Balancing Life and Ministry, Part 1: Family and Ministry

 

Woman JugglingIf you’ve been in full time Christian ministry for long, you’ve probably wrestled with this question: “How do I know when I’ve done enough?”

People who work at salaried jobs can start at a certain time and quit at a certain time. The rest of their time is their own. Ministries demand so much more because they are working with people, loving people, and sharing their lives.  You’ve heard this old saying: “Man may work from sun to sun, but a women’s work is never done.” Here’s my new ministry saying: “Jobs may go from nine to five, but ministries never quit while you’re still alive.”

Satan can use guilt feelings to make people in ministry think it’s impossible to do enough. That idea leaves us bitter, exhausted, and without hope. He can also use our fear of neglecting family to neglect our ministry. Either extreme is out of balance.

Balancing life and ministry isn’t always easy, but I believe we can find a balance that pleases God and leaves us contented and happy in ministry.

Each ministry situation is unique. Family and marriage situations, health, abilities and gifts, living situations, and personality types all determine how much time and energy we can give to ministry. Each of us must ask God to show us good balance for our ministries.

In my next three articles I’ll talk about:

  1. Balancing family and ministry,
  2. Balancing other interests and ministry, and
  3. Balancing busyness in ministry.

Balancing Family and Ministry

Some people say God should come first, then family, then ministry. By that they usually mean that their personal relationship with God should come first, then their relationship with and needs of their family, then the needs of their ministry.

It sounds good, but raises some questions. Does that mean you should spend the most hours in your personal devotions and prayer, then less hours spending time with your family and meeting their needs, and the least hours in your ministry which is also your full time job? Probably not, but if you don’t measure this in hours spent, how do you measure it?

Some pastors who put family before ministry say that family activities are more important than church activities. Subscribing to this idea, some pastors would skip a somewhat major event at their church to attend a practice soccer game for their third-grade child. Is that balance?

Others say ministry takes priority over the home. But how do you know when you’ve spent enough hours in ministry to enjoy time at home? I know of one full time minister who travels most of the time and only takes one week of vacation a year. Is that balance?

Each person is responsible before God to find the right balance between family and ministry. The only one who answers to me is me. And, of course, my husband and I work out this balance as a couple. However, I will share with you some thoughts about the issue that I’ve found helpful.

Should home come first and the Lord’s work take second place? Or should the ministry have priority over the home?

I like Warren Wiersbe’s approach. He says, “I disagree with both approaches for two reasons. I don’t think they’re biblical, and they automatically create conflict.  If indeed “two become one,” home and ministry are united; they are one. What God has joined together, we must not put asunder. . . . The best thing my wife and I could do for the churches we served was to build a good home and raise children who were a credit to the Lord and to the church. And the best thing we could do for our home was to build good churches for our children to attend. The two became one. . . . When our children understand that everybody in the family is a part of the ministry, and that together we are all building the church and building our home, we have a common outlook to help us in making decisions. It isn’t an either/or situation; it’s both/and.”

In our Chinese ministry in Taiwan (1980-1996) our daughters were limited in how they could help. But when we came to New Zealand in 1998, our teenaged daughters were a great help to our ministry. When we spent time with the youth group, we spent time with them. They had a great time singing in choir, teaching classes, leading the puppet team, and interacting with our people. They became a vital part of our ministry and the ministry was good for them.

Wiersbe also says, “In spite of complaining about the demands of ministry, the pastor makes his own schedule and has calendar privileges that other people in the church don’t have.”

As a missionary pastor and wife we could often work our schedule to accommodate what our daughters wanted to do within our ministry schedule. The exception came when school activities conflicted with church. In our family, church took priority.

Instead of thinking of priorities in terms of hours spent or which choice wins, I think of it like this. My relationship with God is most important and, above all, I need to take the time and effort to build this relationship and grow in Christlikeness. With God’s help I also need to make choices that ensure that the needs of my family are met and that I am doing all God wants me to do in ministry. I need to be flexible enough to work my schedule around the most important activities. I may not be able to do all I want to do, but I will be able to do all God wants me to do.

In this new year may the Lord help you to find balance in your ministry and family that will give you confidence and contentment in both roles.

Next week: How busy is too busy in ministry? How can I slow down when I get in over my head?

[The quotes were taken from chapter 20 of this excellent book: On Being a Servant of God, by Warren W. Wiersbe. I heartily recommend the book to anyone in ministry.]

[image courtesy of Lorelyn Medina/Deposit Photos.]

About Deb

My Life

            In fifth grade I wrote an essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided I wanted to be a preacher’s wife like my mom. I wanted lots of kids and lots of dogs. I wanted my home to be a boisterous place with lots of people enjoying each other. I may not have used the word “boisterous,” but I learned one thing from my essay. I liked to write.

            During junior high and high school I loved my creative writing classes. I dreamed of being a published author, but I had no idea how to get published. I asked the Lord show me what He wanted me to do.

            At Faith Baptist Bible College I took two journalism classes and I found out how to get published. My professor, Mr. Clarence Townsend taught me how to write, how to submit an article for publication, and how to make goals for my writing. During that time I realized that, whatever else the Lord wanted me to do, He wanted me to write for Christian publication.

            During that same year at Faith the Lord led me into a relationship with Art Brammer. Art thought the Lord wanted him to be a missionary to Taiwan. Was I willing to consider that too? I was. The Lord led us together and gave me a desire to serve Him in Taiwan with Art. We both graduated from Faith and were married in 1977. We joined the Baptist Mid Missions [link to BMM (www.bmm.org)] team in 1978. Since then we have served sixteen years in Taiwan and more than ten years in New Zealand.

            Regular Baptist Press rejected the first article I sent them, but they accepted and published my next article in 1978. Since then they have published more than 125 of my articles, some several times. Bob Jones University Press published my first book in 1994 and three others since then. For more information on things I have written look under Order and Freebies on my home page. [links?]

            In recent years the Lord has led me to do more than write and be a missionary. I feel He also wants me to mentor new writers. I have a special desire to help writers who are taking their first steps toward being published by conservative fundamental Christian publishers. When I first considered this I thought, “Who am I to think I can mentor other writers? I’ve never spoken at a writer’s conference. I’m no authority on writing.” But the Lord showed me that I don’t know of anyone else who is mentoring entry level writers in these circles. Someone needs to do it. One of the main reasons I’m starting this website is to help mentor new writers.

            If you are an aspiring writer who longs to be published but doesn’t know where to begin, this website is for you. You will have to work hard to learn your craft. You will face rejection. You will not get rich quick. You may not make minimum wage for all the hours you put in since publication doesn’t pay an hourly wage. But if you will work, learn, and persevere, Lord willing you will become a published author.

 

What’s the big deal about God?

 

            Maybe you’ve come to my website to learn about writing but you don’t understand why I have to bring God into it. Maybe you don’t know God in a personal way. Why does everything I do seem to come back to God?

            I base everything I do and believe on the Bible. It tells me that God is the Creator of all life. Before I was born, God knew the person I would become. He had a plan for my life. His plan is far better for me than my own plans. God knew I would do wrong things. God is perfect. He has never done anything wrong and He can’t do anything wrong. He can’t overlook wrong and pretend it doesn’t matter.

            But God had a plan that would allow Him to accept me even though I do many wrong things. He sent His own Son Jesus to the world as a human baby. Jesus is fully God and fully human. He grew to be a child and then a man. Jesus never did anything wrong, but people killed him. It was all part of God’s plan. Jesus took my punishment for all the wrong things I have done. Three days later He became alive again.

            When I was a little girl I realized that I could never be good enough to please God on my own. I knew Jesus had died in my place. I told God I was sorry for all the wrong things I had done and would do. I asked Him to accept Jesus’ death in place of my punishment. I believe He did that. I still do wrong things but I know God forgives me because Jesus took my punishment.

            My life all comes back to God. He created life in the first place. He planned out my life. He gave the life of His own Son to enable me to know Him as a Friend. He knows what’s best for me and He leads me to do the right thing. He enables me to do everything I do. I owe Him so much! Of course I want to live to please Him.

            If you would like to know more about having a personal relationship with the God of the universe, feel free to contact me. [Contact Deb link]

 

Personal Stuff

 

[pictures of Art and me, Lisa and Luke, Lori and Cory, use the 1961 Allen family photo from the family CD. It has the 5 of us in front of the church. I’m wearing an Easter hat.]

 

            My dad, Ray Allen, pastored Baptist churches, mainly in Colorado from the time I was born until not long before he died in 1990. I thank the Lord for my parents, Ray and Florence Allen. They passed on to me a love for the Lord and a love for ministry. My dad also loved to write. He wrote countless poems and had a few articles published after I began writing for publication.

            I am thankful that all four of my brothers love and serve the Lord. They and their families are scattered all across America. My brother Tim has been extremely helpful by setting up this website.

            Art has been my constant companion and friend since 1977. I love working together with him in the ministry. He critiques my work, serves as my IT man, and believes in my work when it seems no one else does.

            Our oldest daughter, Lisa, married Luke Bolton in 2007. They plan to minister to Chinese people. Lisa won the GARBC national Talents for Christ contest in writing in 1997. This gave her one free year of tuition at Faith Baptist Bible College. She has had many articles published by Regular Baptist Press.

 

            Our second daughter, Lori, married Cory Zorn in 2001. They live and work and serve in their church in Des Moines, Iowa. They are the proud parents of two miniature dachshunds. Lori has had several articles published by Regular Baptist Press.

            In 2006 Art was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. This means he needs a gluten free diet. He can’t eat anything made with wheat, rye, barley, or triticale. In 2007 Lisa was diagnosed with the same disease. Both lead perfectly normal lives as long as they stick to the diet. I know from experience what a learning curve it is to change your entire diet to one that is gluten free. I’ve collected and developed my own gluten free recipes and want to share them with others who need a gluten free diet. You can download my gluten free recipes.