I believe that every dedicated family following Jesus is a great instrument for the kingdom of God. A family serving together is a picture of God's love and grace. My family has been the greatest part of my life; Donna, Jessica, Josh and Joel have been an incredible blessing to me. They have also been my most committed partners in ministry. They have been through all the ups and downs that come with the life we have chosen to live, a life where we have said we would answer God's call first without compromise.
Donna was there as I struggled with leaving a regular paying job in 1989 to pursue ministry. Jess was two years old at the time and went with us each night to give out clothes and food to homeless people living on the streets of Philadelphia. Josh and Joel have provided free labor. From the time they could lift a hand to help, they participated in several building projects, cleaned up after numerous events, and served countless meals. Together, we have birthed several ministries: Restoration Ministries, Atlanta Youth Academies, Community Fellowships After-school Enrichment Program and Summer Day Camps, Mission Year Atlanta, and Atlanta Community Fellowships Church.
A family is a powerful tool in God's hands. The influence of a family, though, is seen in more than just the programs and ministries they do together. Our best moments in life and ministry are when life and ministry are one. When you can't tell if this is ministry or just life. When I sit on the sofa watching football and some teens from the neighborhood stop by and join me. When my kids and the neighbor kids are playing in the yard, making too much noise, and I tell everyone to be quiet.
My wife, Donna, likes to cook on Thanksgiving. She naturally includes any kids who want to help. Our house is always open, and there are always people there. This means they see the good and the bad. They see how our family relates to one another in positive ways and sometimes through conflict. I don't know if it's ministry or just life at this point, but one thing I do know is that we are a family trying to live out our values. We want to be more than just people doing the task of ministry. We want to be good neighbors by sharing our lives with the people around us.
Leroy Barber is president of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18 to 29-year-olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year of their lives. He is also the pastor of Community Fellowships Church in Atlanta, Georgia. This post is excerpted from his new book, New Neighbor.