You know that “work-life balance” everyone talks about? I don’t think it exists. Of course, pastors and church leaders should strive for balance between their professional and personal lives, but I don’t think it can be scheduled. Ministry is a 24/7 job. Balance is organic and unpredictable; it’s not an appointment on your calendar.
I am reminded of the hectic week leading up to Easter when I was leading a church. I used to regularly take a full week off after Easter in an attempt to create a work-life balance, but it was a huge mistake to make as a church leader. I failed to recognize that the Sunday after Easter is the most likely time Easter visitors would attend church again. By trying to control balance, I was missing out on a valuable opportunity to engage new attendees.
I’ve learned that there are seasons for everything: growth, rest, change, consistency, etc. More importantly, I’ve learned that I have no control over when these seasons begin and end. The key is to trust that God will faithfully guide you from one to another.
Here are some ideas to find—not create—balance.
1. Learn your rhythm.
Self-awareness is essential to discovering balance. You need to identify the ebb and flow of your daily routine. For instance, I’ve learned that I have certain times of the day when I’m at peak performance and plan accordingly what I should tackle during those times.
What are your times of high energy? How can you be intentionally productive during those times?
2. Prioritize “me time.”
The best thing church leaders can do for themselves and their church is to spend time alone, whether in prayer, contemplation or the Word. If I miss my time to focus spiritually, physically and mentally, the rest of the day almost always goes south. While this “me time” could look different for everyone, my tried-and-true method is waking up earlier than my responsibilities do and preparing for the day.
3. Learn your church’s rhythm.
Our organization has been in high-growth mode for over seven years, so looking for a break is tricky. I’ve learned that the time between Christmas and New Year’s is particularly slow for us. I know I’ll have downtime with my family then, and my staff can also regroup and refocus for the year.
When is your church’s “week after Christmas”? Knowing you have a slower season ahead will help you get through the busier ones.
When an opportunity presents itself, will you act? What if it occurs during your scheduled time off? Finding a way to push through the busy seasons and understanding your church’s rhythms may be the difference-maker in your growth as a leader.
William Vanderbloemen is the president and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group.