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Performing musical couple says balance key to family

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Balancing marriage, family and ministry requires setting priorities and putting God first, a husband-wife musical team told participants in the Church Music Leadership Conference at Glorieta, A LifeWay Conference Center, July 15-20, in New Mexico.

“When a husband and wife get closer to God, they get closer to each other,” Dick Tunney said.

Mel and Dick Tunney, both concert artists, composers and writers based in Nashville, Tenn., travel approximately 40 weekends a year and fill their weekdays with writing, composing, concert scheduling and other career-related activities. Yet, they say, making time for each other on a personal level, and for their two daughters, takes precedence over songwriting and performing.

Early in their 19-year marriage, the Tunneys developed a prioritized lifestyle that places God first, followed by their relationship to each other and their relationship with their children, Dick Tunney said. Other items, such as ministry, extended family and songwriting, follow those top three.

“It can sound really good and wise to say these are our priorities,” Mel Tunney observed. “But if we don’t live that out and make choices that prove that is the case, then it’s just a bunch of words.”

Dick Tunney said one example of making choices came when daughter Whitney auditioned for and got a lead role in a school production. They canceled a weekend engagement in Toronto to be in the front row for their daughter’s three performances.

Mel Tunney said both daughters understand that type of commitment may not be possible all the time, “but we don’t just say, ‘We’ll see it on videotape.'”

She said she and Dick “are always together at home and in our work, so we have found we must make the choice to turn off talk about our ministry sometimes. We need to talk boyfriend-girlfriend things.”

Frequent-flier miles allow the Tunneys to take Whitney and Kelsey along on about half their weekend engagements.

“We only travel on weekends, Mel Tunney said, “and we catch the last plane out of Nashville and the first plane back.”

In fact, Dick Tunney probably spends more time with his daughters than some men who have 9-to-5 jobs.

“We have a bit of an advantage in that our office and our studio are in the house,” he said. “Unless I’m up against a deadline, when they get home from school, my work is finished.”

The Tunney family has a history of togetherness. When the girls were very small, Mel and Dick had a date night once a week. When the girls got older, they planned a family date night, with each family member in turn choosing the place to eat, along with one entertainment activity.

“One of the hardest struggles is choosing to say ‘no’ to something,” Dick Tunney said. “We could easily run ourselves into the ground, but we block out several times during the year to hold for family time.”

“People in ministry seem to feel guilty about taking time for themselves,” Mel Tunney added. “As a ministry couple, we can encourage each other to take time off.”

The music ministries department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored the Church Music Leadership Conference.

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  • Charles Willis