Have you ever stopped to examine the ministry pressures that compete for your time and attention? Without first identifying them and then setting Godly boundaries, all of us are pulled into stress and overload. Resting in the priorities that God has clearly laid out in His Word will give each one of us the confidence to reduce the competitiveness, focus in peace, and live as an example in our small group communities.
Sometimes when I speak at conferences or seminars, I ask people to write down the areas of ministry they are involved in and then prioritize them. Sadly, the majority of people never even list one of the most important ministries given to them in trust by their Heavenly Father. This is the ministry of family. The ministry of raising our sons and daughters (and even grandchildren) as children of the most high God.
So many parents and spouses feel "pulled" between the needs of their family and the needs of their small group. If God ordained us to lead a small group, He gave it as a gift to our families. There is nothing given by God that will damage children and families…no anointing, no position, and no ministry! He never intended there to be competition between the two. They are a gift, one to the other.
Why then do we so struggle with this tension? Why do we so often feel pulled in different directions? I believe this is for two main reasons:
First, there is a lack of application of God's Word and the commands throughout it. We are commanded to pass our faith on to our family (Psalm 78:1-8). This cannot be sidelined for other ministry. 1 Chronicles 9:23 says, "They and their sons had oversight of the house of the Lord." Similarly, Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to God; the things revealed belong to you and to your children." Your ministry is "a thing revealed," and it belongs to you AND your children. The two are one!
The second reason I see for the tension between ministry and family is the lack of training and skills given to parents—skills that enable both the small group ministry and the family to be blessed and run in harmony. Let me give an example that you may be able to identify with: Suppose you receive a message that one of the small group members has been taken into hospital; you rush out, say a hasty "Goodbye" to your family and head for the hospital.
Let me do a re-run on how family and ministry could have become unified at that moment. You receive a message that one of the small group members has been taken into hospital. You call your family together and pray for that member. Then together each member of the family sits together and makes cards, draws or writes message to that small group member. After that, if it is appropriate, you choose one of your children to go with you to the hospital. On the journey, you have some quality time with that child, singing to a tape, sharing your heart, and listening to them. When you arrive together you give the cards and other items made at home and pray for the small group member. As the visit ends, you go to the hospital café and have a drink together, before going home and reporting to other members of the family.
No pressure, no competition--a perfect harmony of family and ministry!
In one family I knew, the parents were very weary, and the children heard them talking about giving up small group leadership. At that point, the children responded, "Mom and Dad, if you want a rest we will run the cell for a few weeks for you!" And so they did at the ages of 7, 9, and 11 years! The issue is not that they did this, or that it caused other families to see what was possible. But main issue is that family saw the small group as a ministry given to all of them, and the children felt included and able enough to express this help as the most natural answer to the "problem".
This flow is easy. There are no earth-shaking strategies to put in place, just an inclusive heart and a vision that God has not called the parents alone, but the whole family. Never did God intend that ministry and family should have to compete.
We are told in 1 Chronicles 6:32-33 that "They ministered before the tabernacle of the tent with singing, performing their sacrifice in due order, these and their sons." We could read, "They ministered in their small groups with singing and performing their sacrifice in due order, these and their sons"!
By restoring the harmony of family and small group ministry, the competition will disappear, Godly priorities will prevail in these areas, and we will stop loosing those who could not "compete"!