Most people live their lives by default, and not by design. Being intentional is no simple task, especially when the world is constantly coming at you. Scripture says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time…” (Ephesians 5:15-16a)
Over the past 18 years, Ben and I have been asked many times how we plan out our life, our marriage, and our ministry. I must humbly confess that we have winning seasons and losing seasons in this game, but when we get off track, we always find a way to get back to a plan. We try to not crowd an already busy calendar with events/meetings/gatherings that aren’t intentional.
Having said this, here are some practical thoughts on this subject. I’ll start with home and then talk about ministry.
Be Intentional at Home
“Begin with the end in mind,” someone once said. That phrase stuck with us years ago, when we were raising four elementary-age children and wrestling with the scriptural command to “train a child in the way he should go.” What would be the basis of our training, and in what areas would we focus? After fumbling around for a while, we finally came up with a set of ten “family values” that gave us something to shoot for—qualities we hoped our children would emulate as they grow up.
You may be asking, “What are family values?” According to the dictionary, a value is “something you hold in high regard; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” To get started building our family values, Ben and I first printed off a long list of positive character qualities, then we painstakingly circled the ones that resonated most with us. Some of the words that made the final cut were loyalty, uniqueness, joy, and courage. We also added a few ideas that were passion points for us, such as healthy confrontation.
With our list of qualities now whittled down, we chose a Scripture that supported the overall idea of each one, and carefully crafted a few lines that described what each value meant for our family. For example…
Courage: We believe that God loves a brave heart. Throughout our lives, He calls us to conquer our fears and to attempt difficult things. As we step out on the branch of faith, we build confidence in the Lord and in the talents He has given. ‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.’ (Psalm 31:24)”
Having these values hanging on the wall of our kitchen seemed to raise the bar for all of us regarding our behavior. I would encourage every family to create your own set of “family values” that are specific to your family. To help get you started, you can reference our family values here.
Calendar, Calendar, Calendar
If you don’t plan your time, others will plan it for you. Keeping a family calendar creates intentionality in your schedule. Over the years, Ben and I have found that we are at our best when we proactively make life choices, and sitting down together to look through our calendar is the simplest way to do this.
How do we do it? Every person/couple/family must find what works for them, but we have chosen to designate a weekly time to look ahead. Saturday mornings work best in our house. We take time to run through logistics like, “Who will give the kids a ride to practices? Who has a doctor’s appointment? What travel is coming up? What neighbor might we have over for dinner?”
When we make it a priority to work thorough our calendar together on a weekly basis, we find holes in the schedule to be intentional. Our planning provides freedom for those moments of spontaneity, and life feels more fruitful and fun.
Be Intentional in Ministry
Work Together as a Team
Ben and I believe that God put us together for a purpose, and it’s more than just the formation of a family unit. We have a ministry compatibility, which means we are better together than on our own. While we are similar in many ways, we are (like most couples) polar opposites in others. I am detailed, responsible, strategic. He’s fun-loving, intellectual, and a big idea person. This can be frustrating or rewarding, depending on how you look at it.
When we were in Denver, we worked side-by-side on our church plant staff. Ben was the Lead Pastor and I served as the Director of Kids Ministry. Sometimes I felt like a fish out of water in that role. I had always thought of a Kids Director as an upfront, larger-than-life personality, yet I prefer the behind-the-scenes role. This was an easy workaround. At volunteer training meetings, I’d tee Ben up to speak first and to be the “inspiration” of it all. I’d follow him with the “information” that made things practical. During our annual VBS/Kids Camp, I would ask him to be the funny skit character on stage while I would make sure all the props were behind the curtain and ready to go. Together, we were better. And as believers, we are at our best when we are calling on the gifts of others and working together as a body.
Relational evangelism doesn’t happen without intentionality. Ben and I once heard a man say, “Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” In order to get outside the church bubble, we started having our neighbors over for dinner and planned activities with them. We led in this effort and challenged our church to do the same. Having people into our home on a regular basis is what keeps us fresh in ministry.
When it comes to hospitality, it’s important to not overthink details like your tablescape. Instead, put some thought into leading fun conversations. We’ve found that a cube of conversation cards is all it takes to get a group laughing. Ben always starts out the night by telling everyone that we will have “one conversation” around the table. Then we have people draw a fun “get-to-know-you” card to make the conversation more interactive and more interesting for the kids.
So much more could be said on leading intentionally at home and in ministry, but hopefully these ideas give you something practical to consider. If you’ve fallen out of the rhythm of being intentional, it’s probably time to get back to a good plan.
What are some ways you practice intentionality in your home, workplace, or place of ministry?
Lynley Mandrell is the wife of Ben Mandrell, the new president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, Ben and Lynley spent five years in Denver, CO, planting a church designed to reach the unchurched. She is a mother of four and a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Dr. Pepper, and silence.