BALANCE… we all want it. We all need it. Yet it’s a bit harder of a thing to find than it is a word to say.
In my annual Reader Survey, I found that over half of the readers on my blog are either paid staff or leaders in some capacity in their church or children’s ministry.
And when asked these questions, “What is the #1 challenge you are facing or question you would like answered about the family… children’s ministry… and ministry and leadership”, the overwhelming response to all three questions was the same – How Do I Balance It All – family, work, ministry, etc.?
I can certainly relate with this challenge, having struggled through the years to find this balance myself. But thankfully, while I’ve by no means arrived, I do feel at a place in life having better balance than any time before.
While these principles may come from the slant of a pastor’s perspective, whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, I believe that these principles can apply to all of us if we’re willing to implement them.
So with those thoughts in mind, let’s address the issue of The Big Question – How in the world do I balance it all?
Here’s three things that are the best place to start…
1. DETERMINE YOUR ORDER OF PRIORITIES – God, Family, then Ministry
Long before God established the church, He instituted the family, as both the cornerstone of society and the world itself. (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:22-24)
From the start, we must understand that before we will ever find balance in our lives, our families, and our ministries, we must align our order of priorities with God’s – He comes first, our family comes next, and the ministry follows.
While God’s calling to the ministry is one of the greatest on earth, it is not above God’s calling upon our lives to be husbands or wives, and fathers or mothers.
Because no matter what we accomplish through our ministries, if we fail to accomplish God’s plan through our family, we’ve truly made a deal with the devil that’s not worth the trade-off.
Far too many Christian families have been guilty of prioritizing their work for God above their love for family, and ended up losing their family as a result. God never intended it to be that way, nor does it have to be.
I submit to you that it is possible to serve in a busy and growing ministry while at the same time having a thriving and successful family life. It simply takes intentionality about prioritizing what matters most. (This is one of the reasons I recently introduced The Intentional Family Game Plan as a free resource. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check it out.)
Remember this – you may invest into multiple churches or ministries throughout your lifetime, but God has given you only one family to invest in. Following your relationship with the Lord, your family is to be your primary priority. God. Family. Ministry.
Once you’ve determined your priorities, you need to…
2. DEVELOP YOUR SCHEDULE AROUND THOSE PRIORITIES
This requires that you intentionally evaluate your life, your time, and your schedule, to see if they’re lining up with your priorities. Because no matter what we say our priorities are, if our daily life doesn’t back them up, they’re nothing more than words, and we’ve successfully deceived ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal intentionality.
Sadly, it’s much harder to deceive our families, because whether we want to admit it or not, they know where they land in our order of priorities.
You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s powerful illustration of the big rocks (representing your most important priorities) and the small pebbles (representing the secondary things in your life that are of less importance).
In his illustration, if you pour the small pebbles into a jar first, then try to fit all of the big rocks on top, it’s impossible to fit them all. But if you put the big rocks into the jar first, pouring the small pebbles in afterwards, the pebbles fill the cracks in between the big rocks, allowing everything to fit in the same jar after all.
The point is simple – that first things must come first… then the rest. Learn to prioritize what matters most first, and then do those more trivial things.
Unlike the illustration, sometimes, even after scheduling what matters most first, you still won’t have time for all of the more trivial things, and guess what, that’s okay. Learn to accept it. Life will go on, and the most important things will have been accomplished. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn.
I’ve found that the best and sometimes only way to make all of this happen is to put in on your schedule. Because what get’s scheduled gets done.
Finally, you must…
3. DEPEND ON SOME PEOPLE YOU TRUST TO HELP HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE
Once you’ve determined and scheduled your priorities, make yourself vulnerable, and your schedule of priorities available to someone else that you trust. It might be your spouse, a good friend, or someone else you trust to have your best interest in mind.
When it come to balancing ministry and family for me, I’m very blessed with a pastor/boss who not only exemplifies such balance himself by following a pre-determined schedule that includes consistently leaving the office each night on time, but also strongly encourages his staff to do the same.
Whether you find yourself in a similar situation or not, take matters into your own hands to both hold yourself accountable and find someone else to help hold you accountable as well.
While these three things may seem like overly practical reminders of how to set your priorities, I hope you’ll personally and honestly answer the question of whether or not you’ve actually taken the time to do them, and then take whatever actions necessary.
Once you’ve done these things, you’ve laid the groundwork for successfully benefiting from what I’ll be sharing with you in the next post – 7 Practical Keys to Balancing Family, Work, & Ministry. These are seven things that I’ve learned to put into practice that have helped to bring the needed balance in my life, and I trust that they’ll help you to do the same in yours.
“Remember, balance is never an instant luxury to be assumed, it’s an ongoing discipline to be achieved.”
If you’ve found the tips in this article to be helpful, please share it with others!