7 Ways Busy Pastors Can Improve Their Work-Life Balance


I recently spoke with a pastor who, after 30 years of ministry, had to step away from his church because he was burnt out. He had been working 80-hour weeks regularly for the last decade. His well-known megachurch was constantly innovating. The church was growing. People were being changed by the Gospel. Everything was moving in the right direction. Except his workload. He told me that he knew 3 years ago that he couldn’t sustain that pace, but ran as long and hard as he could until he hit the wall.

I’m all for running the good race, but there are ways to improve work-life balance before things get that intense. The goal is to finish the race, not to have to quit because of exhaustion.

Here are some ideas for regaining the “LIFE” side to your work-life balance, so that you can keep going and finish strong.

1. Schedule regular dates with your spouse.

In all relationships, you are either growing closer or you are growing further apart. Its true! There is no such thing as maintaining. Maintaining is growing apart. By scheduling weekly dates with your spouse and keeping that time sacred, you are committing to growing closer. If you are feeling overworked, there is a good chance your spouse is feeling under-loved. Date your spouse well, and you’ll find yourself even more motivated to get your balance right.

2. Quit something.

As Bob Goff says, “It's Thursday. Quit something. Eliminate some of the noise in your life and let your symphony have the stage again.” What are the commitments on your schedule that are less important? Are there meetings that could be rearranged, shortened, or eliminated? Put those things on the chopping block. Get your time back.

3. Delegate & empower.

There may be things on your schedule that you’d like to quit completely but can’t because they are needed and important. What are the meetings or tasks that you could pass on to others. Now is the time to delegate these things to someone else. Could another pastor on staff or lay leader take something over? Train them well, trust them, and let it go. They can handle it.

4. Make a "moon shot" goal.

Maybe you've tried to get in shape by committing to a 30-minute work out per day. Many people I know make this commitment then give up weeks later when life catches up. If this is you, try the "moon shot" goal approach. Committing to a huge personal goal in a way you can't back out of can be a great way to regain some personal life balance.

For example, when my wife wanted to run a marathon, she knew that unless she paid her entrance fee and bought her plane tickets, she could back out or give up. So she bought them, then she started training. There were many times she wanted to give up, but she didn’t want to throw away those tickets or the entrance fee. So she did it. She set a moon shot goal and completed it. What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Commit and buy in! 

5. Practice saying “no.”

You can’t have a work-life balance without learning this. “No” is the best tool pastors have to keeping priorities straight. A friend of mine is a sought-after film director. He recently told me that he has a non-negotiable, weekly "down day" on the calendar to spend with his family. For some reason, that is the day new projects always seem to launch or people approach him about new jobs. But sacrificing potential jobs is worth it to him for the sake of his family and his sanity. How can you practice this in your life?

6. Follow the school calendar.

If you’ve got kids in grade school, you are in luck. The school has a calendar for you! Take your time off when your kids are out of school. Put it on your calendar far in advance so it won’t sneak up on you. And on this same note, plan your vacations far in advance. Lock up your schedule so that you don’t forget or try to book too late. Taking time off to rest and be refreshed is vital.

7. Start early; end early.

The early bird catches the worm. That bird also gets home at 3pm. Pastors daily schedules can be hectic and often include evening meetings. But if you can get started early and knock out things earlier on in the day, it will open up afternoons as some quality personal time. If your schedule allows this kind of flexibility, try to push your day earlier and open up your afternoons for more personal time or family time.

What are other ways you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

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