Publisher, speaker, and author Bill Carmichael
explains that you can't minister to other families if you don't
minister to your family first.
No matter how good our ministry is out there, God isn't nearly as
interested in the things we do as in the people we are. He's more
interested in relationships than he is in accomplishments.
"We fail as ministers if we fail our family," says Bill Carmichael,
co-founder of Good Family magazines (Virtue, Christian Parenting
Today, and Parents of Teenagers). For the past three years, Bill
and his wife Nancie have led "Habits of a Healthy Home" seminars,
and in February, Tyndale will release their book The Habits of a
Healthy Home. The Carmichaels have five children (ages 15 to
Children's Ministry Magazine spoke with Bill about
family fundamentals and how family ministry begins at home.
CM: What are the habits of healthy families?
A healthy family is more of an environment and an attitude than a
style of parenting. I like to use Jesus' parable about the soil and
the seed. He didn't say there was anything wrong with the seed. I
look at kids as the seed, and there are lots of variations. But all
the different types of children have a better chance to develop if
they're planted in good ground at home. The habits of a healthy
home are attitudes and atmospheres we create that make the
CM: Can you list those habits for us?
A healthy home is a place of refuge. It's a safe place-a place
children can let down their guard and be themselves. They have
private places; they feel accepted; they can be vulnerable. Out in
the world, there's enough challenge, but at home they need to feel
A healthy home is a place of connection. We connect with our kids
through listening and being together. Quality time comes out of
quantity time; the magic moments come because I spend a lot of time
with my kids. Togetherness and attentiveness are important parts of
A healthy home is a place of character formation. It's where we
really learn about life-how to work and how to play. We learn by
example about priorities and about what character, morality, and
A healthy home is a place of celebration. It has to be a fun
place-a place of laughter and joy. Every family needs to have
feasts and form traditions-not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Little celebrations show our children that life is essentially
A healthy home is a place of purpose. It has a sense of mission;
it has a calling. Children begin to understand early on that life
is more than just "us three and TV." We have a purpose for living
that involves prayer, devotion to God, and growing spiritually. As
God reveals to us our giftedness, we reach out to others and become
A healthy home is a place of boundaries. Kids must know and
understand the rules-and face consequences for breaking them. I
don't like to have more than four or five major rules, but they
must be applied lovingly, fairly, and consistently.
A healthy home is a place of legacy. Children must understand
where they belong. Storytelling is a part of that when parents tell
their history. It's important for children to understand that
they're the "now actors" on the stage of this family continuum. How
they live is a reflection not only of their ancestry but also of
what's going to happen to future generations.
CM: How can busy children's ministers keep their families
The most effective thing parents can do is to be prayer warriors on
behalf of their kids. In one Bible story, the disciples were
unsuccessful at casting out demons from a man's son, but the father
didn't give up. He called out and asked Jesus to pray for his son.
Of course when Jesus prayed, the demonic spirits were cast out and
the boy was made whole.
That's parental persistence-standing in the gap on behalf of
children. No one else in the crowd would've stood up on behalf of
that man's son-especially since the disciples had failed. But the
father didn't give up; he stood in the gap, which is the greatest
ministry God gives us as parents.
Early on, my wife and I prayed for our children's safety and
health and problems. But one day it dawned on us that God is really
interested in developing their character-a much larger agenda.
While we have our children for 18 years or so, they're his for
eternity. So we began to pray broader prayers: that God would
develop the fruit of his Spirit; that our kids would develop
courage and faith; that they'd know what commitment means. This
became the basis for our book Lord, Bless My Child (Tyndale).
CM: What pressures are unique to families with a parent in
There's pressure to succeed in ministry even at the cost of our
family. But my ministry doesn't take precedence over my family. My
home is my first church, so to speak. It's extremely important for
me to minister to my family members in an effective way, to meet
their needs, and to love them even more than I love my "outside"
No matter how good our ministry is out there, God isn't nearly
as interested in the things we do as in the people we are. He's
more interested in relationships than he is in accomplishments. So
he's first interested in our relationship with him, then in our
relationship with our family. And that forms the basis for
accomplishing or doing things. But if we trample over relationships
in order to do, we've got the first step out of order.
CM: If families are in trouble, what should they do?
Ministers are hesitant to get help because they're supposed to have
all the answers themselves. But if they feel their problems are
unresolvable, that they can't cope by themselves, then they need to
seek Christian counseling to jump-start the process. This isn't a
sign of failure, because we all need support.
Stephanie Martin is a free-lance writer and editor in
Check out these great resources for more ideas to make your family
*Creative Family Times: Practical Activities for Building Character
in Your Preschooler by Allen & Connie Hadidian and Will &
Lindy Wilson (Moody Press).
*Families: Practical Advice From More Than 50 Experts (including
George Barna, John Trent, James Dobson, Josh McDowell, and Gary
Smalley) edited by Jerry Jenkins (Moody Press).
*How to Enjoy a Healthy Family (Even in Stressful Times) by Bobbie
Reed (Concordia Publishing House).
*Intimate Family Moments by Dr. David & Teresa Ferguson, Dr.
Paul & Vicky Warren, and Terri Ferguson (Victor Books).
*Keeping Your Family Together When the World Is Falling Apart by
Dr. Kevin Leman (Focus on the Family).