For today’s post, I am privileged to interview Craig Ford, a man I greatly admire not only for his prolific writing but for his mission work, his family values and his great sense of humor.
This month Craig celebrates 10 years of marriage and four years of missionary work in Papua New Guinea. The Ford house is an active place with three kids four and under. Craig blogs at Money Help For Christians where he posts on topics related to the Bible and money as well as investigative posts like his recent search for the top personal finance software. Get his latest free Bible and money eBook – The Bible and 21st Century Finances.
“Craig, you write every week day for your own blog and also write staff posts for Christian PF, Bible Money Matters, and Moolanomy. You are also a full time missionary, a husband and father of three young children. My question is this: what motivates you to do so much? How does your writing (blogging) dovetail with your overall life mission?”
My wife and I have always tried to chase after what we feel called to do and what we are passionate about. We’ve never made a lot of money, but life has been extremely satisfying. I’ve found that writing is something that I’m passionate about. When I started to learn about the monetary potential of blogging, I was attracted to blogging because my wife and I have always felt passionate about working in smaller church contexts. Unfortunately, many smaller churches cannot provide a full salary to a church worker. As a result, I decided to follow the pathway of Paul to see if it was possible to make my own salary independent of the church in order to be a blessing to smaller churches.
When I started blogging, we committed to spending up to two years making some intentional sacrifices to see where God would take us. In the future, I feel like writing and speaking on the topic of the Bible and money will play an increasing role. But, that is God’s decision.
At one point, I was writing for two of my own blogs plus staff writing on four other blogs. That was too much. With the help of my wife, we recognized it and made the necessary adjustments.
Over the last 3 months, I’ve slowly been cutting back on some of my staff writing commitments. Like anything, you sometimes need to push hard at the start so that once you have some momentum you can back off. I’m at the point now where I’m backing off, but the momentum continues.
How far ahead do you plan each post? How do you stay on your writing schedule when unexpected life occurrences draw you away from your writing?
I typically have a reserve of about 30 articles. I just counted and I have 25 completed articles listed in my blogging book. When it seems to be the right time to pull out a dusty article, I do a final touch up and send it to my wife for a final edit. This cushion really helps during busy times. A couple of weeks ago I was sick for about four days and didn’t do much. I was really enjoying being lazy and hanging out with my wife, so I took off another week of writing. The article reserve lets me take a break when I don’t feel like writing or blogging.
Many men (myself included) have trouble thinking of more than one thing at a time. Do you have any tips on how to be a better multi-tasker?
I’m terribly one track minded. For anyone who has that burden/blessing, I recommend the book The Dark Side of Leadership. It basically says that whatever is the key ingredient to making you successful is also the same ingredient that is most likely to lead to your downfall. My focus is my strength, and my focus is also my weakness.
In our case, we get away from the computer. That is why we love to walk outside in our yard once the kids are in bed. We get exercise and time together. Another good bonding time is when we do dishes – by hand!
How do you balance your mission work, your writing and your family time? Do you ever just kick back and goof off?
I strongly believe that I could not do what I do if I lived in North America. The pace of life here in PNG is very slow. I’m in the house five nights a week. That gives me ample time in the evenings to eat and spend time with the kids, go for a walk with my wife, and then head to bed early. With so many other commitments and activities in North America, I would not be able to write so much.
Also, my ministry provides me with a lot of flexibility. For example, yesterday I was out visiting three different churches and didn’t get home until 6:30 p.m., so today I went out for a long lunch with my wife and then finished up an hour early with my church work so I could write this post.
Even though I’m doing the blogging and full time ministry, I still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family nearly every day. Every Friday is our family day which means I don’t do any church work and I keep my blogging to less than an hour or two (typically, I’ll wake up and work before my wife and kids get up, and then the rest of the day we do some fun family activities).
Five mornings a week I’m up at 5:00 a.m. to do some writing before breakfast with the family. I start my ‘missionary day’ at 8 a.m. Saturday is my writing day, and I try to write everything for the week on that one day.
My ministry work and blogging work is so different that they both provide a nice ‘distraction’ from the other. My missionary work is spent visiting people in their homes, having bible studies, and participating in other church activities. My blogging is spent typing away at a keyboard and really engaging in some critical thinking.
Do you think burnout could be an issue for you? What tips would you give to others for coping with possible burnout?
Fatigue is a greater danger for me than burnout. I love what I do, but sometimes I just run out of steam. When that happens, I step back and try to get some extra rest. My family is taking an eight night family vacation to Sydney next month (paid for with our blogging income), and I plan to cut back during that time. My wife and I have always been fans of working hard and playing hard.
I could not do what I do without the constant support of my wife. First of all, she watches the kids on Saturday while I write. Second, she proof reads everything I print. My writing is terrible, and nothing gets published without her approval. Third, she co-authored a book with me – The Short Term Missions Handbook. Finally, she co-writes Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog that we both write together. She is an extremely supportive wife. I would have quit months ago if it were not for her.
Craig, I can’t finish this interview without asking the obvious: what tips can you give fellow bloggers who are trying to keep their lives in balance?
1. Do everything with the consent and agreement of your wife. If she feels uncomfortable with your blogging schedule, adjust it. The support of your spouse is essential.
2. Stay up late or get up early – maximize on the time with your kids. Do your best not to push your kids to the side in order to blog.
3. Spend time with your wife every evening – no matter how much you have to do. Mondays are my busy day, but when I get home at 9 p.m., my wife and I always go for a walk around our yard. We need to touch base every day. After we walk, I finish up a few blog things before going to bed.
4. Force yourself to write – even when you don’t have to so that later you can take a break when you feel tired. Having a reserve of articles is an important way to be lazy if you feel lazy.
5. Write about what inspires you. Often, I write because I’m interested in a topic. Sometimes I write articles just to pay the bills, but I try to have a healthy amount of articles I enjoy.
6. Be willing to give some things up to blog. When I started blogging I was training for a half marathon and I knew a lot of training and blogging wouldn’t work. As a result, I cut all but two days a week of exercise out of my schedule. Just last week I packed up all my DVD box sets because after a long day of work I felt like I ‘deserved’ to watch something. That meant an even later night and less focus and attention to my family.
7. Identify the most productive activities and focus your time there. There are so many distractions to blogging. Find out what is most important – do those things – the rest is gravy.
Speaking for myself and my readers, I say, “Thank you Craig!”
Readers: How do you balance career, faith and family? What tips from Craig were helpful? Where do you struggle most in trying to keep this balance?