All of us who are passionate about ministry recognize that we can have competing interests when it comes to balancing our ministry and family responsibilities. If we’re not careful, we can yield to the addiction of busyness in ministry to the neglect of our own family.
In the years Terrie and I were raising our children, I didn’t always get it right. I’m thankful for God’s grace and for how He often showed that to me through Terrie’s reminders to work for balance in ministry and family life.
Today, all four of our adult children are serving in full time ministry with their spouses, and we praise the Lord for that.
People often ask how we did it. The only full answer is God’s grace… and that’s not just a cliché. It really is God’s grace to us and in our kids’ lives that has made the difference.
But below are five biblical practices we tried to follow:
1. Remember God’s Divine Order
God ordained the family first. Genesis 2:21–24 describes how God brought Adam and Eve together establishing the marriage covenant.
As a husband and father (or wife and mother), your greater responsibility is to your family over your ministry. Remember to have your family devotions. Spend time together. Invest in your children by obeying Ephesians 6:4 to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
God also ordained the church, and it is a divine institution which He loves so dearly that He gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). But as a pastor, it is good for me to remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) and that “the Lord added to the church daily” (Acts 2:47).
There is no question about the fact that we are to be about our Father’s business and to give of ourselves in ministry. But we need to recognize urgency addiction and a desire to build in our own strength. These will not only hurt our family, but ultimately they won’t even produce a church that is truly growing through the work of the Holy Spirit in the grace of God by the Word of God.
2. Integrate Family and Ministry Life
People who look for the perfect balance between ministry and family sometimes fail to recognize that both fit together. Terrie and I look forward to times we can make a visit together, and we often read the same books or are in the same book of the Bible in our personal devotions and can discuss these together.
When our children were at home, we did ministry-related things with the kids. Like Priscilla and Aquila who served the Lord as a couple, we don’t have to segregate family life from ministry life.
God did not design the church and the family to be competing institutions but completing institutions. Don’t use the ministry as a tool against your family, and don’t use your family as a reason to not be involved in ministry.
3. Behave Passionately toward Both Family and Ministry
When you’re with your family, be passionately engaged with your family.
Again, I had to work at this. Terrie will tell you that there were many times we’d be on a family day, and I was trying to keep up with the building committee or dealing with crisis counseling. She was always so good though at finding a moment to remind me, “This is your time with our family.”
When you’re with your family, be locked and loaded. Make memories, laugh, and enjoy time together. Similarly, when you’re in ministry apart from your family, passionately give your attention and focus to those responsibilities as well.
4. Be Sensitive and Responsive to the Holy Spirit
I suppose the question I’m asked more than any other in this area is, “How do you know if you’re balanced between your family and ministry?”
My answer isn’t as diagnostic as most people are looking for, but it’s important: The Holy Spirit will tell you.
Beware of imbalances, and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He cares more about your church and about your family than you do.
You may also want to seek the counsel of a trusted mentor who you’ve observed balance both well. If you’re a staff member or busy church worker and you feel like you’re out of balance, be sure to talk to your pastor about it.
In any case, don’t continuously dread that you might be out of balance and just go on. You’ll eventually begin to resent your ministry or family or both. Ask God for guidance, seek counsel, and take responsibility to make whatever changes need to be made.
5. Bless the Ministry in front of Your Family
Make sure you’re not begrudging the demands of ministry, belittling other preachers, or bemoaning your own busyness to your family.
Your family has the opportunity to get a front row seat to God at work in the church and changing people’s lives. Let that be what they see. Point their attention to God’s goodness and to the joy there is in serving Him.
Through God’s grace and by following His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you can nurture a godly family in the midst of a fervent ministry.