6 Strategies To Find And Maintain Balance In Ministry
By: Brian Dunks March 12, 2018
Church leaders often feel the tension of loving the church, desiring to serve faithfully, and balancing their responsibilities with family and the other demands of life. Maintaining a balanced life can be a constant struggle. Even the most successful pastors have battled in the arena of busyness and succumb to a sense of guilt that no matter how much they do it is never enough.
Most often there’s a marriage relationship to be maintained and repaired, and there are children to be loved and nurtured. Dedicated church staff members want to completely fulfill the job description as well as the self-imposed expectations of their own ministries. The competing demands on time and energy can be draining. The question is, how do church leaders keep from getting in that position in the first place?
Here are some steps to achieving and maintaining balance as a church leader.
1. Fill up your tank.
It’s daunting to look down from the road and realize the fuel tank is on empty. There’s an immediate rush to find the nearest station! The key to fighting this rush is looking down the road more often and refueling regularly. Church leaders give so much of their time, energy, and spiritual gifts that they could be at risk of burnout if not refueled regularly.
Martin Luther said, “Prayer is the most important thing in my life. If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” Things like a daily personal devotion, coaching and consultation with respected counselors, regular time off, ministerial conferences, etc. will provide an outlet to recharge. Don’t assume that sermon preparation is also developing and deepening your faith. While that might happen, only a concentrated attention to personal prayer and reflection will develop a pastor’s emotional and spiritual core.
2. Build accountability.
People who know you well and observe your life regularly can almost always tell when you are getting out of balance sooner than you could yourself. If married, your spouse should be your greatest ally and one that can quickly recognize imbalance. Listen to it. This person knows you better than anyone else (and sometimes yourself). Outside of spousal relationships, it’s vital for pastors to invite other people close to them who can speak wisdom and truth when necessary. Give the people close to you permission to identify when your life is out of alignment.
3. Prioritize your family.
God, family, ministry. Date your spouse and set aside time for family. One of the hardest lessons learned as a pastor was the necessity for committees and ministry teams to sometimes meet without me. I had to give up some control, but the payoff was huge with my family. Practice the art of saying “no”. Even the most effective church leaders aren’t able to do everything needed from them. Ministry work is extremely important, but no more important than a church leader’s family.
4. Engage in delegation.
Involve your team by handing over greater responsibility. It’s important to remember you are usually not the only person who can do the job. More often than not, your staff team is a valuable resource that can take on responsibility (if you let them).
Delegation keeps your life in balance while simultaneously giving a development opportunity to those who share in the work. It is key to make sure your team knows all the necessary information to complete the task and your established expectations. If you have communicated clearly, methodology shouldn’t be an issue. Simply put, just because an employee does things differently doesn’t mean they won’t do the job right.
5. Exercise Consistently.
Studies have shown that stress and imbalance can be corrected with regular exercise. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, Paul wrote: “You are not your own… Therefore honor God with your body.”
Church leaders especially should consider the habits of walking, jogging, biking, or going to a gym to lift. It’s therapeutic, healthy, and could improve your capacity in ministry. Performance and personal satisfaction are heightened when the body is strong and capable.
6. Give up perfection.
Seeking perfection is time-consuming and often unrealistic. Instead of succumbing to the pressure of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”, do the best you can in the time you have. A balanced view recognizes that God calls us to tasks in all areas of life and that no one area can command all our time. In times of high demand, your effort is best placed on activities of the highest priority; lesser priorities may have to slide. When God gracefully blesses our efforts, it makes us more thankful for His provision and care.
The tension of competing demands can be considered a sign of vitality. The fact that church leaders struggle with imbalance shows a zest for life and the desire to use the talents and gifts given to enrich the lives of others. A healthy mind and spirit inhabiting a healthy body should be every church leader’s objective.
What are some ways that you’ve battled imbalance as a church leader?