One of the hardest things to figure out in ministry is work/life balance. The schedule is 24/7.
Because the demands of the job itself deal with the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of those in your church, it can be hard to say no. There are many good people in ministry who have made bad decisions that can be traced back to their inability to balance well.
In my experience, there are four practical ideas you can use to help maintain a healthy balance in ministry.
1. Live Your Life With Margins
If books didn’t have margins, they’d be significantly harder to focus on. The blank space around the border of a book allows you to focus on the important part – the words. The same goes for ministry.
Allow yourself space to turn off and keep your schedule blank. It will do two things for you:
· give you flexibility to step into last minute emergencies from a place of rest and strength
· help you focus with more clarity on the tasks at hand, which will ultimately help you be more effective in your ministry
2. Know Yourself
You can’t rest well if you don’t know yourself. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of margin. If you don’t know what will recharge you in the margins, the margins are a waste.
Obviously, there are things that all of us should be doing to recharge, like digging into scripture. But I’m talking about what energizes you. What restores your spirit? It may be nature or playing some type of sport or instrument. It may be sleeping. Whatever it is, find the thing that gives you rest, and carve out space for it consistently.
3. Control Your Calendar
If you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you. I started off in a church of a couple hundred that grew to a congregation of thousands. In our smaller days, I remember thinking, “When we get bigger, my job will be easier because I can delegate more.”
Unfortunately, that never ends up being the case. There are always things to do. You have to create room in your calendar, because it will never create room itself.
One thing I’ve found useful for the work side of things is picking two days a week to set as meeting days. This will free up your other work days for focus, productivity, big projects, and generally getting things done. Another good rule is making sure you schedule vacations in advance and in strategic places. If you know you’ve got a hectic month coming up, plan a weekend getaway after it to recuperate; you’ll be more productive on the back end. Lastly, I would say to go home before the work is done. This can be hard, because in ministry people need you. But I’ve found that often your family needs you more, which brings me to my fourth point.
4. Guard Your Family
It’s easy to accidentally sacrifice family life for ministry work. When you’re young and don’t have kids, everything is easy and flexible. Then kids happen. Then they’re toddlers. Then you find you’ve become a soccer mom or dad. Then they turn into teenagers. It’s all demanding, and your time is stretched. Unfortunately, you can’t be everywhere. You have to choose where your emphasis lies.
Make sure you guard regular date nights with your spouse. Make sure you spend one on one time with your kids. One thing I’ve noticed in marriages, is that one person tends to be a good thermometer; they have a good gauge on the state of the relationship. In my marriage, it’s my wife. When she asks me “How do you think we’re doing?” I know something is up. Sometimes the husband is the thermometer. It’s important to keep the pulse of your marriage and family to know which areas need a little extra care.
We’ll be able to lead our churches in healthier directions if we are healthy with our time and lives. It’s all about margins. Make sure you leave yourself space for your work, rest, and family. You’ll be a more effective leader because of it.