Posted by Andrea Hamilton Binley on 4 February 2016

I’m someone who loves to work. And when that work serves a higher purpose I love it all the more. I’m the kind of person who has to peel herself away and force herself to take a break.

But having just celebrated two years of marriage, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Number One Ministry. I’m realizing that it isn’t at my church, or on any stage. It’s in my home.

If God is our number one priority, how can we give our all in ministry and yet keep our families first?

1. Ask who your first priority is

God is wild about family. He designed the whole deal, so it’s right and good to value and protect its importance in our day-to-day lives.

We’re all in different stages and circumstances, so your first-priority person - or people - may be different than mine, as well as your responsibility to them. But if you happen to be married, let me give you a big hint: it’s your spouse.

Ask yourself, has the weight of your secondary ministry distracted you from your first? If you’re feeling brave, ask your spouse/family too.

In his book When Work and Family Collide, Andy Stanley tells us “…you must choose to ‘cheat’ at work rather than at home… There’s not enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced - or others have convinced you - needs to get done.” (pp. 3, 14)

Plan your schedule to maximize time with family. Set your ministry aside for a minute when impromptu conversation happens at home. Turn your phone on silent more often when you’re spending time with those closest to you.

At work, answer phone calls from your Number One Ministry whenever humanly possible. Don’t send them to voicemail when you could pause and step out.

Be creative in showing love to the people God has called you to put first. Even a light-hearted text or hidden note is better than going hours or days with no contact. Compliment and encourage them. Tell them you’re praying over things they’ve shared with you - their big test coming up, their friend who’s sick. Ask them about it the next day! I don’t have the best memory, so I set reminders to do things like this at different times in the day.

Serving your family well involves effort, so don’t let yourself go on auto-pilot in your home life just because there are things to do at church or work.

Think about it - God has actually trusted us to keep our priorities straight in the face of constant ministry opportunities. What a cool way to worship Him, by ministering to the people He’s placed closest to us first.

2. Join with ministries that value balance

It’s easier to keep your priorities straight when your leadership is encouraging you to do so. Do you feel supported by the ministry you’re a part of as you seek to build a healthy, balanced family life?

Consider having a conversation with your supervisor and/or the leader(s) of the ministry you partner with. If you don’t know where they stand on the issue, ask for clarification. In most situations, you could even ask their advice on keeping balanced with ministry life and home life.

Realistically, you may not be able to make Sundays Lake Days, but if you aren’t able to be there for your family, often, then it might be time to make a change in your schedule, work load, or approach.

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

This is the beautiful and dangerous thing about having a servant’s heart: it’s hard to know when to say no.

If you’re often stressed, tired, and having to put your primary relationship(s) on the back burner, then you’re doing too much. God probably isn’t telling you to say yes to everything that is asked of you from all directions. 

Avoid committing your time and energy to anything on the spot. If someone asks you to serve, help, meet, or participate in anything, tell them you’d like to pray about it, talk with your spouse, or check your calendar and get back to them.

Give yourself time to sleep on it and get clarity on whether it’s the very best use of your precious time. Remember to consider what you will be sacrificing if you say yes (Saturday morning with kids, sleep, potential income…)

If you decide to say no, make suggestions of who else that person could ask, and share any other resources you’re able to recommend or provide. Tell them you think their ministry or idea is awesome and you’re proud of them, praying for them, and excited for what God will do. Even when you can’t personally commit, you can still encourage and support. And give a social media shout out :)

I know it feels counterintuitive to turn down opportunities to serve, but you’ll be doing so to serve your family better. Now that’s a wise move.

Share your ideas - what are some more things we can do to make sure we minister in our primary relationship(s) first?

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Andrea Hamilton Binley is Worship Director at Inland Hills Church and a songwriter at HopefulPop.com

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