It’s one of the most frequent questions I field, and it’s always asked so sincerely, even desperately: “How do you balance ministry and family?”
My answer: I don’t.
In fact, I think the very question reveals the problem. There IS no balance. It is NOT an either/or issue. There’s nothing to balance. And thinking that there is a problem in and of itself.
I say to young men and women considering or embarking upon ministry, “Your family IS your ministry. Your marriage, your children—that’s where your ministry BEGINS and ENDS. Never allow yourself to think that your family is somehow in conflict or competition with your ministry. If you do, the devil will play you like a fiddle, and you may very well lose both in the end.”
What is your ministry? To preach? Then let your home be your primary pulpit.
To love the church, and to love lost souls? Then practice and perform those offices at home more than anywhere.
Is it to teach? Then let your children be your first and best disciples.
Is it to care and show compassion? Then do it first and foremost for your spouse and children.
Is it to pray? Then spend yourself in the prayer closet FOR your family and WITH your family.
Is it to facilitate the gifts of others? To train others for ministry? To build a community of faith? Then do it first for your household, and then (and only then) for the household of faith.
There is no place for balance between family and ministry. If you neglect your family for the church, then you are an example to neither. If you lose one, you lose the other. If you are not taking care of your family, you have no business leading the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12).
So don’t balance anything here. Instead, make your marriage and family the first recipients of the grace of God that is in you, and the calling with which he has called you.
Bob Hostetler is a literary agent, an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices), and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by the Salvation Army and earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. In 2000, Bob (with his wife, Robin) helped to co-found Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. They have two children and four grandchildren. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). They live in Hamilton, Ohio. You can follow Bob at @bobhoss.