Covid-19 brought lots of changes to ministry families like ours last year. One of the most significant changes was an empty calendar. Committee meetings, premarital counseling sessions and lunches with deacons were all postponed and then canceled. No youth group activities, respite nights for our special-needs families or choir practice. Instead, our boys were both out of school with their extra activities postponed; Lee was working from home, and Sandra’s suitcase went back on the closet shelf with her speaking engagements canceled. We had dinner at home as a family (and breakfast and lunch too). We had movie nights on the couch. We got used to the slower rhythm and routines that focused on life at home.
But as restrictions lifted, our weeknights and weekends filled up again. First, there were virtual meetings, then socially distanced activities at church, then school started and, finally, our extracurricular activities were back. After months of an open calendar, it was full again, and we had to remember how to coordinate all our busy schedules.
After almost two decades in full-time ministry for Lee, Sandra’s seasons of traveling, our son David’s theatre performances and our son James’s therapy sessions, we’ve learned some ways to make managing our busy schedules easier. Even if the activities for your family are different from our activities, I’m sure your calendar is just as full. And when we don’t communicate clearly about all those commitments, it can lead to unmet expectations and hurt feelings in the relationship we value most—our marriages. But overcoming that challenge to communication is easier when you take these four steps:
Share a digital calendar. We use Google calendar and sync it together so when Lee puts something on the calendar, it shows up in Sandra’s app too. Everything goes on that calendar, even if only one family member is involved. This year we’ve added our older son to the calendar as well so he can add his activities and take responsibility for managing his time. When making plans, we can easily look at the calendar app and see what’s already scheduled. You can find an app that works for you and talk about what to include on the calendar. (For example, Lee doesn’t list every meeting he’s having during his normal office hours, but he does include lunch meetings so Sandra knows he won’t be home for lunch that day.)
Have weekly scheduled discussions. On Sunday evenings, Sandra does the meal plan for the week. It’s the perfect time to ask, “Is everything on the calendar up to date?” Then we talk through what’s coming up and how we can help each other get everything done. We can even talk through what needs to be done ahead of some activities—if we’re having people over the next weekend, we’ll talk through what we’ll eat and what we need to clean to be ready.
Send follow-up texts. We’ve learned that in super busy seasons, we may forget what’s coming up, especially things out of the ordinary (like a doctor’s appointment during the school day). So, we follow up without keeping score or feeling shame. The text may say something like, “I know you’ve had a super busy day, so I wanted to remind you David has an orthodontist appointment at 4:00, and I need you to pick up James from school.” Or “Remember, I’m helping out with game time at TeamKid tonight, so I’ll be home later than usual.”
Schedule time together. It’s easy to feel like coworkers or homelife managers instead of a couple in love when you’re focused on daily life at your house. That’s why one of the most important activities you can put on the schedule is time together. We often go out to lunch together on Fridays, Lee’s day off. Making sure there are things you look forward to on the calendar makes the whole process more fun.
Ministry life is busy. Adding marriage, kids and life outside of ministry makes it even busier. But taking these four steps helps decrease the stress of that busy schedule and increases communication so you and your spouse feel like you’re on the same team. This summer may be the perfect time to make these adjustments. You can develop habits that will work when school starts again and routines change with the seasons.