Setting Boundaries With Jeff Bethke

Best-selling author, podcaster and influencer, Jeff Bethke shares how he finds a balance not only with his job but also his relationships with his wife, his children and his relationship with God. by Michele Katsaris
Jeff Bethke and family
Photo: MadisonDianephotography.com

It’s no secret that we, as humans, are all looking for the perfect work-life balance. Now imagine that you work with your significant other, where is your balance supposed to lie? Best-selling author, podcaster and influencer, Jeff Bethke shares how he finds a balance not only with his job but also his relationships with his wife, his children and his relationship with God.

WC: One of your first viral videos was titled, “Why I love Jesus, but Hate Religion.” Why do you think that video went viral?

Jeff: It was eight years ago now, but that was an accidental viral video. My friends and I were just doing it for fun, but it gave us this opportunity to kind of do what we want, and it’s been fun the last seven years and to see how it’s kind of taken shape.

WC: And with that, you and your wife have created a brand together. What is it that you do exactly?

Jeff: There are a million different things that we do, but the thing I like to say is we kind of work for the Internet. Another way I put it is we like to make people think about Jesus in fresh and unique ways in our cultural moment. We’ve created a podcast, written books, booked speaking engagements, just about anything. It plays out in a bunch of different ways and sometimes it includes Alyssa [Jeff’s wife] and sometimes not.

WC: When did you and Alyssa meet?

Jeff: We met at one of my good friends’ wedding. It’s a classic story, we just totally hit it off and from there we started dating, which was over ten years ago.

WC: And when you guys first started dating, was faith something very important to you? Or was that topic put on the back burner?

Jeff: Oh yeah, it was something that we discussed right away because we were both in the same headspace when it came to our faith.

WC: That’s refreshing, especially being at such a young age at the time [nineteen years old] when you first met.

Jeff: I was just coming to kind of know the Lord, so I was very fresh in the faith, but that made me very alive and zealous. And Alyssa was raised in an amazing Christian home and she loved the Lord her whole life. She always had a very serious faith in a different way. So, yes, that was, from the beginning, what we cared about and what it was all built on.

WC: Since you both work together most of the time, what are some of the hardest parts of that? And the best parts?

Jeff: Even though we’ve gotten pretty good at this, but I would say one of the hardest things that have probably been when you work with your spouse is that you have to set boundaries. Separating those moments together into separate categories. Is this a work moment? Is this a marriage moment? Is this a family moment? Is this a kid’s moment? Is this a date moment? It’s one of the harder aspects, but it’s a gift too. The best part is that you grow so much closer together simply by pure math. The more time you spend together, the closer you grow. It’s the pure amount of time, which is enjoyable and special.

Jeff Bethke and family
Photo: MadisonDianephotography.com

WC: Do you have any tips or advice for people who are in similar situations as you?

Jeff: I think the best thing to do is to set boundaries and commit to what times you dedicate work to work and times that you dedicate date nights to just date nights. We have something called a “business meeting.” On Sunday nights we spend 30 minutes to just go through all the logistics that it takes to run a family and a marriage and our business. We discuss our schedules for the upcoming week, and we plan it all together. And then we have a date night that’s separate from that and absolutely no work talk is allowed. We rarely even talk about the kids that much, we use that time to connect our hearts on a deeper level. A lot of times, it happens that a date night can turn into logistical meetings. And that’s when it gets kind of convoluted and confusing for people.

WC: And when do you find time for yourselves?

Jeff: We are both morning people in the sense that we both spend the first two to three hours of the day kind of alone. We don’t see each other. We don’t talk. And that’s big for us.

WC: How long into your relationship did it take for you to get this type of balance down?

Jeff: I’d say we are still working at this balance every day, but realistically we realized things were working for us about five years into our marriage. We feel like we are flourishing because of the systems we put around us even though we’re still growing and figuring that now.

Jeff Bethke and daughter
Photo: MadisonDianephotography.com

WC: That’s good. You mentioned that Alyssa had grown up in a Christian family. Did you grow up in a Christian family as well?

Jeff: I did differently. I was raised by a single mom of faith and went to church. I had some complications and kind of more of a poverty-level type living, sectioning housing, government housing, food stamps, etcetera. But still was exposed to the church and the beauty of that. Different stories but similar connections at that level.

WC: And when did you start to build your relationship with God?

Jeff: I was 19 and had started going down the path that is, sadly, the common path now for that age of just doing what feels good, doing whatever I want to do, and living the “college life.” I started to reap benefits that weren’t good for me and it started to lead to destruction and damage. Through the logical conclusion of that, the Lord brought me to an ending of myself. It doesn’t end well when I’m in the driver’s seat. It was through that and through questions that I was seeking that I experienced His grace. He is there to bring us life and He’s who we were created for.

WC: Do you ever receive criticism from being open about your faith online?

Jeff: Nothing that serious. I mean, of course, its the Internet and there are comments. Someone might say something about our faith, but it’s kind of ridiculous and pales in comparison to other parts of the global church right now.

WC: That’s true. I’ve noticed that some influencers choose to not be open about their faith online because they’re afraid of the backlash.

Jeff: You know what I think that is? And I don’t think every influencer, but the industry paints this picture of perfection. The thing is, I think people want authenticity. And usually, faith lends itself to you being vulnerable and honest which is what people relate to.

WC: That’s so true! Do you have any advice to young people who are struggling with their relationship with God?

Jeff: I would say just make sure you’re not trying to figure it out or do that alone. Struggle is real. Doubt is real. All these things are a normal part of the faith process but make sure that you’re leaning into the Lord and community and Scripture and surrounding yourself with kind of boundaries and barriers that keep you on the focus path, so you don’t fall off a cliff, you know, metaphorically. Make sure that you’re around people who know you for who you truly are.

Jeff Bethke and family
Photo: MadisonDianephotography.com

This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of The War Cry.