Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.
To close this BAM Endurance series, we are sharing insights from 12 married BAM practitioners. In Part 1 read about the 3 greatest challenges to marriage and family life these BAMers have faced while running a company.
In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners share from their own experiences:
8 Ways to Strengthen Marriage and Family Relationships
1. Get your priorities straight
At the foundations, are you putting the first things first in your life? BAM practitioners shared that having the right foundation for decision making – shaped by the word of God, and wise advice – led them to making better choices about how they spent their time.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I own the business, the business doesn’t own me. If I value family time I need to structure my business in such a way that it allows me to spend time with them. There will always be busy periods at work but if I’m always working 14 hour days I’m not doing a good job structuring things. I love the classic business book, The E-Myth which is a great reminder that I need to be working “on” the business not “in” the business. It is possible to build a business the suits the lifestyle I want to live but it takes intentional planning, strategizing and structuring. – Peter, Nepal
There are certain habits I’ve leaned on over the years and one of them is reading the Word of God. While the entirety of God’s Word, through direct reading as well as through exposition by preachers, has been helpful in guiding my thoughts and actions, I have benefitted the most from reading Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These books of the Bible have helped me to recognize what is most important in life and to let go of things that are not fundamental to my identity and purpose in life. – John, India/USA
2. Work towards the place of unity and understanding
Spend enough time talking and praying with your spouse that you are in unity about your purpose, your current roles and how you want to structure work and life. Include older children in the process if you have them. With your spouse, listen to each other, empathise with each other and work towards a common understanding together. Go for counselling or mediation if you need to – having a third person to help you listen to one another and to help identify good and bad patterns in your communication styles can be tremendously valuable.
When one spouse is excited about the venture and the other is lagging behind it will bog down the whole endeavour – especially if the other spouse does not have a meaningful role. It is important to listen to each other in a timely manner and make sure to take time together. Get counseling if you feel that your spouse is not hearing you. – Anita, Asia
We appreciate time on our own when we can get that but the reality is that we are both on this business journey together and so we face any challenge together, not separately. – Kara and Andy, India
Jump in 100%. You shouldn’t have a ‘backdoor plan’ to exit when the times get rough. I am pretty sure most people would give up and go home if there was a feasible easy backdoor out. If someone in your family thinks that when it is too tough there is an easy out; you will be using the exit strategy! Everyone in the family needs to be all in. Each family member must unpack their bags (mentally and emotionally) and make this their new home. – David, Thailand
3. Be intentional about spending time together
Spending time together in order to build your family relationships is obviously common sense! However, it is easily neglected if not made a focus. Be intentional. Plan ahead. Establish daily and weekly routines that will serve you in this area. Stick to them!
We have tried to maintain a weekly date night. Sometimes, we are too tired on Friday to plan for any fun or creative dates, so Saturdays have sometimes been a better time for us to do something fun. – Timothy and Robyn, Nepal
I try and have a daily quality chat time with the kids. This usually happens before bedtime when it’s quiet and there aren’t many distractions. It doesn’t have to be long, around 10 to15 mins. We Iie down with the kids and talk about their day and their friends and pray together. I also try to have regular quality chat time with my husband. This may not happen everyday and it’s not for long, but having a good chat after the kids are asleep is a good way to stay connected. Even if we are tired, it’s worth it. – Yumi, Vietnam
One tool that was introduce to us by the Pairs program is the Daily Temperature Reading. It is about having a daily routine of meaningful conversation with your spouse or family. – Jonah, Indonesia
We tried to be intentional about one on one time, e.g. daddy dates, mummy dates etc. and then as they got older to have individual bible study, discipleship or prayer times with them. Even today we have our grownup kids call from the other side of the world and ask for prayer for a situation! – Kara and Andy, India
4. Pray together
It almost goes without saying that praying together with your spouse (and children) is a powerful means to build and protect your relationship.
Prayer times with your spouse are important. We try to do something more official once a week. If you can do more often it would be better, but set realistic expectation of what is possible for your family. We also do family ad hoc prayers as it comes up during the day and have our kids take part even if they may not necessarily understand what we are praying for. – Yumi, Vietnam
One of the things that really helped us was having family gatherings to share and pray for each other from time to time. That was helpful to maintain good communication. As I deepened my fellowship with the Lord, my prayer life deeply changed – especially for my family. I start to pray for it every day, no more living by fear or anxiety, but by faith. This made a huge difference! – Stephen, Europe/Africa
5. Bring clarity to your roles and patterns of communication
Talk about how you will bring delineation between your role as a supportive husband or wife, and your role as a business person. Decide ahead of time what your patterns of communication and your approach to decision making should be – are there times when you will or won’t talk about certain areas? Is it helpful to schedule in regular times dedicated to communication about work and/or home life? Plan and talk about this ahead of time.
It can be hard to find the right balance between being co-workers and spouses. I think for both of us it’s similar, we’ve needed to find the right way to talk about things in different situations and to work out how we make decisions together. – Rebecca and Matthew, Myanmar
It helps us to talk openly with each other about how we are doing emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. It’s easy to get busy and since we see each other at work every day, we might not realize these types of conversations are still needed. When one of us has a challenge at work, it can be easy for the other to try to solve the problem right away. After all, this is what we need to do all day in the business. But with each other, this is usually not helpful. We generally just need to know that the other person hears us and empathizes with us. – Timothy and Robyn, Nepal
6. Stay in community
Keeping strong connections with others strengths healthy family relationships. Whether that is good friends that you can truly be yourself around, or a mentor that will challenge you, or a coach to keep you accountable to goal, or a strong group to fellowship with, staying in community and fighting against isolation is a key.
The children having their own friendships has been important. As parents that meant sometimes running around the city, escorting them to places etc, or having friends over from school. All that is so important! – Kara and Andy, India
Having a couple of really good friends who understand one’s motivation and purpose in life is a huge plus. – David, Thailand
Wise counsel is another important resource I’ve leaned on. In my mid-twenties as I was starting my business and recruiting my first employee, I was fortunate to learn from an older Christian leader that the most important recruitment that I will ever do is to recruit a mentor. He said that a good mentor is very hard to find and since the job of a mentor comes without pay, I will have to work very hard to find the right mentor and recruit him or her as my mentor. I made it a priority to recruit mentors ever since I received this advice and that has resulted in having some outstanding mentors in my life, including the person who gave me this valuable tip. These men have helped me to balance my work life and my personal life by asking tough questions and insisting on worthy actions. – John, India/USA
7. Let off steam
Having fun together is an important way to nurture your family relationships. Laughing is not good for your social health, it is also good for your emotional and physical health too. Don’t lose the fun!
Periodic fun family get-aways to break the routine and refresh have been great. There is no agenda, just having fun together – Yumi, Vietnam
We have a few TV shows we watch together. We like to eat out at nice places occasionally. We also give each other space when we need it. Rebecca gets her nails done or visits her family. I watch a movie or go out with a friend. – Rebecca and Matthew, Myanmar
Forcing yourself to take a break is very important. For many years, we had to do a visa run every 6 months. It was perfect! We came out of our stressful environment and rested, which often lead to renewed vision and refreshment – not to mention having great memories and family time. – Amanda, Asia
We have always made the most of our family holidays and these are precious memories! Have fun! Have waterfights! – Kara and Andy, India
8. Be actively involved in each others’ lives
Be intentional about your children’s involvement in your life and yours in theirs. If you and your spouse do not work together in the business, find ways for them to be involved so that they will understand the vision and purpose behind what you do. Help your spouse and children build relationships with those you work with and other key people in your community.
We always do dinner as a family. It’s a no-phone-zone and we don’t have TV so we get to do family with few distractions. We are involved in our kids lives and not just them involved in our lives. We do a lot of hospitality which brings many different people through our home and these we hope will in turn inspire our children. – Ben and Lily, South Africa
Actively involving our spouse and children as much as we possibly can. We try to bring along family to relevant occasions in our business and ministry. – Jonah, Indonesia
My family culture is very holistic in approach to life. Business, relationships with staff, personal relationships, children, time investment in others for higher purposes, recreation, family time, and marital time, are all blended together. I have been told this is a crazy, unsustainable lifestyle but this is how we have done things for 20+ years! Kids who are healthy in all ways is a super-important factor. It may require one to be extremely proactive, or even preemptive, in making difficult decisions about education, friends, influences, and the environment you live in. – David, Thailand
The best advice we can offer, as a couple and as parents of four children that have been raised in a red light community is that as a family we were all part of the community. Our children were not separated off, we lived and worked together – and our community were very much part of raising our children. Yes, they observed us, but not at a distance, we had a very open home where all were welcome. We didn’t hide the realities that the women in our community face. Our children grew up knowing the pain and abuse their ‘aunties’, ‘sisters’ faced. They also saw the redemption and hope as lives were transformed. They all love Jesus and that is the best we could ever ask for! We have no tools or recommendations to offer, just be real in your following Jesus, when it’s hard and when it’s not – Kara and Andy, India
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the 12 BAM Practitioners who contributed on the issue of marriage and family health. All names have been changed to protect privacy.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.
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