Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Family Friendly Small Groups.
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 list one of the most important ministries entrusted to them by their Heavenly Father: their own family. It's the ministry of raising our sons and daughters (and even grandchildren) as children of the most-high God.
Two sources of tension
So many parents and spouses feel pulled between the needs of their family and the needs of their small group. But 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 our 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 there are two main causes. The first is a lack of application of God's Word. We are commanded to pass our faith on to our family (Psalm 78:1–8). This cannot be sidelined for other ministries. 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 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.
A better way
Let me give an example that you may be able to identify with. Suppose you receive a message that one of your small-group members has been taken to the hospital. What do you do? Many would say a hasty goodbye to their family and rush out the door.
But 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 your small-group members has been taken to the hospital. You call your family together and pray for that member. Then, 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. 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 with your child 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'll run the small group for a few weeks." That family saw the small group as a ministry given to all of them, and the children felt included enough to offer their help.
There are no earth-shaking strategies to set this mindset in place—just an inclusive heart and a vision that God has not called parents alone, but the whole family. Never did God intend that ministry and family should have to compete. By restoring the harmony of family and small-group ministry, such competition will disappear and godly priorities will prevail.
Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today. Used with permission from Smallgroups.com.
Would you rate the level of tension between your family and your small group as very high, high, medium, or low? Why?
If asked to do so, would the members of your family be able to identify the members of your small group?
How could you help your family become more involved in the ministry of your small group?
Interested in learning more about how small groups and families can connect? Check out these great training resources from Building Small Groups:
• Family-Friendly Small Groups: If you're a parent or spouse involved in a small group, chances are good that a bit of tension has developed between your responsibilities in those circles. But small groups and families don't have to be at war. They can even help and support each other!
• Great Small Groups for Students: Small groups can be used in a youth ministry in at least two ways: as a primary system of care, support, and discipleship for the youth of the church, and as a method of outreach for teens who do not know Christ. Careful planning can help your church accomplish all these goals.