Every day, I am faced with a choice multiple times throughout the day—to choose one priority over another. Recently, I have been struggling with how easy it is to succumb to the temptation to put off giving your best your family. We tell ourselves that our family will understand, that we will make it up to them later, and that they are helping support us in all we do because we are fulfilling God’s calling.
I’m convinced that one of the best ways we can be effective ministry leaders is to first minister to our families. You and I know the importance of putting family first, and I would like to challenge our intentionality of doing this daily. Here are some practical ways:
Turn it off. When you are with your family, be fully present. Don’t allow your social media, your phone, emails, or worries to distract you.
Invite your family to serve with you. There should not be an abrupt divide between you and your family and you and your ministry. My wife Ellie, our oldest daughter Paris, and son Jordan, have each travelled with me, visiting affiliates and prisons around the world. Ellie has spoken in over 25 prisons in dozens of countries over the years. And through these experiences, my children gained a deeper understanding of a Godly worldview and developed a sensitivity for those in need.
Model a healthy marriage. The greatest gift we can give our children is to love our spouses well, showing them an earthly picture of how Christ loves the church.
Pray. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Pray continually for your family members. Bring them before God’s throne—cover them in prayer so they are spiritually protected and uplifted.
Know how each receives love best. Author Gary Chapman identifies five emotional love languages—ways that each of us speak and understand love best: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and receiving gifts. Just as you would put a priority on learning a foreign language when you travel, learn the love language of your family members to help consistently deepen your relationships.
Yes, there will be late nights. Yes, there will be meetings. There will be travels that cause us to miss special moments. But it’s what you do before, during, and after these moments that will mean the world to your family—and even impact them for the rest of their lives:
- a phone call to your spouse just to check in and say “I love you”
- a special treat from your travels to celebrate a child’s school accomplishment
- a special breakfast or family picnic, because you have a late-night meeting
- postcards you send to your parents from your travels
- waking up earlier or staying up later to Skype with your family members
These, and many other ways, are the intentional efforts that communicate the value you have for those God has given you to love the most.
And when you love these people first, you establish a strong foundation for you to serve in ministry to the best of your ability and effectiveness, while equipping your family to be all they can be, as well. With God’s grace and joy, fill the emotional and spiritual tanks of you and your family first, and then change the world with Him and your family.
Article originally published in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI Roundtable.