Everything ramps up when it is time to go back to school. There are supplies to buy, schedules to pick up and calendars that suddenly look like battle plans to move troops across Europe.
According to Michael Kast, who leads Family Ministry at Southeast, preparation is the key to peace amid busy schedules.
“If you find yourself stuck in the crush of school, it’s too late to do much until Thanksgiving,” he said. “My wife has a saying that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Amid the busyness of life, it’s so easy to crowd God out. Kast suggests sitting down in mid-August to set priorities to guard family time and time with God.
It’s easy to say and harder to do. Kast’s wife Jill has a message for families who want to manage their time yet find themselves caught in a race for day-to-day survival.
“A lot of families who think they’re prepared suddenly get overwhelmed with life and find themselves dropping in bed at the end of the day,” Jill Kast said. “Michael and I have finished the day saying, ‘The kids are fed, clothed and educated. We didn’t advance today, but we didn’t die, either.’ That’s OK. There is always time for course correction. Look for a time when softball or band or soccer or whatever is pressing you is over to do that.”
Here are a few tips to make life more manageable.
Include God in your calendar.
Before school begins, decide how your family will make time for God. For some, it may be a commitment to go to church every weekend instead of occasionally. It might be to pray before meals, to serve somewhere together once a month, start family devotions or join a small group or weekend group. Prioritize what will most benefit your family and commit to it.
Establish time for family prayer. Pick out times to pray for other families, for needs within your own family, for our nation and our church. Breakfast, dinner or bedtime may be your best time.
Manage television schedules.
The television need not be the centerpiece of free time. Kast said recording favorite television programs has changed evening schedules.
“Often at the end of the day I want to wind down with a TV show,” he said. “Now we DVR the programs we want to watch, spend time with the kids instead of watching TV and watch it later without commercials.”
Schedule time for church, ministry and family events.
Once the demands of school, homework and sports fill the calendar, it’s difficult to make time for retreats and special events in student or elementary ministry. Check the church calendar and Days Ahead to make room for big happenings. Save the date for Bible and Beach, Believe, short-term mission trips and family outings.
Serve together in simple ways.
Serving together builds strong ties within the family. It can be as simple as filling a bag with school supplies for the Basic Needs Drive or volunteering to pick up the filled bags people leave behind their cars. Many ministries within Local Missions welcome help.
Kast said his family shops and prepares bags for Basic Needs Drives.
“We recently went shopping for back-to-school supplies,” he said. “When we try to get our kids to shop for their own supplies, they are less than excited, but when we take the list for other kids to the store as a family and divvy up the items, they love it. That teaches them to be excited about giving to someone else.”
Plan a family retreat at least once a year.
Use time away as a family to reaffirm core family values, create a family mission statement and adopt a family verse. Make it fun as well as productive.
During your retreat, evaluate the spiritual health of your family by asking if things are better or worse than last year. It might be a good time to give children in the family a new Bible on their reading level.
Stretch as a family by going on a family mission trip.
Many mission trips are family-friendly and affordable. Serving together changes family dynamics.
“Last spring break, we decided to go on a family mission trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to serve special needs adults with one of our U.S. Mission partners,” Kast said. “On the way home, we talked about that trip. Our kids had been to Daytona Beach and to Disney. They said the trip to Knoxville was way better than the beach. My question is, ‘Why did I spend $700 in one day to make Disney happen?’”
Make plans now to attend the Faithful Families Parenting Conference at Southeast Sept. 7 and 8.
The conference will feature Senior Pastor Dave Stone, along with Southeast member Brad DeVries, who will speak on how to set priorities to be the spiritual leader in your home.
“This Parenting Conference is shaping up to be something special,” Kast said. “There will be practical teaching for every parent. The goal is to encourage, equip and challenge parents on every level from those parenting for the first time, to veterans, to single parents, to those adopting or blending their families.”
Eat dinner together at least three times a week.
Family dinners are vital to strengthening the family. Make them fun. According to research, families that eat together stay together, and benefits multiply. Children who eat with their families have lower rates of smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and better health and better grades than those who eat on the run.
Stay in touch.
Send text messages, put sticky notes on doors, mirrors or car seats, write quick notes, send emails and give cards to remind your children that they are loved.