Priorities and Ministry to My Family

As someone in full time ministry it is very important to keep the joy levels high in my marriage and family as well as to be fruitful and productive in ministry. As a counselor I work with a lot of adults whose parents were in ministry as they were growing up. They are angry at God because they perceive that God took Dad away or Mom away when they were younger.

Serving my family blesses my ministry

Many of us as pastors and leaders are very goal oriented. with a “to do” list and I feel very good about checking things off this to-do list! However, serving family, actually makes everything else better—especially your ministry. As your joy levels grow, your higher joy levels give you more availability to serve other people.

clip_image002When I look at that to-do list and see the projects on my plate, the number of appointments that I have to keep…those pressures are real! And, wherever there are people there are going to be relational problems and people’s needs are real. For example, for those of you who are tender and compassionate, your mercy hearts feel other people’s pain. When there are problems, you want to fix those problems. There is always this tension that exists— How do I protect my time with my family to keep my joy levels high, and be productive at serving the people and comforting those who are hurting? Within that tension, the goal is to keep your joy levels higher than your distress levels!

When distress levels are higher than joy levels

  • You go into “problem solving mode.” Problems become bigger than relationships. It is very easy to lose sight of what is important.
  • clip_image003You live in the moment instead of remembering what is important. When you don’t know how to turn off the problem solving mode, you bring your work home with you.
  • Attention is elsewhere even though you might be spending time with your spouse and children, your mind is somewhere else.

The challenge is how to turn it off!

Off-Switch_thumb.pngI don’t see problem solving as a switch to turn on or off. Rather, growing joy will give you strength to shift your focus so that when you are with your wife and children you are not still in your office mentally, dealing with projects or emails, etc.

There was a point when my wife, Jen, and I were first married, that I was under a LOT of stress and on the verge of burnout. The turning point came when meeting with a pastor friend. He said, “Chris, God doesn’t need you. He chooses to use you as His witness.

I remember saying, “Yes, of course, God doesn’t NEED me that is obvious.” But something inside still felt responsible to fix all the problems that were in my life and ministry at that point. It was miserable trying to keep a joyful foundation for my marriage and dealing with too many things, too many problems, and too much weight on my shoulders. I just didn’t feel that I could carry it all.

AtlasThe weight of responsibility I was feeling impacted my health and marriage. It impacted what I had to offer at home because I was unable to let it go when I came home. I still felt responsible for the outcome of the situations even though they were not my responsibility. God had entrusted me to be attentive in those situations, but not to be responsible for the outcome. The weight was more than God had asked me to take on and my distress levels became greater than my joy levels. That meant making some drastic decisions to change our life in order to more proactively grow more joy.

An issue of maturity? I also had to take a really hard look at my own maturity. I came Maturityto understood that I was working and taking on tasks that were outside the range of my maturity and when you do that you can expect that you will crack in those places of immaturity. That was a hard time.

I can say that most of the pastors I work with feel that they are walking that line of “on the verge” of burnout or feeling they are already within the range of burnout.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Legacy.pngOne question I ask leaders is: When you look back on your lifd, what do you want to see? What do you want your legacy to be? Summarize. Give me three words.

What are your three words?

My three words would be:

FAITHFUL: I want to be faithful with what God has given me, especially with my wife and my children and my ministry—whatever God has entrusted to me…and to have clarity on that. I want to be faithful.

AVAILABLE: I also want my children to grow up and say, “Dad, you were there when I needed you.” I want to be able to hear and know that I was available for my wife and boys, not absent. I want to be available and loving.

LOVING: Part of being available is also to express my heart so that my family knows that they are loved. Children feel loved when Mom and Dad are available. If we are not available for our children, especially when they are young, they are not going to feel loved, by me/us or by God.


In growing joy you have to be available emotionally and be mentally present to interact and attune to your family. There is no UNDO button in life! There is no REPLAY to play something over with your family. Family time cannot be regained. What we have is very limited and it goes very quickly.

Action Step—Questions to keep in mind as you are active in your ministries

  • Am I spending enough time to grow joy with my family—I don’t want regrets.
  • I don’t want my children to grow up and say “God took dad/mom away. Dad/Mom wasn’t really there.”

In thinking about your legacy, how did your parents influence your image of God? Please share your glory story to encourage others. Or, if you overcame a negative situation, be sure to include how God redeemed it!

Blessings, Chris BA, MA Theology                                         Co-Author of Life Model and Immanuel

P.S. Big Announcement!

At the Thrive Applications Training the new book, Joy Starts Here will be released! The Beta Version is available NOW! Pastors and Leaders you can get your BETA VERSION here.

Under The Hood—Assessing Joy!

Ta-Da! Introducing you to the assessment scales! They are now included in the Beta 2.0 version of the Joy Starts Here book to help pastors, leaders and individuals take an objective look at JSHcover_300personal and corporate joy levels and see how that may be effecting family life, work and/or ministry.

Joy is the center of the self-propagating recovery model. That is, everything we know that is important about character only spreads from one person to another when we are glad to be together. Without joy, none of the things we are trying to spread to the world is actually going to happen.

So we decided it would be very useful if users could do some kind of assessment of how they are doing with joy growth.

These assessments will also help you pinpoint the most strategic place to begin starting joy—in your home, church or in the community.

To give you the flavor of what you can expect to find in the assessments we will go through the Shalom Scale.

The Shalom Scale is a good indicator of the spiritual condition of your congregation. Shalom happens when people have an interactive sense of God’s presence in their lives. Answer each question for yourself as an individual but then think how you would answer it for your group or church.

Answer each question on a scale from 0 = not likely, up to 10 = most of the time.

1. Every time something bothers me I talk with God until I feel better.

2. When things go wrong at church we still feel peaceful. (Can’t have a church fight if this is true!)

3. I feel God with me. (At this time, right now.)

4. Most of the time I feel very peaceful inside.

5. Prayer helped me see others differently many times this last year. (This question is intended to see if you have the custom of going to God and talking with Him about situations.)

6. My church family helps me find God’s perspective when I am distressed. (This one reveals what the church’s resources look like.)

7. Generally I like who I am. (Here we are looking for the more long term effects of Immanuel Shalom. If you have a practice of seeking God’s presence about everything in your life including you, in time you will have the general sense that you like who God created you to be. That is the cumulative effect of practicing Shalom over a long period of time and not just in your immediate situation.)

8. I can clearly tell of times when God changed my perspective. (One of the effects of Immanuel Shalom is God changing your perspective. He helps you see thing from His point of view.)

9. I feel appreciation most of the day. (Appreciation is a good sign of your joy levels.)

10. Love often moves me out of my comfort zone.

clip_image002Here is the tally page as it will appear in the book. When you have answered all questions, total up your scores and make a mark at the bottom of the page indicating how high up the scale you go. Obviously if your scores are down near the bottom you are not having a lot of shalom. And, if they are up near 100, in most cases we will wonder if you are being truthful!

If you look at all the odd numbered questions—1, 3, 5, 7, 9 those are all about the individual, whereas the even numbered questions—2, 4, 6, 8, 10 are about the community. We plan to have an online version which will probably have about twice as many questions.

Click here for a brief description of all the Joy Assessment Scales.

Assessments as Counseling Tools — If you want to do a comparison for counseling purposes, you total the points for all 10 questions. You could have a maximum of 50 points for individual versus community and that will make a bigger difference perhaps on some scales than others. But it would let you know whether the person involved sees themselves as the problem or the resource or whether it is the community they are in. Using the Assessment of Joy, you would be able to look at that and say, here is a person who is very joyful but they live in a very low joy situation. Or the other way around—here is someone who is surrounded by joy but they themselves are dragging at the bottom. It is a little helpful thing for you pastors to use in your counseling practice.

The Purpose of Assessments — The purpose is not to get a score but to start a discussion:

  • discuss as a group your overall joy levels
  • discuss as a community how many shalom kind of experiences your people were having
  • discuss as a community how to live this joy filled lifestyle.

This will also give an indication about how families are doing as you get through some of the other scales. It is not just about the individual but also about the place you live.

To get the book or the assessments, click here: Joy Starts Here. The Beta 2.0 version contains the assessments already.

If you happen to be one of those wonderful people who ran right out and ordered a Beta 1.0 book, we want you to know that you can get a copy of the assessments as a download by going to the “Joy Forum” in the upper right hand corner of the website page. Sign in (or sign up) as a member of the forum—it is free. Once you are on the forum you can scroll down to The Joy Starts Here book and it is available. There is a link where you can download a copy of the book. You will have to enter a code which is on page 250 of the Beta book. Just put it in as you go…so go ahead and use that.

We also encourage you to visit the forums if you have questions and join the discussion.

One last word! We have pastors resources for Father’s Day. Check this out…

Blessings, Chris and Carol

Chris Coursey, B.A. MA Theology, International speaker/trainer and co-author of several books, articles and resources 

Carol A. Brown, Best selling author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                                 

This post was developed from a talk by Dr. Jim Wilder for Pastors Weekly May 23, 2013.