faith | family | leadership

A New Vision For Balancing Family & Ministry

Balancing family and ministryEvery time we say “yes” to something will always mean that we are saying “no” to something else. For those of us in ministry, it’s often easiest to say “no” to our family. They understand better, right? But, fast forward a few years and your spouse (if you are married), and your kids, (if you have any), will likely resent you (and the church) for always “cheating” on them.

In my previous post I wrote about 8 Signs of an Unhealthy Youth & Children’s Ministry Worker. It’s possible you read that post and walked away feeling convicted of the need to find a healthy balance for yourself and your family? But it’s also possible you were looking for answers of where to begin? Before we find answers, let’s face a reality:

Balancing family and ministry is often like trying to hit a moving target.

My family AND ministry is constantly changing. Just when I think I have it figured out, it changes again… Know the feeling? With so many different seasons of family and ministry, it’s like trying to balance a pile of rocks on a moving surface…

It Begins with Vision! 

The task of  balancing family and ministry is simplified when we seek God to create a compelling vision for family and ministry


While many of us have a vision statement for our own ministries, how many of us have taken time to ensure we are seeking a God-given vision for our own family?

Even though balancing family and ministry is a constant moving target, it is a compelling vision for family and ministry that will help us keep taking the steps towards balance. Healthy balance typically follows closely to a God-given vision. Or to put it another way:

The balancing point for family and ministry is often found closely to a God-given vision

So, where can we start?

  1. Understand what vision is: Simply put, vision is a picture of a hoped for future.
  2. Craft a new vision for you and your family. What words or phrases do you want to describe yourself and your family a year, five years, or ten years from now? Sit down with your family and seek God to create a vision statement for family and ministry. Know that this process will require a lot of prayer and discussion and is not something that can be created quickly, (but it’s well worth it).
  3. Set goals that support your vision: What goals do you want to attain for you and your family? Under that vision statement, what are some specific goals you have yourself and your family. Do the goals support your vision, or do they just add to the busyness?
  4. Think about the steps that are needed: What steps do you need to take to attain your vision and goals?
  5. Create a timeline and schedule: When will you make time for these steps? Saying “yes” to everything will mean you say “no” to many essentials. What do you need to ruthlessly clear in your family schedule? What needs to be replaced?
  6. Who will hold you accountable? This is key! Who knows you well enough to hold your task while also holding your hand a little? If you have a mentor or friend in ministry who understands the unique challenges, ask them to hold you accountable.

In my next post, I will take a look at some foundational habits we can strive for (with God’s help), to help us support a vision for healthy family and ministry. 

Phil <><

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8 Signs of an Unhealthy Youth & Children’s Ministry Worker

8“The way you invest in your own family will significantly affect the influence you have with parents.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

God has called parents to be the primary investors of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

Our ability to partner with parents will depend greatly on the example we set before them. 1 Timothy 3:5 calls us to take care of our family first, so that we can know how to take care of the family God…

What are the signs that our own walk and family life could be in trouble? Here are eight signs that I list in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

  1. People Pleasing: We live to impress others instead of pleasing God first. We say “yes” to everyone and everything and feel ashamed at the idea of saying “no” to anyone who asks. We almost feel selfish if we want to say “no” to someone’s request. In the meantime, we become worn out and ministry has little joy or excitement. We are running on empty and our own family gets the few leftovers, if anything meaningful from us.
  2. Platform Builders: We attempt to build a platform of significance for ourselves and live little to no room on the platform for Christ. We are constantly fueled by the accolades of success and by the making a name for ourselves.
  3. Stolen Identity: Our identity is staked in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. It only takes a negative comment or a failed event to make us wonder if we are really cut out for ministry. Rather than being confident in the person God has called us to be, we are stooped in the identity of the position we hold.
  4. Broken Boundaries: We don’t know how to say “no” to ministry needs, yet we constantly say “no” to our family with our time and focus with our own family. Saying “no” to family is often the easier route since they will be more understanding, right? Wrong. Over time an understanding spouse or child can easily become bitter and resentful of the church and your ministry.
  5. All Work and No Devotion: Our personal devotional time has become more of a study time for creating the next great idea or message for our ministry. Reading God’s Word and applying it personally and practically has been replaced by lesson preparation for the benefit of others.
  6. No Time for Worship: Making it into the church worship experience is a distant memory as we look to serve others and ensure that everything depends on us. While we encourage families to sit together in church, our own family has not experienced this for a long time…
  7. Present but not Really Present: In an over connected world where we can be contacted every minute of the day, it’s easy to be with our own families but not fully present with them. Rather than shut off the communication at strategic times, we feel like every phone call, text message, email, and social media request has to be answered instantly. Over time our kids and spouses conclude that the outside world is more important than what happens inside our own homes.
  8. The Temple is Crumbling: We are told that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, yet for some of us it feels like the temple is crumbling. There’s no time for exercise and food is often a comfort that leads to health complications over time. More than anything, we lack energy, and always feel like we need more sleep…

I know there are more to add to this list. What would you add? What steps are you taking to ensure that your family is healthy and your example to parents is worth following? Remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about seeking the author and perfecter of your faith…

Begin to today by admitting to God the areas in your life and ministry that need help… Invite a friend or mentor to encourage you to take healthier steps. Pray for God’s strength and wisdom to discover a healthier way to balance family and ministry… 

Phil <><

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Team Up! How to Become an Expert in Partnering with Parents!

Expert Lightbulb
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Partnering with parents to reach the next generation for Christ should be an essential component for every children’s and youth ministry. While we get to partner with them through our weekly programs, it’s imperative that we understand that God has called parents to be the primary equippers of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

 “I get it, but what next? I’m not an expert on parenting!”

That was a statement I made many years ago as I grappled with how best to reach parents with a vision to invest in their child’s faith journey. I had quickly found that parents were looking for practical ways to invest in their children, but many times, they were lost for ways to help faith come alive at home.  And while I was not always the one to help them with every question, it was imperative that I develop a network of people who had the answers.

“Be an expert at helping parents find answers rather than one who’s expected to have the answers.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

Consider the following experts and support you can provide parents: 

  1. “Been There” Parents: Who are the parents who are a few steps ahead of the parents in your ministry? While there are no perfect parents, it’s essential to connect your parents with those who have gleaned valuable lessons in raising their own children in the faith. Who are the “been there” parents in your ministry?
  2. Trained Christian Counselors: Every community has a number of counselors, but they do not all come from a Christ-centered perspective. Talk to your senior pastor and other church leaders to build a list of recommended trained christian counselors.
  3. Community Agencies: While many community agencies will not have the same mission as the church, they can often provide great practical help to the families in your church.
  4. Books: Ask parents if there are books that have helped them in their parenting journey. Create a list and even be prepared to ask a parent to write a review of the book for other parents to read.
  5. Websites: What websites and blogs can help parents in their faith journey. Recently at Kidmin2015 we created a list of websites, blogs, and apps that can help parents. Click here for the list. 
  6. Apps: Some of your parents are already using apps and loving the ideas and encouragement they bring. Ask parents if they have a “go to” app they use as they invest in their child’s faith journey. Once you have found that app on the app store, consider searching for similar apps to recommend them.

Parents see you as the expert whether you like it or not. It does NOT mean you have to know all the answers, but it DOES mean that you should be an expert in finding the answers!

What are your “go to” resources for parents? What are your favorite websites, apps, and books to recommend parents? 

Phil <><


Kidmin 2015 Resources to Partner with Parents

Abide Kidmin 2015Thank you to all those who attended my track at Kidmin 2015 in Chicago. I had a blast and loved spending time with Children’s ministry and family ministry workers who are committed to partnering with parents to reach the next generation for Christ.

One of sessions involved table groups brainstorming their “go to” websites, books, and resources for parents. Below is a list we created together. I have not investigated every resource, so please do your due diligence!



Family Talk – Dr. Dobson

The Bible for Kids

YouVersion Bible

Gabbit by Group

D6Family App and Splink Newsletter

Verse Rain – Memory Verse App

Scripture Typer

Family Faith


Pass it on by Burns & Lee

Sticky Faith for Families by Powell

Confident Parenting by Burns

Tech Savvy Parents by Houseman

Redeeming Sex by Hirsch

Talk Now and Later by Dollar

Creative Correction by Welchel

The Power of a Praying Parent by Omartian

Bringing Up Boys / Girls by Dobson

Praying for Prodigal by Banks

Faith and the Modern Family by Jutila

Making of a Man by Brown

Raising a Modern Day Knight by Lewis

And The Bride Wore White by Gresh

Going Public by Pritchard

Additional Resources:

Love & Logic Institute

The Gospel Project by Lifeway

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Parish Nurse Programs

Well, that’s we came up with in a 15 minute brainstorming session. Please add more resources in the comments! 

Phil <><





Kidmin 2015 Deep Learning Track Notes

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Thanks to everyone who came to the deep learning track called Parent Pain Points. A great deal of the content came from my recently published book, Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

As promised, below is a link to shortened outline with the main points and quotes from the 4 sessions I led. (Please note, there is an expiration on the link – The notes will be available until October 15th).

Click here for notes!

Feel free to give me feedback and please use the contact form if you have any questions?

It was such a pleasure to meet so many incredible children’s, youth, and family ministry workers!

Phil <><

Team Up! Partner with Parents with a Web of Support

PlayFor years, there’s been a tendency for us to focus solely on church programs and miss helping parents succeed at home. While many of us have heard of the importance of partnering with parents, there’s not always been a clear and practical picture of how to do it. That’s why I wrote Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.
Today, we’ll look at a simple strategy that will help support and equip parents without requiring us to expend huge energy or to navigate a huge learning curve:


“All parents need a web of support to help them on their parenting journey. It’s our role to connect them. It’s important for them to be surrounded by people who can help and encourage them as they raise their kids.” Excerpt from Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents

Help Parents Develop a Web of Support

  1. Connect Parents with Each Other. So many parents feel isolated and alone. They often feel like they are the only ones who are struggling or making mistakes at home. Whether it’s promoting small groups in your church (even if that’s not your area of ministry), or creating intentional ways for parents to talk and connect within your program and events, parents need to know they are not alone.
  2. Connect Parents with Seasoned Parents. Who are the “been there” parents who have a heart for parents? Who are the seasoned parents who can help create events, small groups, and classes to pour into your parents? So often, we feel like the burden to partner with parents is solely on us. However, if we pray and watch, God will often show us those seasoned parents who can come alongside the parents of the children we are ministering to.
  3. Connect Parents with Volunteers. So often we provide volunteers with the focus to invest and pour into the kids in their group or program. But what would it look like if we changed their focus and gave them a revised “job description” that included reaching out to and encouraging a parent once a week? What if every volunteer in your children’s and youth ministry reached out to one parent each week? What impact would that have?
  4. Connect Parents with Professionals. Do you have a network of professionals you can quickly refer parents to in a time of need? Partnering with them does not mean that we have all the answers and expertise, it can mean that we know who to point them to. If you don’t have a list of counselors and trained professionals, today is the day to begin building one

There are a number of additional ways to build a web of support for parents, but hopefully you get the overall idea. Partnering with parents in children’s and youth ministry does not always require us to overhaul what we are doing, rather we can weave some essential components into what is already existing.

There’s lots more to say, and it’s written in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. Grab a copy and feel free to contact me and continue the conversation with questions and ideas!

Phil <><

Announcing: Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents

Team Up! About a year ago I began writing Team Up! The The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents with GROUP Publishing. Today, I am excited to announce that it is available for purchase!

Why Did I Write It? About 15 years ago I realized that my ministry impact was limited if I only focused on the kids in my ministry and failed to include their parents. You see, our time with kids is limited, while the time parents get with them is much greater. In addition, and most importantly, God calls parents to be the primary faith equippers of their children while we are called to partner with them… If you have been around for even a short period of time in ministry, you have already heard this philosophy… So, how is this book different? 

It addresses the disparity between the philosophical need to partner with parents, and the practical application of what that looks like for children’s and youth workers in the local church.

For the last 15 years I have sought out practical ways to partner with parents and help them to become the spiritual champions of their kids. What is written on the pages of the book is a journal of practical ways that will help you and I partner with parents with greater effectiveness!

“So many books will give you a way to do ministry that is specific to their context, that it requires you and I to clone our ministries after them. My hope is that after reading this book you can keep your ministry identity, while also effectively partnering with parents as you reach the next generation for Christ.”

Who Is It For? In a nutshell, anyone who works with or has influence over those who work with children and students within the local church. It’s for church leaders as well as children’s ministry and youth workers. My hope is that church leaders can team up to talk about practical ways to reach the next generation for Christ…

What’s Next? Go ahead a grab a copy and join me in the next few months as I blog weekly about each of the chapters in the book. You can also join me at Kidmin Conference, September 25-27th in Chicago. I will be leading four sessions centered around partnering with parents. I would love to see you there!

Phil <><

Leading By Example… When Our Words Are Not Enough


It’s natural for followers to begin to take on the personality, habits, theology, and core values of the leader. Just walk into any organization and you can quickly see what the leadership stands for by seeing the employees at work. If you were to walk into a church, what would the people and culture tell you about their leader(s)?

If you are the example, what are your followers following?

If you are like me, it’s a challenging question to ask since it requires me to be gut wrenchingly honest. It scares me to ask this question since it means I might have to look to make changes in what I say and do on a regular basis.

It concerns me to think that what I stand for is not being communicated to the leaders I oversee. However, as hard as it is to ask this question, it is this question that can become a doorway to health…

You see, we can’t get away from the fact that our followers will likely take on the DNA of what we communicate and stand for. Therefore, for the sake of the people we are leading, it is imperative that we look long and hard in the mirror at who we are and what our leadership communicates. When we see areas of weakness or lack of clarity, it is important that we embrace the reality and invite God to change us. But most importantly, above all else, are we reflecting Christ to our followers?

So the question I ask again is this:

If you are the example, what are your followers following?

Phil <><

5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries for Leaders

Social Media BoundariesI wrote this article a while back, but recently I have heard about friends in ministry who have been burned by some poor decisions when using social media. I’m reposting this today in the hope it will be helpful to those of us who are in ministry and use social media…

Using social media can be your friend when doing ministry, but it can quickly become your enemy too…  I have heard stories of youth workers who are getting into trouble because of the way they are using social media. I have also heard quite a few stories of people not getting a new position because of the social media ‘past.

5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries

1) Accept that leaders live in ‘glass house.’ This is hard to accept, but when you are in ministry and you are using social media, it automatically means that you are under the spotlight. Leaders, parents, students, and children are looking up to you and will often follow you for inspiration, guidance, and hope. On the other hand, others will follow you to get an inside track to see whether you fit their mold of someone in ministry…

Like it or not, the reality is that a leader is always watched closely. What are others seeing?

2) Wait to be Friended or Followed: If you don’t know a student well, wait for them to friend or follow you. I know this might seem a little extreme, but unless I know a person quite well, I will wait for them to friend me. If there is a person in your ministry who is new and getting plugged in, it might be worth waiting for them to friend you. Waiting for someone to ‘friend’ you simply avoids any weirdness and ensures they are happy for you to get an inside track to their life.

3) Avoid Private Conversations: When working with students, try to keep messages public and for all to see. If a students wants to talk to you about an issue or a problem, try to do it face to face in full site of others. It’s also essential to communicate with parents that you are talking to their student. I know this might seem a little over the top, but here are two good reasons why contacting parents is a good idea:

  • It opens the door for a relationship to partner with parents.
  • It avoids parents wondering what your intentions are. In this day and age, parents are protective when other adults contact their kids, and rightly so. Honor parents by touching base and letting them know who you are.

4) Consider carefully what you post: Here are three things that can get you in trouble.

  • Questionable pictures: In certain social media platforms such as Facebook, you can create a setting that gives you the option to ‘allow’ pictures you are tagged in. Ensure that the pictures of you will always allow others to see you in a positive light.
  • Complaints: Complaining about others simply does not look good. It shows weakness that we can’t talk to the person directly as well as modeling a poor method of dealing with conflict.
  • Controversial Issues: For me I don’t post  anything that could divide people in my church. Political statements, local controversies, and attacks on political leaders should be avoided.

In what you post, would others describe you as a  divisive and opinionated person, or an inspirational leader? 

5) Leverage social media to inspire and uplift:  This should be a given, but many of us have discounted the great value of regularly posting to inspire others. As I said at the beginning of this post. People are looking for hope and direction. Consider what influence you can have by using social media effectively?

What would you add to this list? In what ways has social media caused issues for you? What are the most widely used forms of social media by your students? Where are your students trending to? 

Phil <><

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The Missing Ingredient to Healthy Discipleship?

The way we are discipled will correlate into how we disciple others… Who’s discipling you?

That is one of the most pertinent things that has ever been said to me. It was at a time when I had hit a roadblock in my ministry and was struggling personally. I had been working so hard taking others on their faith journey that I had not taken the time to invest in my own journey. The fact is, if you and I want to make an eternal impact on our own family and the people God has called us to disciple, it is imperative that each of us has someone who can invest in our faith journey. Or to put it another way:

Everyone needs a Paul in their lives as they look to invest in the Timothy’s in our lives. 

Helping Hand

It does not matter how old or experienced we are, we all need to look up to a ‘Paul’ in our lives who has the time to invest in us. I already have a few great guys who have invested in me, but if I am honest, my life and schedule has taken over recently. It’s time to create space and time in my schedule to make more time to be discipled.

As you look for people to disciple you, what should this look like? Here’s what I am looking for: 

1. They are available and have the TIME: We live in a fast paced world. Some of the most Godly men and women are ineffective because of one foundational deficiency: They are simply too busy. For you and I, I would seek out those people who are good time managers or have more time on their hands. Some of the best people to disciple you are in their retirement years because they have more time and will MAKE time for you. I know it might be awkward asking an older guy or gal to meet with you at first, but you will be blessed if you do so… Who at your church or in your community is strong in their faith and has TIME?

2. They help me dig into God’s Word and prayer: Years ago when I lived in the UK,  I met regularly with a guy called Chris who studied the Bible with me. I will never forget his passion, his knowledge, and the basic bible study skills he gave me. The way I personally study the bible and the way in which I help others study is because of Chris. What are you learning and what are you passing on? Who can you dive into God’s Word with? Who is praying for your each week?

3. They can speak into my family life: In a previous church, I sought out a guy who taught a number of the family and marriage classes. After a few coffees with him, I asked him to look out for me and gave him permission to check in with me about my family. To this day, even though we have both moved, ‘Bob’ has sought me out and checked in to see how we are all doing. We have had dinner with him and his wife many times and they have been a huge support to our family. We are learning from them in so many ways and are incredibly thankful for the Godly wisdom they provide. Despite the distance, Bob is someone who I trust to know what is best for my family.

4. Ask them to look for areas of weakness: I have always made it a point to seek out Godly leaders around me as a way to grow and glean from them. On the odd occasion, leaders like this will offer to help in some way where they see a need in my life. Years ago, a guy named Dan could see I was struggling as a young leader and offered to meet with me regularly so he could help me become more assertive and confident as a leader. I’ll be honest, at first it stung to hear that he could see I was lacking in a tender area of my life. Yet, after I gathered myself up off the floor from my crying, I agreed to meet with him. Dan was right about what he saw and I needed his advice… Who are are you letting in to speak truth into your life?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a leader is ask someone to look for areas of weakness and allow them in to help you…

Remember this key: The way I am being discipled with impact the way I am discipling others. It does not matter how old or wise I think I am, I am always going to need to have a ‘Paul’ in my life to disciple me, as I look to disciple the ‘Timothy’s’ in my life.

Who in your life is the ‘Paul’ for you? Who is helping you to grow as you invest in others? 

Phil <><

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