I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and saw the smiling faces of a couple I know. They pastor a great church in my area. As I hit the “like” button I read the caption… “Enjoying a rare date night.”
I was happy for the couple but wondered why date nights have to be “rare”.
Thankfully, I am in a season where I intentionally and consistently spend time with my wife and kids, but it hasn’t always been this way.
As a pastor finding a balance between work and life has been one of my biggest challenges. There have been seasons where ministry dominated my life. I neglected my time with God and my family. As we all know, this is a sure recipe for burnout.
The more I talk with other pastors, the more I realize this struggle is not mine alone. It seems we are all finding it difficult to “do it all.”
A Lifeway study last year revealed we are not doing well with work/life balance.
• 84% of pastors say they are on call 24 hours a day.
• 54% of pastors find their role frequently overwhelming.
• 53% of pastors are concerned about their financial situation.
• 48% of pastors feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
Do these statistics resonate with you? Me too.
It was 8pm, and with my laptop bag in hand, I was headed out the door. “Dad, where are you going?” my daughter asked. “I am sorry, sweetie, but I have a meeting tonight”, I replied. “But Dad! You always have a meeting!” I apologized, swallowed my guilt, and walked out the door.
She was right. It seems I am always going into a meeting. There is always a new believer to disciple, a couple to counsel, a leader to develop, and a committee to chair.
Determining our priorities and creating a realistic schedule are ongoing struggles for most of us. While balance is hard to find, it is not impossible. Let me share what I am learning.
1. Your first priority is your relationship with God. It is the foundation for all of life. If you do not get this right, nothing in your life will be what it should be. Ministry is the overflow of your personal time with God.
2. Your family is your first ministry. I was taught that the order of my priorities should be: God, family, and ministry. Unfortunately, this can easily be re-ordered as: God, ministry, and family. I have often said, “I came to this church with a family. When the time comes to leave, I want my family to still be intact.”
3. A weekly Sabbath is critical for your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. You have to fight for this day because the demands of ministry come calling seven days a week. Inform your church of your day off. Set up staff, elders, or deacons to be on call. Be disciplined to stay off of your phone: no calls, emails, texts, or social media.
4. Learn to say no. You have a family. You have pastoral responsibilities and priorities. You cannot meet every expectation. This is difficult for us because we do not want to let people down. Learning to say “no” frees up our schedule for what is most important. Check out my post: Why Pastors Need to Say No More Often.
5. Have an honest conversation with your spouse about how your schedule is impacting your marriage and family. It has not always been easy for me to hear, but listening to my wife about how my schedule and pace impacts the family has been necessary.
6. Decide to limit your evening ministry/meetings to no more than two per week. If you struggle with this idea I encourage you to read Andy Stanley’s book “When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating your Family.”
7. Realize your lifestyle choices speak volumes to your congregation. We lead by example. The Harvard Business Review polled 19,000 employees around the world and found that the most significant factor leading to employees’ engagement, stress levels, retention, and job satisfaction were impacted by how their “superior” modeled a balanced, “sustainable” personal/work life balance. I believe the same would be true with how our congregations see us.
8. Put your priorities on your calendar. What gets on the calendar gets done. Have a conversation with your spouse and together block out date nights, family time, days off, vacations, and time with friends for the next six months.
Question: What tips would you add to help pastors find work/life balance? Share in the comments below.
If you believe other pastors could be helped by this post, I would be honored to have you share it on social media.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past
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