All of us know life can get out of hand pretty quickly. Serving in ministry only accelerates the process and finding balance in ministry can seem impossible some days. If we’re not careful, our calendars can careen out of control leaving us broken, and burnt out.
About six years ago, I juggled four different jobs for six months. I worked a retail job, two ministry jobs, and started a very part-time hospice chaplain position. Most weeks I was putting in 60-70 work hours. I had two or three days a month when I only worked a half day. It wasn’t healthy, but life requires us to do what you have to do sometimes. My life had officially become unbalanced.
Even during that chapter, I knew I had to rest, and take care of myself because it was a horrible schedule to maintain. When we’re younger, most of us can get caught in the trap of thinking doing more equals more results for the Kingdom. Hopefully now, you know that it’s not true, but it is easy to forget. Ministry is never “over,” and if we are going to endure and finish well, we have to prioritize our week and take care of ourselves.
I remember Dr. Howard Hendricks saying in class one day, something to the effect of, “Balance is like riding a seesaw, it only happens for a brief moment, so don’t think it’s normal.”
Our goal is to be as well balanced as possible.
We have to accept ministry is full of different seasons. Whether it’s prep for a mission trip, VBS, getting ready for Easter, or the week of a fundraiser, you will always have weeks of blessed craziness. These weeks and seasons are unavoidable. But when those crazy weeks become the standard, you’re in a dangerous place. So we need to schedule and allow a day or two extra after one of those seasons for our mind, spirit, and body to recover.
God worked six days and then rested from His work. The creation story teaches us that people are to take time to recharge from their work. Any vocation is a holy calling, and to do it well, we have to have to honor the Sabbath principle of resting and reflecting on God.
I have a friend who does not reply to any messages (email, text, or calls that are work related) on his day off. His church knows his work/life boundaries and believe it or not, honors them. Decide what works for you in your situation, consult your spouse (if applicable) and senior leadership, set needed parameters and follow them.
Develop rhythm for your day, your week, your month, and quarters. Intentionally relax regularly. Try to identify and engage in hobbies that spark your creativity and refresh your soul. Meeting regularly with friends can be a profound source of refreshment and recharging. Remember, “iron sharpens iron.” Iron can’t sharpen if it’s not around other pieces of iron. Maybe that’s a game night with friends, hanging out with your best friends once or twice a month, doing whatever you do.
I loved how Mike Yaconelli recommended a quarterly silent retreat. I never did it quarterly, but when I did, it refreshed me. Figure out what that means for you, maybe it’s a half day of silence each month or every other month.
Involve others. Plan this with your spouse or your closest friend and become accountable and follow through with your plans.
Regularly resting is you acknowledging with your actions that you are dependent upon God, his strength, and his truth as you serve in your sacred appointment.
Len has been in ministry for over 25 years and has written more than 100 articles for various youth ministry publications. He’s served as a convention pastor for youth leaders and has also led a nationwide pastoral care service for those in youth ministry for over two years. He walks with a limp but joyfully walks alongside youth leaders.