In the last year three of my musician friends have divorced. In the last ten years I know of three touring Christian musicians who’ve cheated on their wives…and got caught. And how many of us aren’t committing adultery but are cheating our spouse and kids of time and intimacy?
I get asked often how I protect my family from the road. I haven’t always done it well and I’m still not immune to mistakes. But Becky and I – together – have come up with a few ground rules that work well for us.
I often remind my road manager, Ben, that he’s not on the road primarily to run sound and set up a merchandise table. I pay him to protect my family.
He’s there not only to keep me from doing something stupid, but he’s there in case someone says I did something stupid. What would happen to my ministry, and possibly to my marriage, if someone claimed I said something inappropriate…or worse? Ben is accountability and insurance.
I learned the importance of this from Billy Graham, who has someone search his hotel room before he enters and doesn’t even go to the bathroom without an escort. As one mentor puts it, if you’re out taking territory away from the Enemy, he’s gonna fight back. Defend yourself.
Becky and I go over our calendar at least once each quarter, blocking dates and deciding how much I can be gone. We do this together.
She may have a sense that I don’t have about the needs of one of our kids, for example. She may feel that one of them is needing a bit more attention from me than usual, so we’ll lighten the schedule for the next month.
She may want to be in that Beth Moore study on Tuesday nights this quarter so I’ll make sure I’m home with the kids so that can happen.
We’ve got that parent/teacher conference, and the field trip I said I’d take them on, and the soccer game and…
Working together we can prevent a lot of missed opportunities to be a family.
There’s no end to “great opportunity” – especially when you have a record label and manager. Every opportunity is pitched as one that can’t be missed. But you’ll have to miss some. Saying “no” is easier if you decide beforehand how many days you’ll spend away from your family this month, this quarter or this year.
Becky and I have a current cap of ten concerts/events per month. Counting travel time to and from, that means the most I can be gone from my house in a month is 15 days.
But also, we’ve decided that I will be home for as many days as I was just gone. For example, if I’m gone for four days, then when I return I will be home for four days before heading out again.
Lastly, the longest I can be gone is ten consecutive days for an overseas trip and four days for a U.S. trip.
What I Do & Why
Limiting travel days is easier now that I know what I do well and why I do it. I play music and speak to adults for the benefit of Compassion International.
I do not lead worship for youth groups. I do not spend a week at a camp. I do not act as interim pastor at a church.
I don’t care how many CDs you say I’ll sell at your church. I don’t care how much more you’re willing to pay me. I don’t care how pretty it is in your town, or how historic the venue, or how nice the people are, how killer the sound system, or what other more-famous people have done your conference.
If I can’t do what I do for the reasons I do it then I’m not doing it unless a burning bush in my front yard tells me otherwise.
This allows me to say “no” more easily.
Dating My Wife & Kids
Becky and I go out on a date at least twice every month, and for several hours. Nothing fancy. Just a meal, maybe a movie, maybe sitting in a bookstore reading and talking, seeing a play or grabbing desert and eating slowly.
Every Wednesday I hang out with my kids. We spend a couple hours doing school work then we eat sandwiches and stock the shelves at the food pantry for a couple hours. Then it’s back home to play games or we head out for a museum or a snack at the mall or the park or a skating rink.
I’ve learned the hard way to tell my kids when I’ll be leaving town and where I’ll be going at least a couple days before. I’ve made the mistake in the past of mentioning over breakfast that I’m heading out of town in an hour. Tears. Lots of tears.
So now, usually on that Wednesday together, I’ll tell them when I’m leaving and where I’ll be. We may even find it on a map together and make a plan to talk by phone while I’m away.
When I get home, at prayer time just before bed, I’ll tell the kids how many kids were sponsored while I was away. I’ll tell them about anybody I met who needs to be prayed for or any great stories people told me about how God used my concert or teaching to encourage or correct them. I often come home with names written in Sharpie on my hand so I remember to share what’s happened on the road with my kids.
I do this so they understand what it is I do – that I don’t leave home to go on vacation. And also to involve them further in our ministry through their prayers.