Family Before Ministry

You do not need to be involved in ministry for long to realize that there is a very careful balancing act between ministry and family. Add in a day job (like in my situation) and things become more complicated. For me, this has been one of the biggest struggles, balance. However, the more I do, and the more I study, the more I realize that balancing is not the right illustration at all.

The youngest member of my family, Oliver.

The youngest member of my family, Oliver.

Balance implies that I am adding a little bit here and a little bit there to make everything even. In life, that little bit is our time. We take some time here and put it there to use it for ministry, family, work, self, or God (or however else you use your time). To some extent, we all do this. Constantly feeling like we are balancing how our time is used versus how it should be used. However, “balance” implies everything has equal weight. That is where the illustration breaks down for me.

“Balance” implies everything has equal weight. That is where the illustration breaks down for me.

Some things are simply more important than others. When I was in Bible college, we had it drilled into us that your personal relationship with God comes first. This is absolutely true and I am going to assume that our readers understand this principle. You, personally, need to be studying the Word and communing with God through prayer. What about the other things in life? How do we figure out what is important and what is not? That is the difficult question we have to figure out!

The two biggest competing things in my life are family and ministry. Most of us will quickly say that we believe family is far more important, but, too often, we don’t act that way. I believe this stems from a wrong view of “prioritizing” our lives. We tend to think of it as number one, number two, number three, number four, etc. However, just recently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts (ONE Extraordinary Marriage) and the hosts began describing this idea of priorities that was much different than the typical way we think about it.

Rather than a list, they proposed priorities are more like the ripples in the water after you throw a rock. The middle ripple where that initial impact happened, is God. From God comes your family, from which follow other things, like ministry. I like this picture because it conveys the idea that everything prior to an aspect of your life must be healthy for that aspect to be healthy. For example, my family life cannot be healthy unless my relationship to God is healthy. In the same way, your ministry cannot be healthy if your family life is not healthy.

The middle ripple where that initial impact happened, is God. From God comes your family, from which follow other things, like ministry. I like this picture because it conveys the idea that everything prior to an aspect of your life must be healthy for that aspect to be healthy.

When everything is in it’s right place, everything works. If I was to focus on my son to the neglect of my wife, that would ultimately be detrimental for my son. What he needs is a mom and a dad who have a strong, loving, growing relationship. In the same way, if I am out of touch with God, I WILL be out of touch with my wife. My wife needs a husband with a strong, loving, growing relationship with God. All of these things are inter connected.

What does this all mean? What should you do about this? I want you to put this into practice by taking time away from your ministry and giving to your family. Show your family that they are a priority in your life. Maybe, that means you need to say “no” to an opportunity at church to say “yes” you your family. Just recently I was considering joining a class about Preparing and Presenting God’s Word that my pastor was teaching at my church. Sounds great, right?! Except, it was on Saturday mornings which is our family time, something we cannot always do during the week due to our work schedules. So, I said “no” to the class to say “yes” to my family.

Naturally, flexibility plays a huge role in this. There will be times when ministry will come before family out of necessity. A strong relationship and a supportive spouse can carry you through these times. However, those times when ministry takes priority should be looked at as seasons (Ecclesiastes 3), or times in your life that will come to an end.

Obviously, you cannot, and should not, say no to everything ministry-related. However, if you are reading this, you are most likely the kind of servant who will jump in head first to any ministry opportunity, probably more than one, and do an excellent job at all of them. I want to encourage you, don’t do them to the neglect of things far, far more important.

What have you said “no” to so that you can say “yes” to your family?

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