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Your First Ministry

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In my first few weeks of seminary, several of my professors reminded all of the men in the room to make sure our wives are always coming first. We heard horror stories of guys walking across the stage in graduation and receiving divorce papers from their wives. We heard stories of others getting wrapped up in affairs with classmates after a pattern of ignoring their spouses. With its academic rigor, our seminary had a particularly bad reputation of things like this happening. In only my third month of marriage, the warnings put me on guard too.
Last week, I kicked off a new series of posts about the importance of discipleship where I looked at Jesus’ style of immersing others in his life in order to show them how Christian living is supposed to look. This call to discipleship as Jesus modeled it is for all of us.

When we were growing up, my Dad always told us that family should be our first ministry. No one will see your faith up close and personal the way your spouse will. No one will study your behavior and habits like your children. Your marriage will be an example of love and forgiveness for your kids. Almost without a choice, your spouse and children are already being immersed in your Christian faith.

With this opportunity, you can lay a foundation in your kids’ lives so strong that few others would be able to break it. On the other hand, failing to effectively minister in your home could do untold damage in the lives of your children. If we are being honest, I think anyone who is married and/or has children would admit that this is a daunting reality. Personally, I’m still learning how to do this well. But from the examples of others and things I’ve seen work in our home, I offer these suggestions for ministering in your home.

Set boundaries.

As much as I love being able to get emails, news alerts, text messages, and endless web browsing on my iPhone, the unlimited accessibility that comes from having smartphones in our pockets is a problem. It has given way to a culture that demands an instant response to any crisis that may arise. But I challenge you with this – if your boss is insistent that you don’t bring your personal life to work, the opposite should be true too. Don’t bring your work home. Don’t make your kids compete with your iPhone for your attention. Make a covenant with your family to be home at a certain time every night and to leave your work at the office. You can’t be an influence in your family’s lives you’re never there or if you’re always distracted.

Be intentional.

Honestly, this is where I struggle the most as a spiritual leader in our home but it’s so important. Be intentional about showing how God is at work in your family’s experiences and about the importance of serving him. Even though he doesn’t understand it yet, Holly and I bought Caleb The Jesus Storybook Bible as one of his Christmas presents. It is the best children’s Bible available, by far. We have tried to spend time reading a different story from it every night.

When we were growing up, we had devotional times together before bed. As we got older, we would pray together before turning out the lights. Even when I came from college and I would stay up hours after my Mom went to sleep, we still prayed together before she went to bed. Our family also ministered together. We all had an area of ministry in our church and spent as much time as possible serving. This consistent pattern of spiritually growing and serving gave me the thirst for ministry that I have today.

Don’t leave it to the church.

The most dangerous trend I see among Christian families in our area is the tendency for parents to leave the spiritual training of their kids to the church. They force them to church every Sunday, often bringing them in kicking and screaming. The kids learn all of the Bible stories and moral lessons. The problem is that none of these lessons are coming from the parents.

Furthermore, the parents aren’t living out what the kids are learning in Sunday School. I really believe the reason we see nearly 80% of evangelical teenagers going off to college and leaving the church is because they grew up with a double standard. They kept hearing one thing from their churches but saw another in their parents. They were immersed in a form of Christian living that was fake and inconsistent. In the end, no one wants to identify with something so unauthentic.

If over the course of my career I get to see millions of people receive Christ, have the opportunity to write best-selling books, and go off to lead a new movement in the church but my kids fail to understand Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, I would still consider my life a failure. In looking at your own life, are you succeeding or failing at your first ministry?

Discuss: What other suggestions would you offer?

Posted in: Marriage, Parenthood

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  • Alex Beasley

    Great post! As a youth pastor, facebook is a huge part of my ministry because that’s the platform students use today. So, one small thing I’ve done is turn facebook alerts off my phone. It allows me to have one more, albeit small, separation from work.