will you help on Sunday mornings?

The list never ends.

I’m just happy to make it to church on Sunday. Literally, that’s about all I can muster most weeks.

But in the churches eyes? You hear the groaning from the staff, “We can’t get anyone to do anything…” “People don’t support us like they should.” “We could do so much more if people just pitched in.” “80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people.

This exposes a deep disconnect between those in leadership and those who are a part of the congregation.

There’s an assumption from church staff that I have lots of free time that I will give if only they can pitch it to me in a way that will motivate me. And I have an assumption that my church staff just look at me as a body who should be serving more. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Not the church– the neighborhood

It’s so easy for me to confuse what incarnational living is all about.

At its root, that’s just a fancy word for “living like Jesus.” Jesus, 100% God, chose to become 100% human. (Phillipians 2:6-8) As John 1:14 says, “He made his dwelling among us.” And while he was on earth he chose to invest in things of the community instead of merely hanging at the Temple.

If we are to follow Jesus’ example of how to live… we need to spend way more time with the people of our neighborhood than we do with churchy people.

That’s where the frustration lies for me. The invitation/temptation is constantly to get involved with the things of my church. All I have to do is say yes! Yet in reality, living incarnationally is an invitation to bypass most church involvement for the sake of living like Jesus in my neighborhood.

A realistic pace

Here’s my week:

  • Monday – Friday: Get the kids to school, go to work, come home, spend time with the kids, do some chores, spend at least 15 minutes alone with Kristen. Go to bed. Monday night we have community group, [taking time off from that with baby] Tuesday I help with youth group, Wednesday the kids go to Awana. That leaves Thursday and Friday night “open” each week.
  • Saturday: Get stuff done around the house. Mow the lawn, weed the garden, etc. We try to do something with the kids like go to a movie or play mini golf.
  • Sunday: This is our day of rest. We lounge around a bit in the morning before church. We go to church from 10:30 – 12:30. When it’s warm, we go to the beach.

That leaves very little extra time for other things. And there are a whole lot of voices telling me how to best utilize that time. (More time with my kids, shuttling my kids to sports, I should be working out, take a seminary class, volunteer at the school, volunteer at church. This list never ends.)

We have an infant in our house. Want to know how I want to utilize that extra time? Sleep!

Sure, I could squeeze a couple more activities into that weekly line-up if I wanted to. But I’ve also learned that if I jam too much in there, there’s no joy there. It’s just not a realistic pace for this stage of life. I prefer to leave Livin’ la Vida Loco to Ricky Martin.

Ultimately, squeezing the life out of a busy schedule for the sake of one more thing at church is not incarnationally living, is it?

If I’m really honest… loving my neighbors is really all I can swing.

The question is simple: Is that enough?

What do you think? How should we teach people to balance involvement at church with involvement in the neighborhood? If the net result of ministering to people with full lives is less programs, how could the church impact more people with less programs? What would the roll of church staff be?





3 responses to “Incarnational living and the busy family”

  1. Joel Mayward Avatar

    I’m asking the same questions for the teens I shepherd, who seem to be just as busy as the adults around ’em. Sometimes it’s busy with things they could do without, but it’s the reality they’re in. And when we define “serving” as “helping with a program within the church’s building,” it’s a limiting view of compassionate action.

    I’m beginning to ask questions about what it requires for students to be present with the Lord and with people, and I’m concluding that it requires that my own programs and agendas have to get out of the way first, that space and margin are needed more than activities. Which means my role cannot be a “program director” or my time spent mostly in the church’s buildings.

  2. Adam Avatar

    This is a constant struggle, I have this same trouble in my own life. I am the household cook and laundry person as well. My wife works and we have another little one on the way (with a 15 month old currently). Somehow, play time has shrunk and relax time is nearing nonexistence…strangely enough, God provides enough time…but we have to want it (when it comes to volunteering and such). It IS much easier to watch the game, a movie, or extend a much desired down time…but we also have to understand that there is great need in our world.

    Mind you, I am not saying we don’t need down time…not even close.

    However, I have found that I waste various pockets of time periodically that I could use to clear my plate a little more effectively which frees up more time when I am needed to volunteer.

    For me…I am not speaking to other people cases…when my time is tight, I need to budget it better. An example is, when you pay bills and might find the budget a bit tight this month you may watch your bank account a little more closely just to make sure you are in the black. If you do not account for every purchase you will end up in the red financially. I find that if I am more active in budgeting my time as opposed to acting as if I have all the time in the world or just moderately dragging my feet, I may not have plenty of time…but I have enough time (even for relaxing).
    Just my thoughts…but it does seem much easier to not take a look at my time account…and it is a trap I fall into WAY WAY WAY too often and find my time account overdrawn.

  3. adam mclane Avatar

    @adam- I knew I forgot one in the paragraph about church staff comebacks. The “time management” angle. Yeah, if only I managed my time like my pastors. 🙂

    I don’t think we’re talking about a time management thing here. The people in my life are actually busy enough. Maybe the operative question should be, “What is enough for my family?” How much time/energy/resource is “enough” to invest in the church and how much is “enough” to live incarnationally.

    The cop out answer is “all of it.” (Romans 12:1) No actually… what is enough in the churches eyes?

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