How to Balance Ministry with Life

"Balance" is a myth. Embracing rhythms and shunning guilt are better ways to manage your family, ministry and work obligations.Earlier this week, I started sharing the results from the Christian Blogger Survey.  There was so much good information in the answers that almost 150 faith-based bloggers provided.

Throughout the month, I am addressing the top 4 struggles that you identified in the survey. #2 on the list was balancing family and other obligations with blogging and ministry.

As usual, I went straight to God’s word to see what He has to say about work, ministry and family life balance.

As pointed out in this article, the Bible doesn’t speak directly of this type of balance. There was no need to, as  family, work and ministry were intertwined. You worked with your father.  You served at the temple with your brother. You maintained the household with your mother.  There were few competing obligations.

Instead of “balancing” our time, Paul repeatedly encourages us to “redeem” our time … making the most of every opportunity.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 NIV

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

So how do we make the most of every opportunity when there are just.so.many of them? Here is something we can embrace and something we can shun.

Embrace rhythms

As my friend Zohary Ross says, “balance” is just not possible.  Rarely do we have the opportunity to equally divide our time among our priorities.  Instead, “life more resembles a dance with rhythms and consists of seasons.”

Priorities shift and change with circumstances and seasons.  Our focus may need to move from one place in one season and then to another.  Seasons may last years, months, weeks, or even only hours.

At the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, Father Edwin Leahy described the life of a monk as “a rhythm of prayer, work and service.”  I love that picture.  All areas of our life moving in and out of our focus in a beautiful, orderly way.

Let’s not confuse focus with devotion and commitment.  While our hearts are always in an attitude of prayer, and our families and personal relationship with Christ are always at the top of our devotion and commitment list, there are times when our focus is on other things …. ministry, work, service, self-care.

What does rhythm look like?

  • Prioritizing your t0-do list to align with your purpose
  • Asking tough questions when deciding where to invest your time and energy.  Do I feel a deep, compelling desire to get involved here? Am I doing this to serve my audience or myself?  Does this make the best use of my strengths and abilities?
  • Building relationships through focused attention, shared learning and healthy boundaries.
  • Be fully present in whatever season or rhythm you find yourself. Put your cell phone away to focus on the person in front of you.  Close the door and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign when you are working on an important project.  Be all-in where you agree to serve and don’t look left or right at what others are doing or achieving.

Shun Guilt

Without a doubt, saying “no” is one of the hardest things we have to do.  It’s not easy turning down opportunities to serve, minister or reach others.  We feel guilty.  Surely a “good Christian” would say “yes” to all these things, right?

Not necessarily.  There is a difference between an opportunity and an assignment. As Lysa TerKeurst says in The Best Yes,

Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.

Jesus faced “saying no” guilt.  When he was told his friend Lazarus was near death, he stayed where he was instead of running to Lazarus’ side.  It wasn’t time for him to go. When he did show up, three days after Lazarus died, he was faced with the distraught, grieving Martha.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21 (NIV)

How’s that for “no guilt”? He had confidence in his decision to say no.  He sensed that God would receive greater glory by his saying no than if he had said yes. And he was right.

We often KNOW when we should say no, but we say yes out of guilt (I’ll feel bad if I don’t) or obligation (I’m expected to do this)  or pride (I’m the only one who can do it).  If we could confidently say no, we may see God move in greater ways than if we say yes.   He may raise up a new leader, or provide in a miraculous way or meet a need in an unexpected way.  Our guilty, prideful yes’s may be robbing God of glory due to Him.

And if we confidently, obediently say “no”, God may resurrect that opportunity for us in a different way in the future.

  • When done in their proper rhythm, these are things we should not feel guilty about:
  • Protecting our schedule so we have enough margin to deal with the unexpected
  • Putting off the “urgent” to keep our focus on the “important”
  • Caring for ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually
  • Putting ministry time over family time (remember …. I said “in their proper rhythm”!)
  • Calling on others to help us

It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion.  Balance is a myth.  Embracing rhythms – focusing on the proper thing at the proper time – and shunning the soul-battering guilt of saying no are better ways to meet the needs of my family, work and ministry …. and my self.

RESOURCES

Join me all month as I address the top 4 struggles of Christian bloggers.  Get each post directly in your inbox.

Still struggling with your purpose?  Take my free, 3-part mini-ecourse!

Pinpoint Your Purpose

 

How does this idea of “rhythm” feel to you?  How might you use it to help shun the guilt of competing priorities?

Linking up with Tanya at #SmallVictoriesSunday

3 thoughts on “How to Balance Ministry with Life”

  1. I like the idea of embracing rhythm over balance. Last week I worked feverishly on an article. This week I’ve been more present to my family and have done little writing. Some weeks, “balance” is possible. Other weeks it’s not! I need to think about this more!

    Reply

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