Balancing Life and Ministry, Part Three: Ministry and Other Interests

Woman Juggling“I don’t know how you find time to write.” I usually cringe when I hear this comment. The person who says it may just mean, “Isn’t it great that you’re able to do this?” But in my mind I hear them saying, “You must be neglecting your ministry if you have time to publish books.”

As I said in part one, “People who work at salaried jobs can start at a certain time and quit at a certain time. The rest of their time is their own.” But ministry is never-ending. You can always think of more that could be done, maybe should be done. Does that mean you should never be able to pursue other interests?

Side ministries, hobbies, sports, and other interests can be a healthy part of ministry for a number of reasons.

  • Participating in groups in the community may help you develop relationships that can be helpful in ministry. My husband’s work in the local community patrol fits into this category.
  • Pursuing side interests give you a needed break from constantly obsessing about ministry.
  • People in ministry often give out continually, focusing on the needs and interests of others. In time this may drain them of needed emotional energy. Pursuing side interests often help them feed their own needs and keep them more contented in ministry.
  • God may want you to take part in a side ministry.

In my case, I felt God calling me to write for Christian publication before I felt his call to missions. For more than 35 years I have done both. Both in Taiwan and New Zealand, my missions ministry has always taken precedence over my writing ministry. During the years I was in language school and had two small children at home, I didn’t do much writing. Other years also left little time for this. But during most of that time I’ve been able to carve out time to write as well as work in our church planting ministry. If I had waited for leftover time to write, I would never have done much. If I had put my writing first, my church ministry could have suffered. So each year I had to go before the Lord and figure out how to balance the two.

On the one hand I felt God had gifted and called me to writing. I felt I would be disobedient if I didn’t serve the Lord in this way. On the other hand, it’s easy to feel guilty about the time spent writing because it could look like I’m neglecting my missions ministry. How do I balance that?

As I said in part two, our life situations often determine how much time we can spend in ministry as well as side pursuits. A missionary wife who home schools five kids at once will have to tackle ministry in a different way that a single woman missionary. In my case, my ministry situation allows me opportunity to write for several reasons.

  • Much of my work is done out of my home and I have great flexibility in my schedule.
  • My nest has been empty for 15 years. While I would like to spend more time with family, on the field I don’t need much time for family events and expectations.
  • Most of our national holidays on the field fall on Sundays, and since my husband is the pastor, we always work on these holidays. For eighteen years we haven’t had American co-workers and most of the American holidays don’t seem worth celebrating on our own.
  • While we are technically allowed 2-4 weeks for vacations, most of the time we’ve been on this field we haven’t had anyone to fill in for us on Sundays. As a result we do well to take 3 or 4 days vacation once or twice a year.
  • We live on an island and have seen most of the things close to us. We don’t really have access to a “cheap” vacation, like visiting families or friends, so we really can’t afford to take our full vacation time, even if we could schedule it.
  • During January, many of our ministries break for the summer, so my ministry demands are lightened considerably.
  • I don’t do much gardening and keep other hobbies to a minimum.
  • Though I am a fulltime missionary, I feel I can take time throughout the year that would be used by many people for days off, family time, holidays, and vacations for pursuing my writing ministry. Instead of using this time in chunks, I work time for writing into my schedule throughout the year.

I know I am responsible before God to give myself fully to my missions ministry as well as pursuing my writing ministry as he leads. I’m responsible to our church, our mission board, and even the New Zealand government for working at my church ministry as a full time job. Of course, the hours spent can fluctuate greatly from month to month or week to week. But I have to satisfy my conscience that I am not neglecting my main ministry. At the same time, I need freedom to pursue my writing without feeling guilty. Generally speaking, no one questions me about this, but I want to do right before the Lord.

If you’re in full time ministry and are working to balance that ministry with other pursuits, you will have to work to find a good balance between the two. Here are some questions you might find helpful when you are considering adding a new interest to your life.

  • Is this something God wants me to take time to do?
  • Is this the right time in my life to pursue this interest or ministry?
  • How much time can I afford to use in this pursuit?
  • Does this pursuit hinder my ministry?
  • Does this pursuit make me resent my main ministry, or does it help me appreciate it?

Generally speaking, a side interest outside of ministry can be healthy and prolong your years of ministry—as long as you keep it in balance. Rest is also important. My next blog, by Pastor Maynard Belt, deals with that. May the Lord help you to find balance in your ministry this year.


[image courtesy of Lorelyn Medina/Deposit Photos.]

One more 2015 book by a conservative author

Last week I featured several fiction books that came out in 2015 by conservative Christian authors. This one came in late. Also, notice a correction at the end.



authorabigail priggeAbigail Prigge

Abigail  is a college student from Idaho’s Treasure Valley and the founder of A Time 2 Write. Her first novel “One Summer’s Desire” is inspired by her own adventures as a camp counselor. She also co-wrote the book “Charlotte’s Hope.” She is a writing coach with mentoring students in their creative and essay writing abilities. Abigail is a friend of my son-in-law.

authorCharlotteshopethecover! (3)Charlotte’s Hope

Charlotte is not thrilled with her father when he sends her and her two sisters to spend Christmas with relatives in Argentina. Little does she know of the adventure, danger, and espionage that await her and her sisters. Charlotte despairs that she will ever be able to mend her relationship with her father. Clara is convinced that she will never be able to marry the man of her dreams. Constance is determined to keep her beloved horse. Will Charlotte and her sisters escape the clutches of the outlaw gauchos trying to destroy them and their family? Will Charlotte be able to maintain her hope in the Lord in the midst of hopeless circumstances?

Correction from last week:

I got some of the details wrong for Adam Blumer last week. I apologize for that. This is how that description should read:

Adam Blumer and I have been friends for several years now, though, again, I’ve never met him in person. He doesn’t have a new book from 2015, but he’s working on a new novel called Drone. His novel The Tenth Plague is currently only in Kindle version, but the paperback will be out in May or June of 2016.



Christian Fiction from Conservative Authors

Still looking for Christmas gifts? What could be better than Christian fiction written by conservative Christian authors? This blog highlights several conservative Christian authors with books they’ve published during 2015. Consider these books great ways to meet new authors.

author rick-barry-low-resRick Barry - Lowest ResRick Barry

Though I’ve never met Rick Barry in person, we share this in common: Both of us have written extensively for Bob Jones University Press and Regular Baptist Press. This book is on my husband’s wish list for this year and the Kindle edition saves us lots of overseas postage. Why not consider this for the man in your life?

 author The Methuselah Project - Low ResThe Methuselah Project

by Rick Barry

Nazi scientists started many experiments. One never ended.

Roger Greene is a war hero. Raised in an orphanage, the only birthright he knows is the feeling that he was born to fly. Flying against the Axis Powers in World War II is everything he always dreamed–until the day he’s shot down and lands in the hands of the enemy.

When Allied bombs destroy both his prison and the mad genius experimenting on POWs, Roger survives. Within hours, his wounds miraculously heal, thanks to those experiments. The Methuselah Project is a success–but this ace is still not free. Seventy years later, Roger hasn’t aged a day, but he has nearly gone insane. This isn’t Captain America–just a lousy existence only made passable by a newfound faith. The Bible provides the only reliable anchor for Roger’s sanity and his soul. When he finally escapes, there’s no angelic promise or personal prophecy of deliverance, just confusion. It’s 2015–and the world has become an unrecognizable place.

Katherine Mueller–crack shot, genius, and real Southern Belle–offers to help him find his way home. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? Can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he’s trying to flee?

Thrown right into pulse-pounding action from the first page, readers will find themselves transported back in time to a believable, full-colored past, and then catapulted into the present once more. The historical back-and-forth adds a constantly moving element of suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Rick Barry is the author of the novels The Methuselah Project, Gunner’s Run,   Kiriath’s Quest, and over 200 articles and fiction stories. In addition to being a writer and World War II buff, his main role is Director of Church Planting ministries at BIEM, a Christian ministry active in Eastern Europe. He holds a degree in foreign languages, speaks Russian, and every summer he assists with children’s camps in Eastern Europe. He lives near Indianapolis with his wife Pam. Visit him at, or on Twitter (@WriterRickBarry).

You can buy The Methuselah Project at Amazon or Kregel Books.

authorSusan Page Davis croppedSusan Davis

I’ve just met Susan Davis through another conservative Christian author. I just read and enjoyed The Charm Bracelet, a romance of hers that has also come out this year. The book featured here is a historical novel which might interest the sentimental female on your list.

author Outlaw Takes a BrideThe Outlaw Takes a Bride

By Susan Page Davis

Widow Sally Golding becomes a mail order bride in hopes of finding a happier marriage than her first and finally having children of her own. Johnny Paynter is accused of murdering his ranch foreman. With his pal Cam, he flees from Colorado to his brother’s ranch in Texas. On arriving, he finds that his brother, Mark, has been killed by outlaws. Cam convinces Johnny to bury his brother and lie low on the ranch. Everyone in town thinks Johnny is Mark, as they looked a lot alike and Mark was a quiet man who kept to himself. Then they learn that Mark has proposed to a mail-order bride, and Sally will arrive soon. Setting the record straight now would make Johnny look guilty of several crimes, so he keeps quiet—and winds up married to Sally. His guilt hangs over him, but he is sure God won’t talk to him now. Sally knows something is wrong, but Johnny won’t tell her what it is. When Johnny finally comes clean, Sally knows she loves him, but she isn’t sure their marriage can survive the strain—and then the outlaws return.

“Another original Western romance by Susan Page Davis. A trusting hero and a resourceful heroine find that a mail order bride–even for the wrong groom–can turn out right!” —Lyn Cote, author of the “Quaker Brides” series

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels and novellas.  Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. She has also been a finalist in the More than Magic Contest and Willa Literary Awards. Susan lives in western Kentucky with her husband and two youngest children. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of ten. Visit her website at:

You can buy The Outlaw Takes a Bride at Amazon or .

DEB 2013 bDeb Brammer

You didn’t expect me to leave myself out, did you? While most authors would rather write than promote their writing, promotion is part of their job. I’ve nearly finished the sequel to this cozy mystery which is Book One in the Keyhole Mysteries.

 Broken Windows cover thumbnailBroken Windows

by Deb Brammer

Jordan Axtell, an aspiring artist searching for a new beginning, escapes to Idaho. He hopes to put failure behind him and carve a respectable career out of the rock hard art community. But a black shadow girl with a red balloon warns him that his past refuses to stay where it belongs.

Strange things disappear and peculiar crimes point to Jordan’s guilt. Meanwhile, Alison distracts him from his goals. Zophie drives him crazy with her expectations and questions. A Bible Zone boy pulls at his heartstrings, and his roommate forces him to enter a new world of wheelchairs.

Has the most annoying graffiti artist on the planet followed Jordan to Idaho? Or is a copycat intentionally committing weird misdemeanors just to ruin his reputation? Jordan must find the identity of the perpetrator or lose his integrity as an artist. His new friends try to help, but with friends like his, his enemies can go on coffee break.

You can buy Broken Windows at Amazon.

Look for the sequel in 2016!

authorblumer_adam_portraitAdam Blumer

Adam Blumer and I have been friends for several years now, though, again, I’ve never met him in person. He doesn’t have a new book from 2015, but he’s working on a new novel called Drone. His novel The Tenth Plague is currently only in Kindle version, but the paperback will be out in May or June of 2016.

(My apologies to Adam. I didn’t have this information quite right in the original version. It has now been corrected.)

What is conservative?

Defining “conservative” is a tricky business, but since this is my blog, this is what I’ve come up with: My definition of conservative would include fundamental in theology and non-Charismatic. I would also expect distinctively Christian fiction as I define it in this article.



How to Write a Novel: A Writer’s Journey from Blank Document to Finished Book

writingIf you came to visit me in Invercargill, New Zealand (home to the Southernmost Starbucks in the world), you’d quickly find out one thing. My husband could drive you to a certain place, or I could drive you, but we’d take two different routes getting there. I’m a cautious driver who likes the security of traffic lights, but my husband takes the side roads to avoid traffic lights and get there quicker.

In the same way, every novel writer takes a different route from a totally blank document to a finished book. Different approaches work for different writers. With my last couple of books I’ve revised my approach and found a method that uses my time to the best advantage. But first, let’s look at some of the basic approaches writers often use.

The Wanderer

This writer starts with a basic story in mind and just writes the story from beginning to end. Every scene is fresh and spontaneous, but there are several problems with this. Wanderers often get seriously lost because they don’t know where they are going. Sometimes these writer s get to the end of their books and can think of no way to end them.

In his excellent book called Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell calls this kind of writer a NOP or a no-outline person. They can feel what plot elements need to be in what place and make the story up as they go along. Of course, these writers usually have to revise heavily after their first drafts to give their novels good structure.

One of my writer friends who is normally an OP (outline person) recently wrote a novel this way. He’d been assured by another writer that this would give him a sense of freedom that would bring great originality to his story. Unfortunately, as my friend neared the end, he realized he had painted himself into a plot corner and much of his story had to be deleted.

I’d be scared to death to write this way, but it works for some writers.

The GPS Addict

This writer plans every detail of his book before he starts to write Chapter One. I did this with my first books. I outlined all the scenes in my story and detailed how each scene moved the plot forward. I did a chapter outline, a chronological outline, and a climactic outline. When I knew where each piece fit, I began writing with chapter one, scene one and worked through the outline. I revised and polished each scene or chapter as I wrote it. When I completed my first draft this way, I ended up with a well-structured, highly polished novel .

But no matter how well I planned, as I worked through my plan I found some pieces didn’t fit. I thought of new scenes that would work better than the ones I’d planned. As a result I had revised and polished scenes that ended up being cut entirely. I mentally resisted cutting highly polished scenes when others would work better. Since every scene was rigidly tied to my outline, I found it hard to be creative and spontaneous throughout the book.

The Middle Road

When I started writing Broken Windows I decided to try a new approach that would guarantee good structure but would allow a high degree of creativity and not waste a lot of time fine-tuning scenes that I wouldn’t end up using. I don’t know anyone else that writes quite like this, but it works so well for me that I’m now writing my second novel this way. I’ll break this down into a step-by-step process.

  1. Basic Storyline

I started with a basic cast of quirky characters that I loved and put them in a setting where they would have to stay together and settle their differences. I gave them some challenges to face together. While I had intended to write Broken Windows as simply contemporary Christian fiction, in time I shifted the genre to cozy mystery. I worked out a basic storyline and determined how the various characters would change and grow.

The planning stage of a book is a good time to read James Bell’s Plot and Structure.  It will help you organize your ideas into a well-structured plot.

  1. Chapter Outline

I put the various story elements into a chapter outline, making sure that each section of the story built into a climax, with the strongest climax coming at the end.

  1. Dialog

I tend to write fiction that is strong on character development more than action and chase scenes. As a result, the dialog carries the book forward. What the characters say is the backbone of the plot.  So for my last two books I’ve gone through the entire book writing the dialog before I flesh out the scenes.

At first I was afraid to do this. I feared that this would lead to sloppy writing that would never be put right. Actually it worked very well.

Concentrating on dialog alone helped me write faster and be able to compare the various parts of the book all at once. I could connect what a character said in one chapter with something he said much later in the book. This approach made it easier to plant a thought early in the book and reap it later. Since I was not bogged down in detail, the dialog flowed better and I was better able to think of creative expressions, snappy comebacks, and unexpected twists.

Writing dialog throughout the whole book also helped me to see what parts worked and what didn’t. A book often evolves during the writing process and the writer finds herself moving in a different direction than first expected. After writing my first draft of Broken Windows I realized some minor plotlines were bogging my story down. I had to rip out whole sections of my book. If you’ve only written dialog for those sections, as opposed to fully fleshed-out, revised, and polished scenes, it doesn’t hurt as much to delete those scenes.

Along with dialog, I wrote the basic action that needed to go in the scenes, but I didn’t worry about details. I just wrote enough to remind me of what needed to happen.

  1. Flesh out the scenes.

Once my dialog was written I knew exactly where I was going with my book. Then I began at the beginning and added the details to every scene. I used checklists I’ve come up with over the years to fill out every scene.

I made sure every scene had dialog, thought, and action. (Think, talk, act.) I put my characters in an interesting setting and had them interact with the objects in that setting. I worked to put a hook at the beginning of each scene and something at the end to make the reader want to read on. I checked for sentence length and action verbs and use of the various senses.

I wanted the basic elements of the scene to be in place so I didn’t have to worry about that part in revision. (You can find more about the things I check for in this article.)

  1. Timing and Weather

Sometimes I’ve worked out the timing of all the events before I start writing the book. This time, however, I’m trying something new. I’m working on the sequel to Broken Windows with a working title of Deja Who? I wanted to work freely with the dialog and flow of the story without being tied to constraints. I decided to add the timing after I was done writing. By then I knew exactly what would happen and I could make that fit into a time frame and weather pattern that worked best for the story.

When I began this process I printed out a calendar for a basic year. Then I put all the events of the book on that calendar. Since I’m not naming the year in my book, I can adjust the dates a few days one way or another to fit the plot. Some events need to happen on a certain day of the week or at a certain holiday. I adjust the events to fit the calendar.

Just recently I went back over my book, scene by scene adding time details. Some scenes only needed a few words added like “the next day” or “on Sunday.” They helped the reader to see the basic passage of time. I also added weather details. Since my sequel takes place in Minneapolis, weather plays a strong part. I can add interest to the book by having the characters interact with weather elements.

  1. Think It Through

When you’ve got a good basic first draft done, you really need to set the whole book aside for a few weeks or a month so that you can pick it up again with a fresh perspective. Then read the whole thing through as a reader, not attempting to correct anything except obvious typos. Then think about it. Take walks, think while you’re cooking meals or weeding the garden or shovelling show. What works and what doesn’t? Are their elements dragging the plot down that need to be deleted? Does the book say what you want it to say? Can you change it to make it less predictable?

  1. Revise and Polish

Then work through the whole book, fine tuning it to make it your best work possible.

I recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King for guidelines for this final revision.

That takes you to the end of writing your novel. After that it’s a good idea to get feedback from advanced readers. You may be sending your novel to editors or agents or you may be going the self-publication route, but that’s another blog topic. I’m nearing the completion the writing process of Deja Who? and nearly ready to take those next steps myself.