Balancing Family and Ministry

Emma and AddieLast week was an exciting one for Lisa and I as we welcomed our second child to the Bell family. Here you can see our first, ‘Emma’ with her baby sister ‘Addie’. Emma was excited to meet her, Addie on the other hand was not a big fan of meeting people…

I have been on vacation for a week and I am headed back tomorrow. We are all a little sleep deprived and very excited to be parents again. However, one of the blessings of having another Addie has been the insights God has provided for me as I reflect being a parent again. As I consider these last few weeks and as I look ahead, here is what I am learning about Family and Ministry:

Clarity: Having another child is a great way for me to be able to bring clarity to what matters most and to consider my primary ministry – my family. No matter how many tasks and how many events or programs I have, it’s important to realize that family should come before youth ministry. While youth ministry is of huge significance, it is my belief that God has called me to 1) Be child of His first, 2) Be a husband and father second, 3) A youth pastor third. Agree or disagree, this has been continuous theme I hear from mentors in my life.

Balance: Balance is always hard to find in ministry, but it is crucial that all of us should try to lead our families well and pursue balance. Two great books that I recommend on this area are: ‘Choosing to Cheat’ By Andy Stanley, and ‘What Matters Most’ by Doug Fields. Both books are an easy read and very practical.

Andy Stanley is the pastor at Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta which is one of the fastest growing churches in the nation…yet he maintains that family come first. He rarely works over 40 hours a week and God has done some completely amazing things at Northpoint. As I have kept my hours at a sustainable and healthy level, I have seen not only my family blessed, but the ministry too.

Example: The power of example is always a huge area I often talk about, (just see my previous post). You and I have too many students and families watching our lives  for us to set a murky example of healthy balance.  Ultimately, these students will live out what is modeled for them. It’s important to not only take care of our families first, but to realize that we helping those around us too.

Planning Ahead: Putting my family before ministry also means that I should give them priority in my schedule. As I look ahead at the Fall we already have some key family nights and date nights in our schedule. It’s often challenging to do this since ministry can consume us in many ways. However, it’s important to schedule family first.

Finally, as I have said earlier, I have seen great things happen not only in my family but in my ministry. When I have clarity and pursue healthy balance,  I win, the church wins, and of course… my family wins too.

What is God teaching you about balancing family and ministry?

Phil <><

We celebrate the good gifts God gives us in our children. Children are a gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3

7 Responses to Balancing Family and Ministry

  1. Sara G July 13, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Great post Phil! Funny, as youth directors we often find ourselves upset that families and students will schedule their lives with sports, marching bands, programs, etc. making it a challenge for them to come to what we have made such a gallant effort to offer them. Yet in the midst of it all, we have over scheduled ourselves in just the same way but in “doing” ministry. How sad to see how we get caught up in the mentality of “more is better” or “bigger is better” when it defeats the purpose of everything we are ultimately trying to accomplish not only in the lives of teens and their families, but in our own lives which is a deeper faith and a stronger family. Andy Stanley says is best, “Less is More!”

  2. Alice Smith July 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Phil, firstly congratulations! My biggest revelation recently has been in implementing the Semi-Circle in my life. It’s part of the LIfeShpes taught by Mike Breen and adopted as an ‘operating system’ in churches in Sheffield UK and elsewhere. is a good intro to it being used in a local church setting. Ultimately, getting the ‘work-life’ balance is never going to be easy – balance too implies that we have to have it ‘even’ all the time, with the right amount of scales on each side…but actually, some seasons are crazy, busy, relentless, hard work and feel like never ending work…and then we hit some rest/holiday/quiet time. It is in the swing of the pendulum that we need to understand our ‘rest’ and to work from our rest and not the other way around.
    Enjoy your new extended family and ease yourself back in!!
    Alice x

  3. Ms. Edwards September 13, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    I can’t understand this family first thing. First the bible tells us not to marry unequally yoked. If we are equally yoked we would understand the demands of ministry.
    Thing about the 12 disciple’s.They had to leave family behind for a season. Bottom line there needs to be balance. And what ever we do we need the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the bible there’s a time and season for all things. I don’t believe family first, family before ministry is being explained well. Where is scripture to back this up. After all we in the body of Christ are all family.
    Why to we have to number everything.
    People say god created the family first. Well, life had to start some where. Children had to be born. Needed a husband and a wife. Just like the question, what came first the chicken or the egg. If the egg was first, whats was going to nurture it until it can take care of it self.
    I don’t think you should be ministering out if your not doing it at home, that would make you a hypocrite. Balance!!! Balance!!! Balance!!!

  4. youthworktalk September 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Ms. Edwards. I understand this is often a challenging subject for many in ministry.

    First, the context of being unequally yoked is referring to how compatible someone is in regards to faith. In other words, don’t marry someone who will compete with what you believe as a Christian. It is not referring to ministry and commitments.

    Second, in 1st Timothy 3, Paul talks to Timothy about overseers and deacons (leaders of the church). He is clear about their role as the head of the family and as leaders of church when he says, “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”

    When we read this we must understand that these requirements are met when we make our family an integral part of the ministry picture knowing that we need to understand family leadership first.

    Unfortunately in today’s society I have met too many leaders of the church who’s kids and wives are poorly led by their husbands for the ‘sake of the church’. What we fail to understand is that unless we have our family in order we will not see real lasting fruit in the church.

    I have met some great leaders and speakers whose words are lost on their churches since the people see that their words are empty when they look at the leaders family. In this generation coming up, talk is cheap. They want example. I believe that people will follow a leader who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk…

    Lastly, in Genesis we read that two become one. Therefore, it is important that both husband and wife are invested in both family and ministry with good balance. But once again, we cannot look after the church until we have placed priority on getting our families in order.

    Hope that is helpful and thank you for your frank and honest comments.

    In Him,

    Phil <><

  5. Tiff January 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    I agree with family before ministry – actually, it’s the first ministry for anyone IN ministry.

    For a recent married coupled – spend time with each other first. There will be much time to spend in ministry. As a matter of fact, this is a type of minsitry. The world of God admonishes the husband to love the wife as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it. Thats real love, that spending time with each other love.

    For familes with small children – become involved in a ministry where the entire family can take part and it wouldn’t require a lot of time away from each other. I think a lot of times we consider ministry only in terms of anything that requires long hours away from family or anything that takes you away from something you enjoy. This is a serious misconception in the Body of Christ. You can minister as a family to another family in your community. Ministry does not always mean taking frequent trips out of country and away from your loved ones. That my be our thinking but I don’t think it’s right. We tend to think of ministry only in terms of “lime light” ministry but there are so many little things that a family can do together than can minister to others, especially other families.

    So i would say for a young growing family with young children, minister in a way where all can be involved and where ministry would not take you away from your family commitments. After your kids have gotten a certain age, maybe late teens, you can involve yourself in more demanding minsitry commitments.

    I am a 35 year old married woman with 2 kids ages 4 and 9 and I have recently stepped back from demanding ministry because I was not committing enough time to my family. My husband had an affair because he felt like he was in competition with the church for my attention. I must say that it feels so good and things are falling into place since I put my family before ministry (not God, but ministry) I pray that others will take heed and give quality time with the family that God blessed them with.

  6. erik March 7, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    I agree with what 1Tim.3 says that how can some one manage the church if he can’t manage his own family. We must prove to be faithful in this area and continue to lead our famiies even when we are called to ministry. However the bible never mentions family to be first, but we must not take that and become unbalanced and serve one more than the other. God has called men to be sheppards of our homes, and if in ministry then we must sheppard those as well, giving them both time. God is always first, and after God we must balance our lives and priortize them accordingly. Now, this doesnt mean you neglect your family to serve the church, absolutely not. Our family is our responsibility we must tend to our garden, but also we must not use that as an excuse to take time away from the ministry. Truth is brother we have a difficult task when it comes to balancing and managing our time, we must be discilined and good stewarts of time. Because we can never redeem our time back once it passes it’s gone. Take care brother and congratulations! Continue to serve the yourth they are the next generation, God bless you
    In His service,

  7. youthworktalk March 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks Tiff and Erik for your encouraging and challenging words. This post has been the most viewed post on my blog and I believe it is because so many in ministry are looking for support and answers to the balancing issue.

    It’s great to see so many people who are committed to serving God in ministry, but also seeing their family as a primary ministry. The two cannot be separated.

    Blessings to all of you as you seek balance and great ministry. It is challenging, but so rewarding to make a healthy investment in both family and ministry…

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