Last week, we started answering ‘The Big Question’… How in the world do I balance it all? You can read last week’s article by clicking here. Whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, this article will help you get off to the right start when it comes to finding balance.
Today, I want to share with you 7 practical keys to balancing family, work, and ministry that have helped bring the needed balance in my family life and ministry.
So here they are… How many of these 7 things are you practicing?
1. Leverage your mornings
One of the greatest keys to successfully balancing your life and schedule most often starts at the beginning of every day. How you start your day often determines the success of the rest of it.
Some of your most productive and focused time can be found early in the mornings when both your mind and your focus has a fresh start. In a recent article, I outlined some practical ideas for how to Jumpstart Your Mornings. I’d encourage you to read it to find out more.
2. Leave the office on time
This needs to be based on a timeframe, not based upon your to do list. There are many nights when I could easily stay and work for a couple more hours getting things done, but I have to remind myself to go back to my order of priorities – God, family, then work or ministry. I’m sure you find yourself in those same shoes often.
It’s important to remember that even if I got it all done, there will still always be more to do tomorrow. Why is it that we more quickly shortchange our family than we do our work?
How would you answer these two questions?… When’s the last time you prioritized your work at the expense of your family? When’s the last time you prioritized your family at the expense of your work? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is probably pretty obvious.
It’s understandable that there will be necessary and even intense seasons or times of staying late or working overtime, but if those times ever become the majority or the norm, our family is sure to notice, and they have every right to view it as a legitimate concern.
We can’t afford for the gap between what we say are our priorities, and what our family actually sees as being our priorities, to be very wide. If our work is truly that much and that pressing, here’s what I would suggest you do – steal an hour from your sleep at night by staying up an hour later or getting up and hour earlier, before making it a regular habit of daily stealing an hour or more away from your family.
3. Take a day off
If you are on a church staff and feel like you have too much to do that it’s not possible to take a day off, here are a few suggestions you may need to consider:
- Meet with your pastor and ask him for help and understanding in how to best minimize your work load.
- Find creative ways to delegate tasks that anyone can do, but that you are currently doing.
- Learn to identify and eliminate things that in the grand scheme of things are time wasters and unnecessary. (more thoughts on this in the next point)
If you have no choice about not having a day off simply because you’re serving in ministry bi-vocationally or some other situation, I would just encourage you to have a plan for that schedule not to be a long-term plan.
My family loves my day off maybe even more than I do. My kids will often ask me in the mornings, “Is today your day off, Dad?” or, “How many more days until your day off?”, because they look forward to it as much as I do, knowing that we’ll get to spend extra time together and have fun.
4. Eliminate what’s unnecessary
- What are you currently doing that could be done by someone else?
- What are you doing that you could stop doing, and it wouldn’t really negatively affect anyone or anything in your organization?
- What are you doing that you could train someone else to do and/or delegate to someone else in your ministry?
- What are you doing that anyone could do that is keeping your from succeeding at doing what only you can do?
- What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?
My guess is that if you’re serious about finding balance, there are some things that you could eliminate from your life and schedule if you really wanted to.
5. Combine family and ministry when possible
Don’t ever get the mistaken idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often be the same, killing two birds with one stone.
Obviously, ministry can’t be the only times you’re spending quality time together as a family, but it certainly should be included in those times. Learn to take some of your kids with you when running ministry errands or making visits.
Serving in ministry together as family can be one of the greatest ways to instill and transfer a passion for serving Christ in your children. Be creative as a parent in making things like visitation and serving others a fun and enjoyable experience.
Whether that means that they get to have a responsibility in those areas of service, or simply letting them know you’ll be going out for ice cream following times of family ministry, make ministry and serving the Lord together a common and memorable occurrence.
6. Protect your evenings
Evenings need to primarily be family times (keep at least 2-4 open nights a week). Follow a plan by being intentional with themes, activities, devotions, etc. You want your wife and kids to anticipate when you come home each evening, and nothing speaks this louder than when you have special things planned to do together. (Here’s a Perfect Family Game Plan you need to check out that will make you the family hero.)
7. Ask God for Help!
This should be able to go without saying, but we need to be reminded. The Bible says in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to you.
Ask the Lord to show you how to better balance your family life and ministry life. Ask some spiritual leaders in your life to help you evaluate your effectiveness in the way you work, and some ways they see that you could become even more effective. Because usually those who work with you can see ways that you can be more effective if you’ll just be willing to ask them, and then humbly and openly receive and apply what they tell you.
While I don’t know your specific situation or what burdens you carry, what I do know is this – God never intended for your Christian life to be an unending rat race that you can never keep up with.
- God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
- God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
- God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burdens alone.
Maintaining balance between ministry and family life IS POSSIBLE! There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out. Are you willing to go through the uncomfortable process of developing and carrying out such a plan?
“Remember, there’s just one thing that every person has that’s exactly the same – time. No one gets more and no one gets less. Its all in how we choose to manage it.”
I hope that these 7 practical things are helpful to you. Which of these 7 things do you think is the most important? What would you add to the list that you’ve found to be helpful to maintaining balance in your life?