Who Is Your First Ministry?

“Your family is always your first ministry.”

After a year packed with tremendous on-the-job learning, that one sentence was my biggest takeaway. Right after university I served as an intern with Christian speaker, author and apologist Josh McDowell. During that special year, I had the privilege of seeing God at work around the world. I learned a ton about life and ministry in the process, but to this day, I’m most thankful and most challenged by that one sentence.

From a front-row seat, I watched Josh live out his own words: “I never let my family come before my ministry. My family is my first ministry.” At times, Josh went to great lengths to keep his family as his first ministry. Sometimes this meant driving all night after a speaking engagement so he could be home for breakfast when his family woke up. Sometimes this meant saying no to great opportunities. Whatever it took, from my perspective, Josh walked the talk.

The takeaway for me is a reminder that my wife, Lea, and three kids are great and precious gifts.God has crazily blessed and surprisingly entrusted them to me and me to them. They are to be my first ministry.

Yet, this isn’t easy. Paul writes that being married opens us up to trouble (1 Corinthians 7:28). This makes sense. After all, there’s good potential for trouble in a 24-7-365 world that never seems to let up. Add in high-pressure leadership/work demands. Add in the everyday challenges plus the sometimes super-sized challenges of life. Add in temptations around many corners. And then there’s the challenge of two broken people
seeking to happily live as one in the midst of all this.

Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us then that there are a lot of Christian marriages that go off the rails. Few things break my heart more. And, for Christian leaders, there’s also often a ripple effect that profoundly and negatively impacts many others.

So, what’s my point?

My point is to ask you, if you are married, about your first ministry. Specifically, let me ask if your marriage is in a good place right now (for both of you)? Have you gone on automatic pilot? Are you taking your spouse for granted? In a world with little margin, are you creatively investing in your marriage? Are there signs of wear and tear that you need to address?

Here are ten (some big and some little) next steps to consider:

  1.  Reach out for help. Invite a trusted counselor, mentor or friend to come alongside.
  2. Bring home flowers, leave a love note in a surprising place, prepare a special meal or buy a treat
  3. Book a date for coffee or something fun.
  4. Leave your phone at the door and be present tonight.
  5. Get that project done that your spouse has asked about.
  6. Sign up for a marriage retreat (go as a participant not the facilitator).
  7. Publicly speak positively about your spouse.
  8. Declare your bedroom a work-free zone.
  9. Prioritize a night away—even locally.
  10. Pray for your spouse and marriage—and with your spouse.

What’s your next step to make your marriage and family your first ministry?

Keep leaning into God’s grace.

Cheering you on!

Dr. Steve A. Brown

President, Arrow Leadership