“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
Usually as pastors or church leaders we spend most our time trying to manage the people and resources of our ministry. We constantly think about how to lead others, train others, or develop them into leaders as well. Consequently, we often forget to manage the one person who also needs help – ourselves!
God has given each of us one life to live. How we live that life is a measure of our love for God and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. There is so much that God wants to do in and through each of us, if we simply let Him. But so often the cares and worries of this world enter into our lives and either distract us from His desires or strip us of His joy. Even ministry workers can get so busy being busy that they can lose sight of the blessings God wants to give them or the opportunities he puts before them. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with ministry work that we neglect our families, our health and even our responsibilities. As important as ministry work is, it does not negate our responsibility to care and provide for our families, or take care of ourselves. We are doing ministry when we fulfill these responsibilities. Therefore, we must strive to keep our lives in balance and to honor God in everything we do, not just our ministry calling.
There are 4 basic areas of our lives that we must keep in the proper balance. They include God, family, work and ministry. Of course, our first priority as Christians is God, and His presence must exist in the other 3 areas of our lives if we are to stay in balance. We don’t just put God first in our lives, we must put Him everywhere in our lives. All areas of our lives need to be submitted to God if we are to call ourselves Christian and be followers of Jesus Christ!
The issue then becomes one of prioritizing the other 3 areas of family, work and ministry. If we are parents as well as church leaders, then our next priority must be our family. God put us in charge of specific people (spouse and children) and we must take care of them first. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:5 that “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” So it is clear that family must come first for pastors and church leaders. Failure to meet the needs of our family is neglecting our primary responsibility. Leaders must never put work or ministry above their families.
For pastors and some church leaders, work and ministry are the same thing. It is for me as President of FaithLife Ministries. But for those of you who have a secular job, I believe that it should come before ministry. Why? Because work is the way you meet the needs of your family, which is your first priority. Without work your family would suffer. If you only do ministry and do not provide for your family, the Apostle Paul also says that this person is worse than an unbeliever (“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8) Therefore, our work should always come before ministry.
Although ministry should come after family and work, it does not mean that we should abandon it or minimize it. It simply means we have to keep our priorities in the right order and seek to find the proper balance among them. That balance will differ for each of us and also sometimes in various seasons of life. That balance is not static, but shifts according to our circumstances and the needs at the time. If we manage our time and lives properly it can be done. Finding the proper balance will lead to less stress, better health, more effectiveness, and a life that truly honors God in all that we do.
So the next inevitable question is how do we find that balance? I would suggest the following:
1. Keep specific work hours as much as possible. Limit your work or ministry time to what is essential.
2. Make time for family events. Be present at birthdays, school functions and kids activities.
3. Take time off as needed to rest and recharge. Take a class and learn something new, read a book, or take a vacation.
4. Eat well 3 times a day. Keep to a healthy routine that is appropriate for your culture.
5. Get a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can lead to poor decision making and illness.
6. Get physical exercise. Play sports, walk or swim. Your body needs it to function properly.
The balance we need in our lives is different for each of us. It depends upon the nature of our family, work and ministry. And that balance can change depending on your circumstances or season of life. I encourage you to find the balance that works best for you in your particular situation. If you are not in balance, you will notice more stress, more fatigue, and less effectiveness. However, when your life is in balance then you will experience the kind of life that Jesus calls abundant in John 10:10!